Dining on the Rails

A guide to light rail lunching in Houston.

Starting this week, there will be a different food truck chef in the kitchen every night of the week, serving food to the first 50 people who come to the bar. And lest you think it'll be more food truck fare — you'd be wrong. Expect gourmet, all the way.

Kicking things off is a group collaboration between many of the participating food truck chefs and Martinez himself, although he says that The Modular itself will be more of a pinch hitter and will sub in for the other food trucks if needed.

The schedule so far also includes:

Tastes like summer: the Salade Max & Julie at Brasserie Max & Julie.
Christina Uticone
Tastes like summer: the Salade Max & Julie at Brasserie Max & Julie.

Tuesdays: Jason Hill and Matt Opaleski from H-Town StrEATS

Wednesdays: Justin Turner from Bernie's Burger Bus

Thursdays: Van Pham from Phamily Bites

Fridays: Ruth Lipsky from Stick It Truck

Saturdays: Louis Cantu from Coreanos

Sundays are currently open, although Martinez is in talks with Buffalo Sean of Melange Creperie to come in and bring his crepe-maker with him. (Although, Martinez says, Sean won't be using it to make crepes.) And eventually, Matt Marcus of the Eatsie Boys, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America and worked at Cyrus, the critically acclaimed California restaurant with two Michelin stars to its name, will join the lineup on Monday nights.

The chefs are excited to show off skills that have been dormant while they work on their trucks, many of which have them "pigeonholed" into making specific foods or cuisines. Louis Cantu, who has worked at both Congress and Imperia in Austin, has been keeping himself sharp by driving back up to Uchiko every week to stage in the kitchen.

And Ruth Lipsky, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, Arizona, and worked the line at molecular gastronomy mainstay Moto in Chicago, excitedly told Martinez about her plans during her weekly turn at Grand Prize: "I can do things other than on a stick! Sometimes I want to put something on a plate."

Pricing for the nightly dinners — which will begin service at 7 p.m. — will be slightly higher than at the chefs' various trucks, "because some of the ingredients won't be your typical fare," says Martinez. But, as with the Ghetto Dinners, dinner will cost far less than what you'd pay at an upscale restaurant. And more collaborations are planned aside from this Monday's kick-off.

"At the end of July, we want to do a sit-down dinner for 22 people upstairs that's paired with the bartenders' cocktails," says Martinez. Until then, though, guests will get to enjoy the simple spectacle of chefs doing their best to out-do each other every night of the week.

"It's kind of a competition for each of these chefs in their own mind," laughs Martinez. "The gauntlet is kind of thrown, like, 'I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna show off. I'd better produce something super awesome.'"


First Look at 8th Wonder
The East End gets its own craft brewery.


Aaron Corsi and Ryan Soroka first met at the University of Houston as beer-obsessed undergrads, where the pair quickly formed an underground brewing club. As graduates, the two are more driven to brew than ever: Corsi is now a professor at his alma mater, lecturing on brewing science, viticulture, enology and distillation science, while Soroka and his team at the Eatsie Boys food truck — Matt Marcus and Alex Vassilakidis — have founded a brewery.

Naturally, the Eatsie Boys asked Corsi to be their brewmaster.

Corsi — who is currently becoming a master brewer at the International Brewers' Guild while he pursues his Ph.D. in Molecular and Environmental Plant Science at Texas A&M — talks excitedly about the beers that he and the Eatsie Boys team are working on at the 8th Wonder brewery, which is on track to open this fall.

"We want to reinvent some styles and bring back some classic styles," he says, while sitting in thoughtful repose in an otherwise messy office filled with boisterous interns, a foosball table and bags of hot bagels that Marcus brought in for breakfast. "Beers that haven't been seen since Prohibition."

He's talking about focusing on such old styles as German altbier, an old-world style (its very name means "old beer" in German) in 8th Wonder's Alternate Universe — one of the three flagship beers that the team hopes to produce as its initial offerings. An extra pale ale called Hopston and a "light, easy-drinking, year-round" beer called the Intellectuale round out the trio of first-run 8th Wonder beers.

But they don't plan on releasing those first.

Instead, says Soroka, Corsi convinced them to wait until the recipes are perfected and the brewery is completely up and running.

"We don't want to disappoint people," Soroka says, if the recipes change between batches and first-timers have already gotten used to the hops in the Hopston or the malt in the Alternate Universe. Instead, the plan is to release a series of one-off beers — Experiment8ns, in the slang of the brewery — in firkins, containers smaller than kegs that hold nine imperial gallons (roughly 72 pints of beer).

Meanwhile, the crew is simply trying to navigate the logistics of getting their East End brewery up and running. Soroka notes that they signed a lease for the building at the corner of Dallas and Hutchins only a few months before the Dynamo announced that a stadium for the soccer team would be built a couple of blocks away.

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