Several weeks ago we reported on the closing of the Hogg Grill ["Hogg's Head on a Stick," April 6] and stated, with head high in righteous journalistic triumph, that a Mason Jar would assume the space of Cinda Ward and Armando Palacios's failed operation. Seems we were only 33.3 percent correct. Three restaurants, it turns out, will occupy the space.
Two weeks ago we also reported that Charles Clark, one of the three men who had joined forces to open the popular Tasca Kitchen and Wine Bar [908 Congress, (713)225-9100], had left the company ["Tsk, Tsk, Tasca," April 12] to work for Restaurant Specialty Group. What we couldn't say then but what we can say now is that Clark will be the "executive or master chef" responsible for "food lines, taste concepts" at "four restaurants" for RSG, according to Don Cristopher, RSG managing partner. Aside from the three in the old Hogg Grill/Palace Cafe space, Clark also will oversee the menu at the Birraporetti's [500 Louisiana, (713)224-9494] across Prairie Street from the Hogg Brothers building.
The Mason Jar, as first reported here, will be the main tenant at the corner of Prairie and Louisiana; its all-fried, all-the-time menu will be given a booster shot by Clark, who is expected to modify and modernize the offerings. The chef will also oversee the menu at the second restaurant, which will be a branch of a venerable Houston institution that leaped into international prominence during the administration of President George Herbert Walker Bush. That is, of course, Otto's Bar-B-Q [5502 Memorial (713)864-2573], which in its latest location will more resemble its downtown sibling, Otto's Bar-B-Q and Hamburgers [500 Dallas, (713)659-6886].
This third Otto's outlet, which will stretch along the Louisiana side of the Hogg building, arrives with a lot of political baggage, so to speak. Specifically, Bush for years told reporters that his favorite barbecue joint in Houston was Otto's on Memorial. (Democrats, we believe, prefer Goode Co.) The institution, which began when Shiner natives Otto and Annie Sofka opened a small grocery store at the Memorial address in 1951, grew into a hamburger stand with the grocery in back. Otto, who ran the grocery, started to barbecue some of the meat sold there. This became so popular, according to family member and current manager Mike Jenkins, that in 1965 Otto went into barbecuing full-time.
The Otto's name and recipes were shared through a co-licensing agreement with RSG's Cristopher, who owns and operates the location in One Allen Center on Dallas. The Hogg building -- can you think of a better name to house a barbecue joint? -- will become the second Otto's downtown. This development may suggest to fans of medieval German history a renaissance of the Ottonian dynasty, but we won't dwell on the thought too long.
The third Hogg operation is still under negotiation, but Cristopher says that "we are close to completing a deal whereby Armando's Tequila and Fajita Bar would occupy that space." This, of course, means that Palacios will be resurrecting his old Shepherd Drive operation, that elegant Tex-Mex eatery on the edge of River Oaks.
Tying it all together, Cristopher revealed that the various RSG properties downtown will be served by a company-owned shuttle bus. "In Dallas," Cristopher states, "we have a shuttle bus, really sort of a soft party bus, going between our properties. It's called the MooBus. It has eyelashes and it moos.Here, we may do a space shuttle theme bus. We're looking at two or three designs, something that will attract attention without being garish."
In another part of town, the Bombay Palace Indian Restaurant [3901 Westheimer, (713)960-8472], which has been serving customers for nearly 20 years, is being forced to move to make way for Central Market, the H-E-B superstore slated to open next year. Popular with both people from the subcontinent and those whose roots are firmly planted in the Gulf Coast, the restaurant has not settled on a new location. The H-E-B operation, for those who have not visited the megastores in Austin and San Antonio, should be a foodie's paradise, one that will finally cause locals who remember the Jamail's on Shepherd to stop sighing wistfully every time they drive past the old location.
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