Pie in the Sky?

Maybe success in politics and the restaurant business share similar requirements. Mickey Kapoor was asked last week about the reasons for the failure of his second attempt in three months to run a successful eatery at 2207 Richmond, where a number of previous tenants have gone the way of the passenger pigeon. (Kapoor supported the opening of a specialty restaurant called The Gumbo Shop. That failed and was replaced by the equally niche-focused Just Fajitas.)

"The people have spoken," he observed with unusual solemnity. "What can you do after that?" When asked why that particular location was a serial killer of restaurants, Kapoor replied, "Some people say a certain location is jinxed, but I know a business that always does well in any locationŠ"

And that, inquiring minds want to know, would be what?

"A whorehouse."

We can always count on Mr. Kapoor to give a quote that will spice up copy as dependably as his secret garam masala spices up the dishes at his Khyber North Indian Grill [2510 Richmond, (713)942-9424]. (Khyber is not in danger of closing, despite being mentioned in this week's column.)

The address already houses an up-and-running second location of the long popular Pot Pie Pizzeria [1525 Westheimer, (713)528-4350; 2207 Richmond, (713)526-1702]. The original PPP, located in the middle of the clubbiest, kinkiest, lingeriest, tatooingest (William Safire, please take note of these neologisms) section of Montrose, has been a favorite casual dining spot with area residents more or less from its opening day 15 years ago. In more recent years, perhaps after being discovered by the Houston Press (so opines co-owner and general manager Keven Bramwell), the Pot Pie Pizzeria has attracted enthusiasts from all over Houston. The restaurant has always offered a good, dependable American-Italian menu of pizzas, calzones, lasagnas and spaghetti, with a single chicken pot pie left over from the establishment's earliest days, when it was just called The Pot Pie.

Bramwell does not believe in the theory of jinxed locations, either. "Lunch was great today," he reported a week after opening. "We're rippin' and rollin'." When asked why expand now and why expand there, Bramwell explained, "We have not been able to accommodate various organizations [that wanted to use the PPP for banquets]. We heard about this place being for rent. We took a look and within four days had signed up." Indeed, the Montrose location is "about 2,200 square feet," while the new Richmond location has "4,000 square feet" with "an upstairs banquet room to be added to that space."

Still, Bramwell is not leaving things to chance when it comes to building up a clientele for the new location. "We're running some outrageous specials," he declares. "On Wednesday nights, we're going to offer a pizza and a pitcher of beer for $9.99. All day, every day, we offer all the spaghetti you can eat for $4.99." When asked to clarify the pizza special, set to launch any day now, co-owner John Krimm said it would be an entire 12-inch pizza. Can a big-screen TV be far behind? Or a few vibrating Barcaloungers? Heaven, as some envision it.

Beat a Retreat

Carl Lewis has always seemed unstoppable, dating all the way back to 1984 when he duplicated Jesse Owens's historic feat of winning four gold medals in one Olympic competition. Leave it to the Houston foodie scene finally to halt the celebrated sprinter in his tracks. Lewis has called it quits for his ambitious restaurant, the World Beat Grille, the eatery formerly known as Café Noir.

He and his partners, Darrell Cage and Gary Jacques, may resurrect the Fannin Street location in another form, according to a short statement issued by their publicist, Shirley Barr. The restaurant opened as Café Noir in March 1999, but changed its name to the World Beat Grille this past February to coincide with a new logo and new menu items developed by executive chef Francis Walters. The alterations apparently did not significantly reverse the fortunes of the establishment. Neither did the high-profile events hosted by the dapper Olympian at his dream nightspot. A recent example: The World Beat Grille was the site of a fund-raiser for Vice President Al Gore. -- George Alexander


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