Updated 6/27/2016, 11:06 a.m. to add comments from Legacy Restaurants CEO Jonathan Horowitz.
Thanks to an email forwarded by a reader, we’ve learned that Legacy Restaurants, which runs The Original Ninfa's On Navigation, is looking to expand the concept.
Many longtime Houstonians remember full and well when there were once several Ninfa’s franchise locations. Regrettably, later down the road, founder Ninfa Laurenzo and her family lost control of the business and the franchise locations shut down, one by one. Laurenzo's heirs went on to establish El Tiempo.
A commercial real estate listing posted by Waterman Steele Real Estate Advisors states that the company is seeking a second-generation restaurant (in other words, one already built out for a previous restaurant) in well-populated suburban areas. Specifically, the company is looking at The Woodlands, Katy, the Energy Corridor and Cypress, as well as off of State Highway 249, which could mean the Willowbrook area.
It's another exciting new development for The Original Ninfa's On Navigation, too, which just finished remodeling the kitchen, added a wood-burning oven, developed new menu dishes and has retained Julep's Alba Huerta as bar consultant.
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Legacy Restaurants’ CEO, Jonathan Horowitz, says, “We are actively pursuing the right location for another Original Ninfa’s, and it looks like we’ll be somewhere away from the center of town: The Woodlands, Katy, Northwest, Sugar Land — somewhere where there’s obviously good brand awareness but far enough away from Navigation to give a different area an opportunity to experience the original.”
Finding a new spot is going to be tricky in more ways than one. Horowitz says they’re looking for a 6,000-to 7,000-foot space. Additionally, some thought is being put into how to bring some of the “feel” of The Original Ninfa’s to a space of newer construction. “Putting all those things together, it will take a little while to find just the right spot,” he said. “As you can imagine, when doing something with a restaurant like this which has such history and tradition, we’re not going to just put it anywhere for the sake of putting it somewhere. Obviously, you can’t replicate the original in every sense of the word, but we’re going to be very thoughtful about how we bring all the traditions and history with it.”
He says he envisions a second location having much the same menu as the existing one, which chef Alex Padilla oversees and develops new dishes for as needed. It will no doubt also benefit from consultant Alba Huerta’s work on the bar program. He’s also hoping that a new location would also have a wood-fired oven, like the one that was recently added to the kitchen of The Original Ninfa’s.
This is remarkably good news for suburban diners who don’t always want to make a trek to the east side of downtown for a classic fajita and margarita fix. Now, it's just a matter of seeing which neighborhood will be the lucky recipient of a new Ninfa's.