Cielo Mexican Bistro and Collin's Chop House & Whiskey Bar

Youssef Nafaa just opened two new restaurants on Main Street. In the space that used to house St. Pete's Dancing Marlin, 300 Main, there's now Cielo Mexican Bistro (713-229-9500) and Collin's Chop House & Whiskey Bar (713-229-9504). This puts Nafaa's restaurant count at seven.

Opening one is tough enough, but two at the same time takes some guts, especially since in the past two years, close to a dozen restaurants and bars on or around Main Street have closed down. But Nafaa is willing to accept the risk. "If you don't try, you'll never find out," he says. "We should be proud of our downtown. Where else can you walk on a sidewalk in Houston except downtown?...I hope this encourages others to open here as well. After all, the fourth largest city in the U.S. can't have just a mediocre ­downtown."

The restaurants are separate but share some facilities. "Cielo is Mexican with a twist. We have traditional enchiladas and tacos, but we also have things like chipotle chicken sautéed in olive oil with cactus leaves and sticky rice and chile-glazed pork ribs. We've developed dishes to encourage people to pass around and share at the table," says Nafaa. "A place like [Collin's] was lacking from downtown. We have a great collection of whiskeys, and we'll be serving steaks, prime rib, chops, seafood and dishes like foie gras with fig chutney, in an atmosphere that you might find in New York or Chicago."

Dish visited Cielo one lunchtime and tried a terrific ceviche and a great chimichurri steak...

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Paul Galvani