A couple of months ago I was surprised to notice two -- count 'em, two -- new tenants bravely launched at the long-shuttered corner of Richmond and Greenbriar. (I guess I thought the Gulf Freeway would be finished before these properties were occupied again.) The Gumbo Shop [2207 Richmond, (713)522-1311] opened in the space vacated by the Q Café, and Don Pico's Mexican Restaurant [2181 Richmond, (713)522-9502] proffers Tex-Mex in the space that has stood forlorn and empty since the lights went out at Mick's Gulf Coast Grill back in February '98.
Er, make that last one Don Lito's Mexican Restaurant: The name has already been changed with a piece of flimsy plastic.
This hasty rechristening puzzled me. After all, this is the second Don Pico's Mexican Restaurant in the greater Houston area; the first one, under the same ownership, is a fixture on Bay Area Boulevard. And what restaurateur in his right mind would change his second cafe's name less than two months after its grand opening?
One threatened with a potential lawsuit, it turns out.
Camillo Abrego, manager of the restaurant now known as Don Lito's, explains that the name change came at the urgent request of Arnaldo Richards, owner of the well-known and not-so-far-away Pico's Mexican Restaurant [5941 Bellaire Boulevard, (713)662-8383]. "It wasn't that big a deal," says Abrego. "He asked, and we agreed, and that was that."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"It was a big deal for us," says Richards. "We had all kinds of people calling us before they even opened the place, even suppliers were calling me saying, 'Oh, great, you're going to open another restaurant!' and I had no idea what they were talking about."
A similarly named restaurant way down in Clear Lake is one thing, but one inside the Loop that threatens to confuse his clientele is entirely another, Richards explains. "We were ready to take them to court if we had to. A lot of our customers live inside the Loop, you see?" (And I'll bet some of those customers are still baffled by the abrupt closing of the second Pico's at Kirby and 59 some years back.) So, does Richards's sudden sensitivity hint at a planned Inner Loop comeback for Pico's? "We're working on that right now," says Richards, laughing, "but I can't tell you anything yet."
All this discussion of Pico's jogged my memory. Remember that intra-family fracas over the name of the fiftysomething-year-old Spanish Village [4720 Almeda, (713)523-2861]? For a few months back in 1993, its name was changed to L. Pico's Village after its owner, longtime Houston restaurateur Larry Pico, sold the name before selling the property. "Oh, but at the time we opened Pico's, there wasn't anybody in Houston using that name," Richards is quick to point out. "I mean, some people did think Mr. Pico had opened another restaurant when we opened, so maybe there was some confusion there. But the name Pico has a lot of history behind it for me -- but that's another long story."
"I think it's funny that Arnaldo Richards is upset about somebody else using the name Pico's," says "Little" John Medina, son of the current owners of Spanish Village. "After all, we could have said something when he took the Pico's name." Medina's parents not only bought the name and finally the restaurant property itself, they're also related to the Pico family. "But we felt that imitation is the best form of flattery, so we didn't get upset about it. And of course in Spanish pico refers to the beak of a bird, so he could use it that way."