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Going Big in the Bay Area with Cullen's Upscale American Grill

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Kevin Munz doesnt do anything small. After making his fortune with his enormous pawn shops, he decided: Big it is. His new restaurant, Cullen's Upscale American Grill, (11500 Space Center Blvd., 713-481-3463), is 38,000 square feet. That's not a typo -- it's 38,000 square feet, ten times the size of your average restaurant. Munz has spent two-and-a-half years and more than $10 million on the place, and the result is extravagance previously unknown to the Bay Area. Think Vegas and then some. The main dining room seats 250; in total, the place can accommodate 700. It's got 11 banquet rooms and an all-glass private dining room suspended from the ceiling. There's a live music stage and a ballroom.

The behemoth is already open. "I'm excited and I'm overjoyed at the response," says Munz. "I've lived in this area for 20 years and it's always been underserved when it comes to upscale restaurants. When I compare the Bay Area to the Woodlands or Sugar Land, we were missing the mark." The banquet rooms are booked through December.

Paul Lewis, the executive chef, most recently worked at Quattro, in the Four Seasons Hotel; he calls the cuisine at Cullen's "contemporary American." "We are serving some fabulous seafood," he says. "We're even flying in tuna from Hawaii. We're using only the finest of ingredients, like coarse white grits from a purveyor in South Carolina, who grinds them only when we order them, and wherever possible we're buying local and in small quantities." Menu highlights include a Peking duck appetizer with foie gras, slow-braised prime rib, a Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding, and homemade pasta dishes. -- Paul Galvani

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