The often-repeated story claims that Khalil was the owner of the convenience store where a Lotto-winning jackpot ticket was sold and that he shared in the windfall. While it's true that Khalil once owned a convenience store, and that store owners are rewarded with a percentage of winning tickets, unfortunately Khalil was not that lucky.
"No, no, it's all rumors, and it's not true," says Khalil with a sigh. "I wish it were, but it's not. I owned that store, but I sold it the day before the winning ticket was purchased, back in 1992. So the new owner got the money, not me."
Khalil reports that instead he financed his new restaurant the old-fashioned way, by dint of hard work and savings. His ambitious El Mirage, which opened in November in the cavernous space vacated most recently by the Corpus Christi-based Water Street Seafood Company, offers Middle Eastern cuisine and entertainment. A live band, two singers and a belly dancer perform on weekend nights, but perhaps the most popular attraction is the authentic argileh water pipe. "Americans call it a 'hubble-bubble,' " explains Khalil, "and it's really catching on with people who smoke. It's a lot milder and more flavorful than a pipe or cigar."
An ambitious triumvirate of Americas and Churrascos alumni -- proprietor Frank Ramirez, executive chef Humberto Molina-Segura and general manager Raul Cepeda -- is on target to open its addition to the Galleria's swank roster, Frank's on Post Oak [1800 Post Oak Boulevard, Suite 199, (713)965-9600], by the end of this month.
Speaking loudly over the background din of hammering construction crews, Ramirez tried to describe his almost-completed decor. "We want a very modern European look," he says. "You know how Tony's is really elegant, but kind of like stuck in the 1950s, 1960s? Well, we're going to be elegant too, but more modern. A lot of round booths, little banquettes right next to each other like in New York, a little elevated stage for a piano, but very year 2000, you know?"
Um, Millennium Elegant? "Yeah, that's it!" exclaims Ramirez. "But we don't want it to sound too fancy; we don't want to scare anybody away. It will be a dressy-casual kind of place."
As for the cuisine, it may be -- uh-oh -- Continental: "A little French, a little Italian, a little Spanish, you know," says Ramirez. "But like Churrascos did for South America, we're going to do for Europe. We want to use the word 'Euro' for our cuisine because that's very hot right now." It all sounds very Euro-politan....
-- Margaret L. Briggs