Dine-out only

Rising star chef delivers new  'virtual restaurant' concept to Houston

This restaurant concept will have no dining-in option for guests and will act as an incubator for restaurant ideas. Photo by www.jillianekristine.com

Gabe Medina is back. The chef, who earned raves for his work at restaurants such as Kata Robata, Soma, and Aqui, will launch a new project this week in partnership with beverage expert Steven Salazar (The Kirby Group).

Under the banner of Click Robot Run, Medina will open five restaurants in a commercial kitchen in Rice Military (4901 Rose St.). Rather than traditional sit down establishments, they're "virtual restaurants" that will only serve diners via pick-up, to-go, or delivery apps such as Uber Eats and DoorDash. They are:

  • A&J Provisions (opens Wednesday, June 26): a comfort food restaurant that offers both an array of grilled meats as well as vegan and vegetarian dishes.
  • Bowling Club (opens August 2019): a Japanese rice bowl restaurant inspired by Medina's time working at Narisawa in Tokyo, widely considered one of the best restaurants in the world.
  • Sandwich Legend (opens November 2019): meatball subs, cold cuts, sandwiches inspired by Houston's immigrant cuisines, and more will be on the menu at this restaurant.
  • 7000 Islands (opens January 2020): Medina will explore Filipino cuisine its various forms at this restaurant, which is inspired by both his heritage and trips to the island nation.
  • Fifth concept: TBD. Salazar says that he and Medina will develop the fifth restaurant in collaboration with the chefs the hire to run the other four.

While one media account stated the concepts will open in sequence in a style similar to Chris Shepherd's One Fifth, that's not correct, according to Salazar. Instead, the five concepts will operate simultaneously — making it more like a food hall where each restaurant could someday be spun off into its own brick and mortar space.

"It's important to remember there's two aspects of this," Salazar says. "We like the idea of being able to utilize multiple concepts out of the same facility, that's one rent, one labor force.

"The second thing to remember is this is an incubator for us. It's about testing multiple menus for multiple concepts. It's about getting data from multiple sources: Favor, DoorDash, even our neighbors stopping by."

Operating as a "virtual restaurant" without a dining room means that one set of cooks can do the work, which reduces costs. It also means only paying rent for one location while they use the sales data to determine which concepts to promote.

While Medina is the chef who will develop the menus, train the cooks, etc, Salazar says his role is to serve as a sounding board and provide logistical support; he will also maintain his current role as the operating partner of The Kirby Group (Wooster's Garden, Heights Bier Garten, Holman Draft Hal, etc). The two friends have a history that goes back to the two years they spent working together at Kata Robata.

"Gabe is like one of my brothers, and I want to be part of his success," Salazar says. "I said, 'please, can I help you? Let me be involved if you'll let me.' I just have so much respect for him as a chef."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Gabe Medina is the culinary mind behind Click Robot Run. Photo by Eric Sandler

Gow Media launched a new platform and sister site to InnovationMap with a reception at The Grove on Nov. 5. Photo by Jacob Power

On a crisp Election Night evening, Houstonians motored to The Grove to mix and mingle at the exclusive launch party for the hottest new destination for car lovers, AutomotiveMap.

The newest site from Gow Media and the team behind CultureMap, InnovationMap, and SportsMap, AutomotiveMap will steer passionate readers to the latest car news and inside looks at the hottest rides, from an army of in-the-know experts.

The exclusive event featured a host of business leaders, social stars, and motoring enthusiasts. Gow Media CEO David Gow welcomed guests, explaining the "wild ride" growth of Gow Media's platforms and introducing the new site and founding editor, Eileen Falkenberg-Hull.

"What I love about Eileen is that she knows everything about about autos, she's a great writer, and she's savvy," Gow noted.

Falkenberg-Hull laid out the map for AutomotiveMap. "AutomotiveMap appeals to the average customer with the goal of informing their purchasing decisions," she explained. "It engages with enthusiasts and works to encourage enthusiasm among those discovering their passion. And it covers a wide variety of material from new cars to auto industry innovations to sexy cars and car culture."

While trading cool car stories, guests noshed on a feast provided by The Grove, including bacon-wrapped quail, fried truffle macaroni and cheese, tuna tartare tacos, avocado toast with lentils and radishes, and fried fish fritters. A smorgasbord in the form of a massive antipasto station with cured meats and cheeses greeted diners.

Attendees also snapped pics at the selfie booth and clamored around ESPN 97.5 hosts Fred Faour, A.J. Hoffman, and Glenn Davis as the teams broadcasted live from the event.

"I don't think people realize how many people have a passion for cars in this city," said avid car collector Alan Stein, whose collection ranges from a 1935 Chrysler AirFlow to new Ferraris. "A lot of it is under the radar. I think people love their cars, their collections, and so this will be interesting."

Seen in the crowd were NBA legend, Elvin Hayes; Nick Florescu; Elizabeth Stein; Lawson Gow; John and Leah Manlove; John and Mary Craddock; David Stevenson; Scott and Linda Burdine; Steven and Andi Berkman; Mark and Meredith Barineau; Audrey Gow; Natalie Harms; Chris Dvorachek; Justin Makris; and Neal Patel.

Revved-up enthusiasts can follow AutomotiveMap daily as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

"The launch party is just the beginning," said Falkenberg-Hull. "AutomotiveMap will evolve to be a true multimedia destination for everything automotive."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.