The opening of several independent eateries and unique concepts over the past few months has broadened the food and beverage landscape around Sugar Land and Missouri City. These establishments are providing residents with the type of options typically found inside the inner loop of Houston.
“In suburban communities like Sugar Land and Missouri City, you often see a lot of chain and franchise restaurants go in first because they have bigger budgets,” said Melissa Stewart, executive director for the Greater Houston Restaurant Association. “But the [Sugar Land] area has really come into its own, and you have seen more independent restaurants open because there is a larger customer base.”
Keeping it local
For many years franchises and chains have dominated the dining landscape in the Sugar Land and Missouri City area, prompting residents in search of alternative options to drive to Houston where the options are more diverse.
“In the suburbs you do see the chains and franchises get a lot of business because families are trying to manage a lot of obligations in the evening and they want a quick meal,” Stewart said. “But you also have people who want an interesting, unique or fine dining experience and don’t always want to be driving back to the city to find it. They want to stay in their community, which has opened the door for some of these concepts and ideas to pop up.”
Recognizing the opportunity presented by the tremendous population and commercial industry growth in the area, many entrepreneurs have opened businesses locally to change that and fill that void by offering more diverse and new concepts to the community, Stewart said. The business climate in the area has also created opportunities for local entrepreneurs to open close to home.
"For a restaurant owner who wants to try and have some semblance of family life, it makes sense to be in their own backyard as much as they can,” she said.
Ron Brandani, a resident of Sienna Plantation with more than 15 years of experience in the restaurant industry, is one of those entrepreneurs. He opened Brandani’s Restaurant & Wine Bar on March 3 in Township Square in Missouri City. Brandani described his restaurant as an American restaurant with an Italian heart where customers can also get good wine.
“I have always wanted to open up something in my own community,” Brandani said.“It makes sense to open something in your own area. I could have opened in Houston, but being close to home is better.”
Brandani said he also chose to open in Missouri City because he noticed there were very few dining options in an area that has a significant population.
“You look around this area and you see all these master-planned communities with all these people, and they don’t have a place to eat,” Brandani said. “When I looked at coming here, I looked at that. I think out here everybody is traveling out of town to find something different to eat, and now they can travel here instead of out of town.”
Robert White, who has been a Sugar Land resident for more than 20 years, is another local entrepreneur who wanted to provide his community with more dining options. White is the owner of four restaurants in Town Square in Sugar Land: Japaneiros, Jupiter Pizza & Waffle Company, Guru Burger & Crepes and The Ginger Mule Tonics & Meals. The Ginger Mule is White’s latest concept, which he opened June 16.
“The driver behind me opening all these concepts was because it was what I wanted to see here and something this area was lacking,” White said. “I don’t like eating at franchises at all, and I thought the people here deserved better. I wanted to bring to the community the types of restaurants you used to have to drive a ways to eat at.”
With The Ginger Mule, White said he wanted to bring a gastropub concept similar to Anvil—a popular gastropub in Houston—to the Sugar Land area.
“The whiskey industry in the U.S. is just exploding with amazing products, and I wanted a place that would showcase that,” he said. “The spirits we offer are a high percentage of brown spirits, and of that, a high percentage is American spirits. I also wanted a menu that kind of matched that, so that’s why we also offer classic American dishes.”
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In addition to new independent restaurants, a number of unique concepts, such as Vino & Vinyl in Missouri City, have opened in the area recently.
Vino & Vinyl, which opened June 1, is a business owned by Missouri City resident Paul Killingsworth that sells wine and records. Killingsworth said he wanted to open a shop that appealed to both wine buyers and record collectors.
“I was frustrated with the big-box stores and the corporate wine destinations,” he said. “You see a lot of the same brands everywhere you go, and I wanted to just focus on these small family-owned wineries and the stuff that is made by hand. With the records I am trying to appeal to the younger generation and those who grew up listening to vinyl."
The idea to open his business in Missouri City not only stemmed from a desire to open close to home but also to provide the community with something it was lacking and that might appeal to young parents such as himself.
“I feel like people my age, if they didn’t have kids, would totally be living in the city,” he said. “If you have people who are starting to build a family, a lot of the time it makes more sense for them to raise their family in the suburbs. But they are still people who want the cool restaurants and the cool places to go [to], so I am trying to provide that.”