Jax Grill’s flagship restaurant in Bellaire celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2023. The eatery has withstood changing management, expansion, a fire prompting a total overhaul of the front-of-house and the fallout of a global pandemic.

The key to the franchise’s endurance, according to Paul Miller, the owner and head of Gr8 Plate Hospitality, is its versatility.

“I have this thing that I tell my staff on a regular basis, and it's [to] ‘give them the pickle,’” Miller said. “That means if somebody wants something, it's not our job to figure out how to say no—it's our job to figure out how to say yes. ... There’s multiple ways to make somebody happy.”

One way to show that adaptability is through the restaurant’s rotating daily specials, Miller said. One weekly special, the smoked corn and chicken chowder, became so popular amongst customers that it is now an everyday menu item.

Hitting refresh

Having previously worked as a restaurateur in markets that include Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago, Miller and his family relocated to Houston to be near the Texas Medical Center almost 20 years ago, he said. Miller took over Jax Grill in 2015. Back then, nothing had really changed about the restaurant since it was established in 1993.

His plan was to implement small but meaningful adjustments that would make the space more refined, he said.

These changes included adding arcade games for kids, narrowing down the menu while using all high-quality ingredients, refreshing the interior decor with new tables and chairs, etching the brand’s locale into the leather of its booths, and offering a wide selection of beers.

“We just changed it enough to where it still has the same bones; it's still Jax Grill,” Miller said. “When people walk in they don't say, ‘Oh my God, what is this place?’ They walk in and say, ‘Oh wow, this looks really fresh.’”

Community staple

Though the minor tweaks help the business stay relevant, Jax Grill’s signature burger helped to earn customer’s trust in the longstanding restaurant.

"[When] you talk about Jax Grill, you talk about the burger," Miller said. "That's what gets people in the door—its a great thing to be known for something that you can deliver consistently."

Miller said he takes pride in the staff, many of whom have been with the restaurant since it was founded. He regards Jax Grill as an “institution that’s been in the neighborhood for years.”

“We're literally on our third generation of people,” Miller said. “Parents used to come here and brought their kids, now their kids are having kids. It's a cool thing to be that big of a part of the community.”