Anthony Shorrosh owned the first Denny’s franchise in Houston for 23 years before becoming the owner of 242 Pub & Grill near Lake Conroe with partners Nanette Holloway and Gregg Holcomb.
“It’s kind of a funny story. … We were in the restaurant business for many years, and the opportunity came up to be a partner in a restaurant,” Shorrosh said.
The opportunity was an acquisition of the brand that was then Tailgators Pub & Grill—and before that Saltwater Seafood.
Opened two years ago in September, 242 Pub in Willis is one of four brand locations Shorrosh and his team now operate in the Houston area.
“We figured Willis wanted some really good food, and we decided to bring it out here,” Shorrosh said. “Our menu is a 90% scratch menu. Our items are battered and fried per order: the chicken-fried steak is handpressed. … Our sauces are made sautéed to order.”
Shorrosh said the ambitious, labor-intensive menu with seasonally sourced local ingredients can be his own downfall as sales increase—because kitchen times increase as the restaurant’s popularity grows.
“We love to cook, and we love feeding people,” Shorrosh said. “It’s unique because with our first location, it was a small endcap in a shopping strip center off the beaten path, and when people came in and looked around, they said, ‘Wow, we didn’t expect this type of food in a place like this.’”
For example, Shorrosh tried 70 different recipes just for the chicken-fried steaks before settling on a favorite.
Operations Manager Justin “J.P.” Putnam said they try to create consistency among the four 242 locations’ menus so they have the same brand feel, but also create a hyperlocal community culture with patio events, live music or karaoke—sometimes playing the Texans game on volume at one location where there are fans and having a Cowboys game on at another.
“I don’t want to lose the vision of the first one when we were sitting there developing the first menu,” Putnam said. “We surround ourselves with the best people we can and are really lucky to have the ones we do.”
Although the Willis location has 45 TVs accommodating NFL, NBA, MLB, golf, NASCAR and hockey channels, only one game can have the sound on.
“At the end of the day, what draws me in here is the ability that I get to create. We get to have fun with the menu. … It’s not a corporate restaurant,” Shorrosh said. “Maybe in the next five years we’ll have one in Austin, Dallas or San Antonio.”
242 Pub & Grill
11525 FM 1097, Willis
Hours: Mon.-Wed. 11 a.m.-midnight, Thu.-Fri. 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Sat. 9 p.m.-2 a.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-midnight