Blue Mug Caf opened its doors in March 2013 in Magnolia and has modeled itself as a fast-casual restaurant that serves a fusion of multiple cuisines.
Blue Mug is the third restaurant owned by Altus Culinary. The caf, however, is the company's first original, non-franchised restaurant concept. Altus Culinary owns a Yucatan Taco Stand franchise in The Woodlands and also bought the Brooklyn Cafe in The Woodlands.
"We wanted to give a different feel to The Woodlands and Magnolia area with Blue Mug," said Paul Celis, director of operations for Altus Culinary. "We wanted to create our own fast-casual restaurant where the concept of the food is an international fusion. Our menu incorporates Mexican, American, Italian and Chinese cuisines."
The restaurant—which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner—is very much the brainchild of Celis. He developed the concept, created the menu, and designed the look of the restaurant with the help of his partners.
"All the menu items come out of my head," Celis said. "The creations stem from prior dishes I have made or things I think the client would like. I try to take things a little over the top because if we are going to do it, we are going to do it big."
The food at the restaurant is all homemade from scratch and prepared in-house, and that includes the desserts and gelato, he said. Each dish is made to be as fresh and authentic as possible. Celis said he is happy with the current menu but said it is constantly evolving and changing.
Some of his pride and joy items are the Blue Mug Pork Chops ($19.95), Bruled French Toast ($10.95), Tender BBQ Beef Ribs ($17.95) and the Oh MyFish ($15.95).
"We also have great coffee," Celis said. "Our coffee machine is like the Ferrari of all coffee machines. And I will put our Kobe beef burgers up against any burger around."
The fast-casual concept was also something Celis worked to capture with the opening of Blue Mug. Fast-casual restaurants are becoming increasingly popular, Celis said, and are designed so customers place their order at the counter and then have their food brought to them once it is ready.
Celis said this model eliminates the waiter and is the way of the future because a bad waiter can cause a bad dining experience. The bar at Blue Mug, however, is a full-service area.
Like most restaurants, there is a large emphasis placed on quality customer service, Celis said. At Blue Mug, Celis said he wants the customer to feel like they are at home. The restaurant offers live music on select nights and has TVs around the restaurant so patrons can watch sporting events. The restaurant also hosts cookouts on its outdoor patio, which includes live music and a variety of beers.
"Our goal here is for the client to leave as happy as possible and to come back and give us another shot," Celis said. "A successful restaurant is about people. You have to have good people working for you, and you have to take care of them."
In its first year of business, Blue Mug has seen its share of ups and downs and bumps in the road, he said. However, business has been good overall and the restaurant has developed good and loyal clientele.
"In the restaurant business you are never going to reach perfection because it's run by people and people are not perfect," he said. "But success is about constantly evolving and improving and striving to be the best you can be."
The Magnolia location is the first for Blue Mug, however, it may not be the last, Celis said. The idea is to turn Blue Mug into a franchise and to open multiple locations.
There is no time frame as to when this will happen, Celis said, but Altus Culinary is currently considering a second location.
Blue Mug specialties
Bruled French Toast: Extra thick slices of rustic sourdough bread baked and then grilled golden brown. Topped with powdered sugar, diced pecans and amber maple syrup on the side. $10.95
Tender BBQ Beef Ribs: Beef ribs grilled and slow baked with homemade barbecue sauce for more than four hours. $17.95
Orange chicken: Deep fried pieces of chicken breast covered in a sweet and spicy orange sauce that is served with white rice and vegetables. $12.95
Blue Mug Pork Chops: A prime pork chop, marinated in Blue Mug's secret orange sauce and grilled for more than 20 minutes. Served with a choice of two sides. $19.95
Oh My...Fish: Eight-ounce cod fillet topped with lump crab meat and baked in a creamy lemon, garlic and Parmesan cheese sauce and served over rice. $15.95
Blue Mug Caf, 30420 FM 2978, Ste. 400, Magnolia 281-292-2583, bluemugcafe.com, Hours: Mon.–Thu. 7 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 7 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.–9 p.m.