When Fernando Echeverria was looking to open a Sugar Land restaurant, he said he fell in love with the former Ruth Chris location along Hwy. 59. The cherry wood finishes, open bar layout, dance floor and dark, quiet ambiance was perfect for what he wanted to create, he said. In 2005, he opened Fernando's Latin Cuisine to offer classic continental fare, such as steaks and seafood, with a Latin influence.
"I wanted to work closer to home," Echeverria said. "When I came in, I did not have anything, but after we opened, everything started going."
A few years after opening his restaurant, Echeverria said he found a regular clientele—customers who returned on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. To show his appreciation for his returning guests, Echeverria has named several menu items—such as the Steak Hickl ($34), a ribeye steak served with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus, and the J. Pasta ($15), angel hair pasta served with crawfish in a tomato basil cream sauce—after his patrons.
"I enjoy being part of this community," Echeverria said. "We want our families to be able to come here for graduations, birthdays and prom."
Echeverria said his menu is constantly being updated to match the flavor of the community. He often prepares off-the-menu creations to give guests something new. As more families come in, Echeverria said he is looking to add more affordable options as well.
"We want this restaurant to be affordable to everyone," he said. "Pasta and chicken—these are the items I will be playing with in the coming months. Since I am in charge of the kitchen, I would like to pass the savings along to the customers."
Echeverria has worked in the restaurant industry since childhood after getting his first job as a dishwasher. Over the years, he moved up the ranks to learn as much as he could about the business. When he was living in New York, Echeverria worked for a restaurant with five owners who each oversaw a different section of the business.
"I learned from them, and that is where I came up with the idea of how to run this restaurant," he said. "When I am here, I am able to know and understand everything that is going on."
Each evening Echeverria works the restaurant as host, floor and kitchen manager, and executive chef. He makes it a point to personally visit each of his guests, whether they come every day or are first-time diners, he said. It is not uncommon for the restaurant owner to sit and sip a glass of chilled tequila or aged port with new and old friends.
"What I like most about this business is the people," Echeverria said. "A restaurant is like a one-year-old baby. You cannot leave it alone, and there is never a dull moment."
Echeverria has kept the ambiance at Fernando's Latin Cuisine quiet and elegant to allow his guests to carry a conversation, but he also offers live music and room for dancing on the weekends.
In addition, Fernando's provides private party services in both its large dining room and full-service lounge.
"A lot of our business is from our events, especially this time of year," Echeverria said. "We are not a fine dining [restaurant], but we are not casual either. I want to offer something for everyone who comes in."
An expanding menu
In addition to traditional steak and seafood options, Fernando's Latin Cuisine offers a variety of flavors.
Restaurant owner Fernando Echeverria said he is planning to add several new menu items, working with chicken and pasta, to bring more affordable options to new visitors and local families.
Corvina—Ecuadorian white fish, egg washed and sauteed with a lemon saffron buerre blanc ($22)
Paella—Yellow saffron rice topped with steamed mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops. white fish and chicken ($25)
Pollo Di Mar—A new menu item that mixes chicken and seafood, served with avocado, cilantro, lemon and lime, and crawfish, cooked in a dash of tequila ($17)
Sugar Land 281-494-9087
Hours: Tue.–Sun. 5–10 p.m.