Classic tastes converge in restaurateur Carrabba's Mia’s Table

The restaurant offers its signature cheeseburger and onion rings.

The restaurant offers its signature cheeseburger and onion rings.

[gallery ids="405059,405060,405061"]

To native Houstonian and restaurateur Johnny Carrabba, putting his name on a business is a point of pride. In his own words, it helps keep him grounded.

When it comes to Mia’s Table, named after his only daughter, Carrabba said having the name and reminder on the building makes him work harder.

“I never want to go to Mia and say, ‘Hey guess what, Mia’s didn’t work out,’” he said. “It gets me to work a little harder and stay focused.”

Keeping it simple

The original Mia’s Table opened on Kirby Drive in Houston six years ago after Carrabba said he had difficulty finding a good burger, and he had land ready to develop near his original Italian restaurant.

Before he got into the burger business, however, he said other places, such as Hopdoddy and Smashburger, started coming into the area. Because of this, Carrabba said he feared oversaturating the market with yet another burger restaurant, and he instead shifted the focus to an old-fashioned, Southern-comfort style.

“It’s good comfort food, and I have to say it’s very family-oriented,” Carrabba said. “I think what impresses me the most about this restaurant is I see a lot of grandparents coming in with their grandkids and saying, ‘This is the kind of milkshake or burger I grew up with.’ I think it’s a throwback restaurant.”

According to Carrabba, each menu item is prepared fresh daily, such as grinding fresh meat for the burgers or filleting red snapper for tacos. He said a simple cheeseburger is his favorite item on the menu.

Drew Dalabakis, Carrabba’s business partner of 15 years and the regional manager, said none of the food in the restaurant is premade.

“That’s part of our commitment, too, is that it’s real food, and it’s fresh,” he said. “It’s labor-intense, but … people here love this food.”

Mia’s Table also offers free custard to every customer that walks through the door.

What sets Mia’s Table apart from other ventures, according to Carrabba, is the heart and soul behind the team working there.

“We’ve made a commitment to [operating locally],” he said. “We made the decision to be family-owned, neighborhood restaurants.”

Carrabba said he comes from a family of local business owners, with his grandparents owning and running a grocery store before his parents later bought it from them.

“My family is the most important thing to me, and not just my immediate family, but my restaurant family too,” Carrabba said.

Expanding the business

While the original Mia’s Table has been operating for six years in Houston, the business opened a branch in Shenandoah in 2018. The decision to expand north, Carrabba said, came from wanting to be part of The Woodlands-area community.

“I’m a native Houstonian. I’ve seen this area just grow,” Carrabba said. “I listen to people. We listen to customers. … If they say it’s salty, it’s salty, we don’t argue. The customers were saying, ‘Johnny, we would love to have something in this area.’ I love The Woodlands. Shenandoah has been really good to us; this whole area has been good.”

The Shenandoah branch of Mia’s Table was the first major expansion for the business. To date, it is only one of three, with the latest recently opening in the Bay Area.

While Carrabba said it might have been more practical to put it closer to his store in the I-10 corridor for the name recognition, he liked The Woodlands area too much to pass it up.

“We opened up out here without notoriety,” he said. “That’s what I’m kind of excited about.”

Dalabakis said some customers come into the store without even knowing what kind of food Mia’s Table serves.

“The response from the people has been great,” he said.

By Andrew Christman
Andrew joined Community Impact Newspaper in early 2019 after moving from Indiana. He is a 2015 graduate from Indiana State University, where he received degrees in English and journalism. He has written for a number of small town publications throughout his career as a reporter.


Fewer than 500 COVID-19 patients—478—are currently checked in at Texas Medical Center hospitals. (Community Impact staff)
Texas Medical Center COVID-19 hospitalizations drop 30% in three weeks

Fewer than 500 COVID-19 patients—478—are currently checked in at Texas Medical Center hospitals.

Materials for the Houston Planning Commission meeting scheduled Sept. 17 showed map views of Mitchell Island, where The Howard Hughes Corp. has plans to build 58 houses. (Courtesy Houston Planning Commission)
Opposition to high-density housing on Mitchell Island spurs discussion at The Woodlands meeting

After resident outcry against a possible high-density residential development on Mitchell Island, The Woodlands Township agreed to place the item on an October meeting agenda.

Conroe and Montgomery County firefighters assigned to Strike Team 143 are assisting California departments with containing Creek Fire, the largest single fire in California's history. Crews from the Porter Fire Department are assigned to the August Complex, which is the largest fire in the state's history, as of Sept. 23. (Courtesy Conroe Fire Department)
Montgomery County firefighters battle largest single wildfire in California’s history

Creek Fire has ravaged 289,695 acres, damaged 71 structures and destroyed 855 others. Exhausted from fighting the fire, Strike Team 143 may need a new crew rotation this weekend.

The Howard Hughes Corp. purchased The Woodlands Towers at The Waterway in December while Paul Layne was CEO. (Courtesy The Howard Hughes Corp.)
Howard Hughes Corp. CEO Paul Layne retires after year that saw company move HQ to The Woodlands, purchase of former Occidental towers

The CEO for The Howard Hughes Corp., which develops The Woodlands, The Woodlands Hills and Bridgeland in the Greater Houston area, announced this retirement this month.

Gov. Greg Abbott on July 27 issued an executive order extending the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election. (Screenshot of Sept. 17 press conference)
Lawsuit takes aim at start date for early voting as some Texas Republicans challenge Gov. Greg Abbott's order

A group of prominent Texas Republicans has embarked on a legal effort to undo the governor's executive order that extended the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election.

(Courtesy The Republic Grille/Liz Grimm Public Relations)
Republic Grille opens in Spring and more Houston-area news

Read the latest Houston-area business and community news here.

October events in The Woodlands area include a fall festival in Oak Ridge North. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Fall festival, trick or treat: 3 activities scheduled in The Woodlands area in October

Fall events are still on throughout The Woodlands area, though modifications are promoting social distancing.

(Courtesy The Republic Grille/Liz Grimm Public Relations)
The Republic Grille opens third location in Spring

The new location is serving dinner seven days a week with plans to open for lunch in the coming weeks.

Texas Central
Texas Central Railroad bullet train project receives rulings on safety framework, selected alignment

Construction for the high-speed bullet train system is slated to begin in the first half of 2021 and to be completed in 2027.

The deadline to register to vote for the Nov. 3 election is Oct. 5. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Here's how to register to vote in Montgomery County

Find out early voting dates and the deadline to register.