Union Kitchen's owner dishes on sweet success, plus the hottest Houston openings

On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Gr8 Plate Hospitalityowner Paul Miller joins CultureMap food editor to discuss his growing business. Miller traces his rise in the restaurant business from its roots in the Pappas organization to its current point, which includes five locations of The Union Kitchen, two locations of Jax Grill, a food truck, and a thriving catering business. 

The Union Kitchen has thrived based on two primary strategies. The first is a broad menu that truly offers something for everyone, and the second is finding opportunities in underserved neighborhoods like Bellaire, where Miller opened his first restaurant almost 10 years ago, Memorial, Kingwood, and Garden Oaks. Gr8 Plate has also grown through acquisitions, as Miller did when he purchased the burger-oriented Jax Grill concept a few years ago. Miller explains why he might be interested in acquiring other restaurants in the future.

There's a lot of stuff that is, I don't want to say in peril, but there's a lot of question marks around town. People are looking to make some moves. If somebody came to me and said, 'I've got these three restaurants that are doing just ok. I would sell them to you for X number of dollars.' I would buy them and bring them under our umbrella. Use our buying power from our broadline distributors and liquor distributors to take costs down. Fortunately, in that situation, we could be making money within a month, whereas the other restaurateur doesn't have that buying power . . . That's really what we're talking about with some of these other concepts that we're looking at. Can I take their P-and-L and bring it into our system and put more money to towards the bottom line? If the answer is yes, we'll talk about it. If it's a no, let move on down the road. 

Prior to Miller's interview, local bartender and beverage consultant Linda Salinasjoins Sandler to discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: the sale of State Fare to the owner of Star Cinema Grill; the prospects for Savoir, the wine-driven new restaurant coming to the Heights later this year; L'Olivier's plans to reconcept as Avondale Food & Wine; and the imminent opening of State of Grace owner Ford Fry's two new restaurants, La Lucha and Superica. In the restaurants of the week segment, the duo share some first impressions of Saint Arnold Brewing Company's new restaurant and beer garden and Kau Ba Kitchen, the new Vietnamese restaurant in Montrose.  

Source: Houston Culture Map