Restaurants / Openings

New Cafe and Market Brings a James Beard Worthy Chef to Houston’s Third Ward — Chris Williams Builds On His Food Mission

Rado Market Is Just the Start of the Eldorado Ballroom Makeover

BY // 08.28.23

Two-time James Beard Award finalist Chris Williams — chef and owner of Houston’s Lucille’s restaurant, established in the Museum District more than a decade ago — has an exciting season ahead with the reimagining of the Eldorado Ballroom in Houston’s historic Third Ward and the launch of store and restaurant spaces beneath it.

Expanding its reach in the Third Ward, just across the street from Emancipation Park, Lucille’s Hospitality Group is now the official managing operator of the Eldorado Ballroom and its in-house market and its in-house restaurant dubbed The Rado Market. This hybrid all-day cafe and market is designed to serve its neighbors with culturally conscious prepared foods and locally sourced products, many created by enterprising Black creatives in the community.

Much of Williams’ produce is picked Lucille’s 1913’s nonprofit farm less than 50 miles away in Kendleton. There are plans to stock the cafe’s refrigerated retail case with fresh Kendleton-grown vegetables as well.

On weekends, break your fast at Rado Market with coffee and a fried chicken roll smothered with honey butter ($9), tacos ($4 to $8), or perhaps a healthful coconut yogurt bowl with house-made granola and berries ($11). Tuesdays through Sundays, you can delight in entrees such as the farm-fresh Blogett Harvest, a vegetable-forward sandwich assembled with roasted squash, peppers and collard green pesto, vegan ricotta and red pepper aioli on a hoagie roll ($14) or the decadent grilled cheese and gumbo, where two slices of Texas toast are layered with poblano-spiked pimento cheese, cheddar and provolone with a demitasse of green gumbo for dipping ($16).

You can enjoy your repast at the restaurant, but Williams is encourages people to take advantage of The Rado Market’s proximity to Emancipation Park. Picnic supplies are available for purchase, as well as a curated library of books from the neighboring Kindred Stories bookstore, should you wish to read under the canopy of an old oak. Even some of Williams’ vintage cookbooks are for sale.

Of course, a picnic isn’t a picnic without a bottle of wine or beer, and Rado Market has you covered. The edited wine selection reflects the culture and tastes of the community. Notable neighbors and friends such as Williams’ own dad Connie Williams, Carl Chargois, Anita Smith, Ernest Walker and Iris Allen have spelled out their personal wine predilections on a placard above the wine racks so you can match your palate with one of the market’s changing array of tastemakers.

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As a platform for community-based entrepreneurs, The Rado Market also has shelves stocked with foodstuffs such as Beeing Murray local raw honey, craft-style hot sauces made by Houston Sauce Co. and decadent sweets such as mini strawberry cream Bundt cakes and banana pudding from The Peach Cobbler Lady.

Two-time James Beard award finalist Chris Williams — chef and owner of Lucille’s has an exciting season ahead with the reimaging of the Eldorado Ballroom in Houston’s historic Third Ward and the launch of the retail and restaurant spaces beneath it. (Courtesy of The Eldorado Ballroom)
Two-time James Beard award finalist Chris Williams — chef and owner of Lucille’s has an exciting season ahead with the reimaging of the Eldorado Ballroom in Houston’s historic Third Ward and the launch of the retail and restaurant spaces beneath it. (Courtesy of The Eldorado Ballroom)

For this Houston chef, this project fits his difference-making spirit.

In the past three years, Williams has gained notice not only for his Southern soul-inspired food but for his charitable nonprofit Lucille’s 1913, which he launched during the pandemic. It’s named for this great-grandmother Lucille B. Smith — a caterer and creator of the first box roll mix invented in this country, who raised funds for service projects in her Fort Worth community and advocated for a number of initiatives.

The number 1913 in Lucille’s 1913 is a nod to the year the nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. In 2020, Lucille B. Smith’s great-grandson followed in her footsteps and launched his much-needed nonprofit, which provides more than 686 meals daily to under-served families in Sunnyside, Acres Homes and the Fifth and Third Wards. Lucille’s 1913 not only combats food insecurity but creates training and employment opportunities in traditionally under-resourced communities in Houston.

 

Open 10 am to 7 pm Tuesdays through Fridays, and 8 am to 4 pm Saturdays and Sundays, The Rado Market can be found at 2310 Elgin Street.

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