Restaurants / Openings

New Virtual Restaurants Hit Houston, Offering Gourmet Delivery Only

Proven High-End Restaurant Vets Dream Up Click Robot Run

BY // 07.01.19

A new virtual restaurant has hit the Houston restaurant scene, and you could say “Take Me Home Tonight” would be a fitting theme song.

The novel, five-in-one concept is take-out and delivery only. But before your mind conjures up images of flimsy Styrofoam containers, consider this: it’s the brainchild of chef Gabe Medina, who’s cooked at Kata Robata, Aqui and Soma. It’s gourmet eats on the go.

Medina’s back on the Houston scene, teaming up with The Kirby Group’s Steven Salazar, the mind behind concepts such as Wooster’s Garden, Heights Bier Garten, Holman Draft Hall and more, for this 4901 Rose Street project called Click Robot Run.

The virtual restaurant’s five varied concepts will operate simultaneously once they’re all open.

The first of five concepts, A&J Provisions, a globally inspired comfort food restaurant with meaty and vegetarian dishes alike, opened last week.

Bowling Club, a Japan-inspired rice bowl restaurant, opens up in August. Sandwich Legend, a haven for cold cuts galore, is scheduled to debut in November. 7000 Islands, an exploration of Filipino culinary traditions, will start serving in January of 2020.

The fifth concept, culinary stylings TBD, has a launch date that’s also TBD.  It’s that question mark, that air of mystery, that’s really the driving force of Click Robot Run. The traditional taste test meets empirical research.

Click Robot Run

Salazar, a self-described nerd, and Medina dubbed their project Click Robot Run for its undeniably apt sci-fi sound. After all, the project is more than just an odd assortment of restaurants under one roof in Rice Military that are delivery only.

The duo is combining the concept of a virtual restaurant — originally coined by Uber to describe traditional restaurants offering up their kitchens as an outpost for delivery-only meals — with an incubator.

“The incubator idea was kind of inspired by Silicon Valley, bring in a bunch of engineers and work on concepts and partner with them and them grow their ideas and invest in them,” Salazar tells PaperCity.

“Gabe is really into the whole incubation aspect of mentoring the young chefs, and the research and development, the ideas, the concepts. We decided to combine a virtual restaurant with the incubation in a fully licensed commercial kitchen.”

virtual restaurant a&j provisions local vegan
The fifth virtual restaurant remains a mystery.

The enigmatic fifth concept embodies the incubator aspect. Medina will sit down with Salazar and the cooks and get down to the business of brainstorming.

“It’s like a think tank. We’ll throw ideas back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Think about it from a business standpoint and from a cultural standpoint. Does Houston need it? Would our neighbors enjoy eating this type of food?”

Salazar employs an organic analogy, a direct contrast to this technological take. “Right now, we’re planting seeds and nurturing them,” he notes.

And having five restaurants is more of a jumping off point than a requirement. “The fifth concept is a minimum for us. We’re going to push the limit for us and see how many concepts we can run out of this virtual restaurant,” Salazar says.

The location was key. The pair was delighted to find a location equidistant from Montrose to The Heights and River Oaks, especially given the familiar customers in the area.

“It’s very central to Houston, a mix of everything,” Salazar says.

That region will make up the initial delivery radius, but it’s set to grow week by week. “We’re going to continue increasing it until we reach out comfortable calibration point,” Salazar says.

Door Dash and Uber are both options. But for takeout, you may want to go with Click Robot Run’s own virtual portal. It will allow you to order takeout from all of the restaurants in any combination, like a combo of a meatball sub from Sandwich Legend, a rice bowl from Bowling Club and a salad from A&J Provisions in the same order.

Your dishes will arrive in perfect condition thanks to Click Robot Run’s insulated Mylar “space bags.” Salazar says they put a piece of their fried cod in their special container and someone will get it 30 minutes after — still hot and still crispy.

“We’re very thoughtful. We both come from high-end establishments, we’ve worked at some of the best restaurants around. That kind of thoughtfulness and integrity — we put it in every detail of what we do,” Salazar says.

The five restaurants each have the potential to become their own brick-and-mortar spinoffs, but that’s not the focus for now.

Who knows? Before long you can call yourself a remote restaurant regular.

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