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Restaurants / Openings

Iconic Houston Restaurant Finally Returns From Hurricane Harvey Devastation With a New Name, a New Locale and New High-Tech Tools

This is Not Your Father’s Spaghetti Warehouse

BY // 09.19.18

After what looked like a deathblow from Hurricane Harvey, Spaghetti Warehouse is back to breathing with a brand new concept. It’s a new lease on life with a whole new look. Think all the tradition, with some innovations more in line with this era.

Say hello to Warehouse 72, set to open this winter in the Marq*E Entertainment Center. It’s a high-tech homecoming, complete with meaty new menu additions courtesy of executive chef Don Flores.

You’ll have your lasagna. You’ll have your chicken parmesan. But you’ll also get ribs. You’ll get porchetta. You’ll even get a tablet to order it all from.

Returning to the flood-battered original restaurant site downtown wasn’t feasible, according to the engineers Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurants Inc. consulted. So the Spaghetti team set their sights on a new location not too far away, a place where they could stay true to their festive roots. After all, Warehouse 72’s an homage to the past — named for the year the original Warehouse opened in Dallas.

“We want to be known as a celebration location. Our tagline is called ‘celebrating life with you.’ Celebrations, banquets, birthdays and graduations,” Spaghetti Warehouse president Michael Kim tells PaperCity. “We’ve always been a brand that allows you to have these very special life events. We kept that in mind when we created the new concept.”

Spaghetti may not be in the name anymore, but it’s still the name of the game. Now, variations on the signature dish make up about half of the menu.

“We’re going to keep all our tried and true menu, the five best-selling items: lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, sausage with spaghetti, chicken parm and spaghetti with meat sauce,” Kim says.

“But it’s time to modernize the menu. We’re bringing in some foods that are a little bit more to 2018 standards, but not trying to take away from what we are.”

That means a hefty new half of the menu brimming with the two P’s, as Kim calls them: proteins and pizza. High quality protein highlights include short ribs with Italian herbs and spices in a sweet Demi-glace, gulf coast shrimp with sweet mesquite and sumac, roasted lemon and garlic oil, and Porchetta with roasted rolled pork belly stuffed with fresh herbs.

The hand-crafted pizzas will come Neopolitan-style, made with fresh wet dough. When it comes to these pizzas, it’s back to basics.

“They’re never frozen, with a focus on great ingredients. I believe that sometimes you can overdo pizza. There’s nothing wrong with just high-quality dough, high-quality tomato sauce, cheese, a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. I’m in love,” Kim laughs. “I just want it simple, clean and great-tasting.”

He also wants it to be enjoyed in groups, preferably mixing and matching from the wide array of entrees and appetizers to choose from.

“To me what I think is beautiful is if you’re with your family or friends and you have a rack of ribs, you have Porchetta, you’ve ordered the Alfredo and you’ve ordered one of our Neapolitan-style Margherita pizzas,” Kim says. “You get four or five different eating experiences in that one seating.

“Family-style enhances the overall eating experience.”

A True Kid Power Restaurant

Kids aren’t getting left out of the equation. The smallest diners often wield the most power.

“As a parent myself, a lot of my dining decisions get based on what my 7-year-old wants,” Kim says. “So if I can get a seven year old to fall in love with this just as much as mom and dad, I feel really good about that.”

Catering to kids means thinking about how they like to eat. Hands-on is top of that list. “I always feel like kids menus are such a cop-out. Just do half the size of the order and charge seven or eight bucks. For me, these poor kids,” Kim says.

“Why shouldn’t you try to blow the kids’ socks off as well? They could make their own pizza. We’ll bring out the dough already patted out, bring out the sauces and all the toppings. We’ll go back there and bake it. It’s an experience for the kid with a multitude of different things going on the plate.”

Warehouse 72
Warehouse 72 is coming back with a new look.

But there’s more to a meal than the dishes. The emphasis on going for the whole experience is another part of Warehouse 72’s push to appeal to the 2018 crowd.

“For the Now Generation, it’s not enough to just have good food anymore,” Kim says. “That’s just the bare minimum. I think the new generation is saying more than ever why should I expect something different from you than I can get across the street? They’re asking all the right questions.

“And darn it if we shouldn’t do better.”

At Warehouse 72, that means a team-driven and guest-driven experience — one that shakes up industry norms. The general service model today at casual restaurants is one server assigned to your table.

“We’re going for a team model. There won’t be assigned tables, all servers on the floor will service all tables. They’ll utilize a lot more technology, cloud-based technology through tablets,” Kim says.

That’s where the guest-driven part comes in. In order for a server to come over, they have to be called to the table via tablet.

“We only bug you when you want to be bugged,” Kim says. “The paging lets us know when you want to order. You’ll push a button if you want to order another bottle of wine. You’ll push the button if you want some more small plates.”

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