Ending two weeks of speculation that began as soon as Stella Sola closed, Alison Cook reported on 29-95 Saturday that chef Ronnie Killen will open a second location of his Killen's steakhouse at Stella Sola's former location on Studewood. According to Cook, if the TABC provides its approvals quickly, Killen hopes to open in six weeks.
Killen reveals he has some changes in mind for the space. First, he'll install a broiler and a wood fired grill to replicate the Pearland location's ability to offer diners a choice in how they want their steak prepared. Other changes include more comfortable chairs, upgraded linens and changes to the entryway that will bring the restaurant's capacity to 165.
Killen makes this announcement as he leaves for New York City today to compete in the finals of the Walmart Choice Steak Challenge. Killen told Eater he's tweaked his seasonings to appeal to the judges but his offerings will otherwise be identical to what he prepared when he, in a funny coincidence, defeated Stella Sola's Bryan Caswell to earn his shot in the finals. If he wins, he earns
$10,000 $5,000 for himself and $5,000 for Houston's Recipe for Success charity.
As far as the menu, Killen hopes that more adventurous inner-loop diners will allow him to serve a wider variety of dishes. At recent wine dinners in Pearland and when serving a meal at the James Beard House in New York City, Killen demonstrated chops beyond an ability to cook a porterhouse perfectly medium rare. Offerings are expected to include smoked pork and black eyed pea gumbo, smoked pork belly and sous vide short ribs.
Like Arian Foster's status as the NFL's best running back or The Wire's status as the greatest TV show of all time, Killen's is neither overrated nor underrated. It is absolutely, correctly considered by Houstonians to be one of the city's three best steakhouses along with Pappas Bros and Vic & Anthony's. The restaurant's only problem has been its location, which is too far south to be a reasonable drive for people who live on the north side of Houston and too far outside the loop for Houstonians who are satisfied with the score of choices that exist between the Galleria and Downtown.
The only misstep in Killen's six year rise occurred in 2009, when former Houston Press critic and current cookbook author Robb Walsh wrote of his experiences with service hiccups and a rancid steak. Walsh's review seems to have galvanized Killen. He broadened his techniques and improved his skills. Killen's spent years proving he's the equal of any chef in Houston; with his new, high profile location, he'll have the opportunity to prove he's the best.
Update: According to WalMart, the prize is actually $5,000
· Killen's Steakhouse Will Take Over Stella Sola Location In The Heights [29-95]
· Looking For a Bull Market [Houston Press]
· All Ronnie Killen coverage on Eater Houston [-EHOU-]
Photo: Ronnie Killen looking tough. [Courtesy Photo]