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Two Weeks In at Cordua's Latest Churrascos Restaurant

The Champions outpost is the smallest yet.

It's been just under two weeks since Churrascos Champions opened its doors, marking the Cordua Restaurant Group's latest foray into the Houston suburbs. Here, Michael Cordua, founder and chairman of the board, talks about the first week and what's up next for the ever-evolving brand.

What's it been like up in Champions for you? This is a major move into a suburban area, and a little different from your opening in Memorial City last year or even when you opened Americas in the Woodlands.
It's kind of like a little state. And we realized that in an outer neighborhood like this, we could use a smaller footprint.

The new location is smaller than the others.
And that's made us find ways to be more efficient— to actually use our space more efficiently. In some of our locations, the kitchen was an occasional gathering place for our wait staff and other members who work on the floor. Here, the kitchen is smaller— as is the restaurant— and we don't have that. So we have people on the floor looking after our guests. The first night or two we did a trial run with the plantain station in the kitchen, but we wound up moving it out to an alcove because it was in the way, and moving it was definitely better for our servers and our kitchen team.

How has the first week been?
We're loving the neighborhood. And, if this week is any indication, they're loving us, which is wonderful. This opening has actually been better than when we opened Americas River Oaks and even the Churrascos in Sugar Land or Memorial City.

Has anything surprised you about the clientele or the area?
The way our social hour has gone up here was very surprising. But, it turns out both HP and the hospital have an early shift, so when that ends, we see people here for happy hour. I can't wait for them to see the new furniture. We should have that in the next few weeks— it was a case of the provider over-promising and under-delivering, but it will work out. That's a very minor problem to have. You know, though, in other surprises, at some of our restaurants, we're used to seeing maybe the Hispanic businessman or the housewives come in for a late lunch, especially in the Woodlands or River Oaks. Here, we thought we'd see something similar, but the late lunch turned out to be a little later than we thought, and it did come right up against Social Hour. So, we adjusted for that, and it's been very successful.

What's been the most popular dish so far?
Outside the trinity [the fried plantains, signature Churrasco steak, and tres leches that form the Cordua Trinity]? The arepas. Executive chef David Cordua came up with those, our corn flatbreads. They're a great price point and ideal for sharing. And the ceviches.

What's next for you?
Well, the grand opening celebration on Sunday will benefit Casa de Esperanza de los Ninos. That will be a big party and we've been involved with that organization for decades— they do wonderful work. And we're looking south. The Clear Lake-Pearland area.

You had a Churrascos down there before.
We did, and we had to close it. But I think the timing is different now. The area's grown and there are so many commuters who live in suburbs like that— and here in Champions— and they want places they can go and eat in their own backyards. Houston is an ever-growing city and we look forward to taking our trinity to all the parts of it.
7877 Willow Chase Boulevard. (281) 970-6800; website.