Plans for former Houston’s site grow clearer as Boulevard American Bistro takes shape _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- The former Houston's Restaurant in Metairie is now being developed as Boulevard American Bistro by the local company Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts.

While the decision to close the Houston’s Restaurant in Metairie last spring remains puzzling, plans for the next restaurant that will take its place at 4241 Veterans Memorial Blvd. are becoming clearer.

It will be called Boulevard American Bistro, and it should open within the next three months, pending the progress of renovations, said Zeid Ammari, chief operating officer of the local restaurant group Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts.

“It will be casual, all-American comfort food,” Ammari said, noting that menu particulars were still being developed.

Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts bought the former Houston’s property earlier this summer from Hillstone Restaurant Group, a Los Angeles-based company that operates restaurants around the country.

Last week, Creole Cuisine announced it had brought on longtime Houston’s manager Robert Hardie as a partner and to serve as general manager at the new Metairie restaurant. Hardie was manager of the Houston’s in Metairie since 1998 and had previously managed the Houston’s on St. Charles Avenue. The company also announced that Todd Troclair, a local businessman and an owner of Galatoire’s Restaurant, is an investor in the property as well.

“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people since we bought that property and we’ve been listening to them,” said Ammari. “Right now, what we care about is moving that property forward and opening those doors to the community again.”

The Metairie location of Houston’s had been open since 1981 and had earned a loyal following of the sort not typically enjoyed by chain restaurants in the New Orleans area. Many of its regulars reacted with a mixture of disbelief and betrayal when Hillstone announced its decision to close what seemed to be a prosperous location.

In a statement, Hillstone explained the “reason for the closure is to allow greater attention and resources to be (focused) on the Houston’s Restaurant on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans,” which remains open.

While his company develops its own plans for Boulevard American Bistro, Ammari said he and his partners are well aware that people are likely to measure the finished product against their memories of Houston’s.

“We will absolutely respect the tradition that was built in that restaurant, for consistent food, for that great quality of service, and by having Robert (Hardie) with us we’re feeling very confident that we can do that,” he said.

Ammari said renovations now underway will give Boulevard American Bistro a brighter, fresher look than its predecessor.

Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts has seen rapid growth in the past few years. From its start in 1989 operating daiquiri bars, the family-run company has more recently been developing and acquiring full-service restaurants.

In 2013, it opened the modern Louisiana restaurant Kingfish and bought the historic Broussard’s Restaurant. In 2014 the company added Café Maspero and the Bombay Club to its portfolio. It now also has a riverfront wedding and banquet facility under development in the French Market after taking over the 7,000-sqaure-foot space that was previously Restaurant Galvez (and also the well-known pre-Katrina home to the restaurant Bella Luna). Ammari said significant renovations are in the works for the event facility, which should open by early 2016.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.