Backstreet Cafe is Celebrating Its 40 Year Anniversary With a Special Wine Dinner

Backstreet Cafe in 1977

Restaurants come and go with the passing trends, trying to find their spot among all the others in our great food city, so it is always a pleasure to see a business not only survive but thrive. This month, Backstreet Cafe celebrates its 40th anniversary — and what a 40 years it has been. After discovering that her job as a geologist was not fulfilling, Tracy Vaught, with no industry experience but plenty of passion, opened Backstreet Café in 1983 with her uncle, Jack Blalock. They converted a 1930s home at 1103 South Shepherd, a “backstreet” of River Oaks, into a charming bistro that has become a Houston staple for Gulf Coast cuisine.

Backstreet Cafe in 1983
Backstreet Cafe in 1983. Courtesy Photo.

The history of Backstreet Cafe also includes a love story that changed the course of two lives.  In 1987, a young immigrant named Hugo Ortega came to work as a dishwasher. He and Tracy fell in love and got married. Ortega worked his way through the ranks, honed his skills as a cook at Backstreet and is now a James Beard Award-winning chef. Together, he and Vaught have built a culinary empire through the years, adding Hugo’s, Xochi, Caracol and Urbe to their H Town Restaurant Group portfolio. They’re also partners in chef Rodolfo Castellanos’ restaurant Origen in Oaxaca.

Tracy Vaught and Hugo Ortega
Tracy Vaught and Hugo Ortega, the husband and wife team behind H Town Restaurant Group. Courtesy Photo.

Forty years is an incredible milestone and deserves special celebrations. On October 17,  Ortega and his brother, Ruben, will present a four-course menu paired with wines from Far Niente Family of Wineries and Vineyards. The wine dinner menu’s first course will be seared scallop with butternut squash risotto, followed by stuffed quail with duck sausage, creamy spinach, and blueberry-red wine reduction. A strip steak served with bone marrow, mushrooms, and confit potatoes will be the entrée. The meal is capped off with a citrus custard with candied pear and macadamia croquant (a brittle). Tickets for this special wine dinner are available online. (A previously scheduled anniversary wine dinner sold out, so don’t delay in getting your reservations if you’re interested.) 

Old Patio of Backstreet Cafe patio.
An early photo of the patio setup at Backstreet Cafe. Courtesy Photo.

Backstreet Café has become a part of the Houston culinary landscape and remains consistent in serving its customers quality food in a homey yet refined space. The restaurant holds many memories for not only Vaught and Ortega but also for their employees and loyal customers. Backstreet Cafe is asking Houstonians to share these moments by emailing their stories and photos.

Backstreet Cafe is closed on Mondays, but otherwise, it’s open daily. Except for Sundays, when it only serves brunch, it’s one of the rare restaurants that does not close between lunch and dinner. (It also serves brunch on Saturdays.) The hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Visit the website for reservations and tickets to upcoming events.

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