Nominate Your Restaurant & Bar Heroes For Houston Restaurant Recognition Month

When people think about the heroes of Hurricane Harvey, they rightly think of first responders like good Samaritan boat owners, firemen, police, military and medical professionals. Indeed, all of them deserve recognition for saving people from flooded homes, protecting the city and more. There were other heroes, though, who supported the efforts of the agencies noted above, and they are all part of Houston’s restaurant and bar community. (That extends to farmers and other local food producers, too; many donated the last of their crops or products to volunteer kitchens, and flooded fields mean a dubious financial future for many.)

Unified in the fight to feed hundreds of thousands of rescuers and victims alike after Hurricane Harvey, Houston’s restaurant community proved itself a mighty force. Therefore, Houston Food Finder is declaring October 2017 Houston Restaurant Recognition Month, for many reasons (and if any of our food media brethren would like to join us, the more the merrier).

First, readers have told us they want to know who helped so they can thank those places with their dining dollars. Second, while people shouldn’t donate meals, time, money or anything else for a “thank you,” they deserve it anyway.

Riel pasta donation E.J. Miller
E.J. Miller and other Riel employees prepare trays of spaghetti Bolognese to donate. Photo by Jason Poon

Third, people have a very understandable tendency after a disaster to “nest” for a while—to stay home, cook and watch television. It’s normal, but the longer it takes diners to get back out, the longer it’s going to take Houston’s economy to recover. Dining dollars don’t just support restaurants and employees. That money gets re-spent elsewhere in the financial ecosystem, supporting food distributors, farmers, professional services and much, much more. If our stories encourages those who have the means to participate in that ecosystem sooner rather than later, so much the better.

Undoubtedly, some restaurants will not survive Hurricane Harvey, even if floodwaters never entered. The storm hit when rent was due. Business was dead for most even two weeks after the flooding started. Bills and employees still had to be paid, and those without sufficient capital and lines of credit may be too far behind now to survive. Most, however, will reap the benefits of a rebound.

Harlem Road Texas BBQ at a fire station
Harlem Road Texas BBQ and Cake & Bacon volunteers on a visit to feed workers at the Katy Fire Department. Photo by Marie Elgamal

There’s no way our coverage will be all-inclusive—but we will do our best. Some don’t want recognition for their efforts. Some, we simply don’t know about. (So, just because a place is absent from our coverage, do not assume it did nothing.) We’re going to do the best we can to tell our readers as much as possible about the good these people and places did, and the challenges they faced doing it.

Readers, if you know of someone or a business that you believe deserves to be mentioned, please email us a nomination. (Yes, you can self-nominate. We aren’t psychic all the time and might not have any idea what you did unless you tell us.)

Many restaurants fed first responders for free if they happened to come in, which is good, but we’re looking for places that went above and beyond, sending thousands of meals to shelters, for example. These are stories of exhaustion, being broke, driving hours upon end to get supplies to the hardest hit areas of southeast Texas. In some cases, it was despite having displaced family members, flooded cars and other personal trials.

Felix Flores volunteering at Reef
Felix Florez of Ritual lost half of his livestock to the floods, but went out to Reef anyway to volunteer. (Even though it flooded, Reef became the site of a major volunteer feeding effort.) He says the young man next to him is his 13-year-old son, Felix III. Florez says,”He’s a trooper, helping rebuild the ranch after Harvey and then volunteering with me to help feed people. I’m very proud of him.” Photo by Emily Jaschke

The stories of these industry professionals are inspiring at a time when Houstonians need to hear about good in the world. Many are still trying to figure out how to wrangle insurance companies, replace cars and rehabilitate their homes.

Usually, we look to Houston’s restaurant and bar industry for what it can do for us. Is there a bargain? Can you give me a discount? Is there free dessert on my birthday? How’s your happy hour? Do you have a great patio I can hang out on? Do you make the very best (burgers, steaks, pastries, cocktails etc., etc., etc.)? Can you blow my mind and impress my friends?

Oh, we’re still going to cover all of that, because our readers want to know about that stuff, too.  However, for one month only, we’re going to give some unabashed props to one of the best culinary scenes in the world for more than just serving great dishes and drinks. Consider Houston Restaurant Recognition Month our virtual award ceremony for something that restaurants and bars did that really mattered.

Many thanks to graphic designer René Cruz for creating the terrific logo for Houston Restaurant Recognition Month.

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