If you’ve only been open for seven weeks and you already have regulars then you must be doing something right. That’s the case with GrindHouse, at 5403 N Shepherd Dr., which serves up coffee and more right by St. Pius X High School.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from the surrounding neighborhood,” said Tony Buono, who is partnering in the venture with Patrick Villarreal and Villarreal’s son Jonathan. “The St. Pius kids come in the morning and the afternoon for frappes, smoothies, and ice coffees.” Nearby offices and businesses are also taking note of their new neighbor.
The GrindHouse building on a corner lot which used to be Chirps Chicken and Rice was purchased a little over three years ago by Villarreal. Buono and Villarreal got the idea for the coffee house through their work on another venture in San Antonio. Tossing names back and forth in the car on one of their trips, they settled on GrindHouse, which refers to the obvious way coffee is made.
They later found out that the name also refers to a two film feature by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez so there’s now a movie poster in the shop as homage.
Buono envisions their GrindHouse as the non-Starbucks version of a neighborhood coffee house, which in this case not only serves donuts and pastries but also lunch items, including a knock your socks off Cuban sandwich.
Cuban sandwich? Buono originally lived in Tampa, FL before he came to Houston for the “thriving” business culture.
“People know about the Cuban sandwich in Miami, but people in Tampa made it what it is now,” he said, noting that he roasts the pork in house.
Buono said that whenever possible, they buy local. The coffee is Houston’s own Katz Coffee. The donuts are made in house from blends of pre-mixes. A favorite for the younger set is the gummy worm donut where the worm emerges from the hole.
“It was my kids’ idea,” said Buono.
With a background in restaurant management – Buono jokes that he was the grunt – he is a hands on partner in the business. In addition to Jonathan Villarreal, Buono’s cousins Heechan Chae and Eugene Chae are also on staff. Buono experiments with the food and then teaches the others how to prepare it.
The GrindHouse menu is still a work in progress which explains why they don’t have a printed version yet. Ice-cream might be an addition down the road.
“Once we get the basics done, we’ll up the level of difficulty,” said Buono. “First impressions are a lot and I want to make sure we’re doing everything right.”
He notes that customer service is a big part of that. “I want us to talk to the customers and find out about them and what they want,” he said. GrindHouse also gives a 10% discount to law enforcement.
GrindHouse is open Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Currently they are closed on Sundays.
Buono finally has his restaurant signage on the front of the building and is still making his way through the permitting process to get his pole sign in place.
“It’s an easement issue with the county,” he said.
While the Shepherd location is the first GrindHouse, Buono hopes to open more in the future.
But first he wants to make sure the flagship location is the best it can be.
“We want to be a place that people feel comfortable in, and want to come back to,” he said. “We want to be the spot.”