Chef Robert Irvine and the crew of Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible traveled to Houston, Texas to rescue Habanera and the Guero, a restaurant that was on the verge of closing.
According to the episode synopsis for season 17, episode 2, titled “Fixing a Family in Houston,” “Buried in debt, Habanera and the Guero in Houston, Texas, is on the verge of closing. The infighting is destroying the business and a 3-year-old daughter is stuck in the middle.”
The makeover and renovation of the restaurant took place on February 4 and 5 in Houston, during which time both the decor and the menu of the restaurant were updated.
Habanera and the Guero Is Owned By a Veteran and a Chef
— Robert Irvine (@RobertIrvine) May 20, 2020
The owners of Habanera and the Guero are Ben Downing and Vanessa Lomeli. Downing is a veteran of the United States Army and served in Iraq, and Lomeli attended culinary school and later worked in one of Houston’s top restaurants to gain experience.
During the episode, Robert will have to convince Downing to step back from his overwhelming control of his partner and chef, Lomeli in order to concentrate on the rest of the restaurant so he doesn’t lose either his business or his family. According to the episode sneak peek, if things continued the way they were, they would have had to close the restaurant within the month.
In 2016, the restaurant changed its name from Habanera and the Gringo to Habanera and the Guero after a local restaurant named Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen threatened a trademark infringement lawsuit for their use of the name “Gringo.”
The Menu includes Tex-Mex Food Staples
The menu for Habenara and the Guero is available online. For appetizers, the options include queso blanco, guacamole, nachos montadas, hatch poppers and a dip trio.
When it comes to entrees, the restaurant serves three different types of enchiladas, flautas de papa, flautas ahogadas, a Mexi dog, snapper veracruz and even a ribeye steak.
They also feature a selection of drinks and desserts, though they are not mentioned on the menu, which was severely cut down during the Restaurant: Impossible makeover. Like most businesses featured on the show, they will continue adding staples back to the menu over a matter of months until they get to a menu they are happy with and comfortable with.
According to the website, they don’t even have a freezer on the site. “We don’t have a freezer on site. Our ingredients are fresh.. not frozen,” the website reads. “We travel to Kemah twice a week to buy the freshest, largest Gulf shrimp that are available. All of our beef is USDA Choice or higher. We use Nathan’s hot dogs exclusively.”
Habanera and The Guero Has Positive Reviews Since the Renovations
Reviews for the restaurant on Google Reviews, Yelp and Facebook are all positive. On Google Reviews, they have a 4.2-star rating based on 652 reviews, and the majority that have been posted since February’s changes are positive.
One reviewer wrote, “Best beef fajitas I’ve ever eaten anywhere. Location can make a scary first impression, but worth it if you are there for their fajitas or their hotdog (not kidding).”
Another was unimpressed with the changes, though, writing, “Used to be good but now they’ve remodeled and taken a bunch of things off the menu including fajitas (which seems like a ridiculous move at a Mexican restaurant). Will try calling in a few months to see if they’ve brought back fajitas or not but if not I probably won’t be back I’m sorry to say.”
Out of the 15 reviews on Yelp since the renovations, 12 are three stars or higher, while some are in the negative range. One user wrote, “This place is such a hidden gem!!!!! … My boyfriend and I gave it a try…. and it’s truly the best Mexican restaurant! Good quality and authentic food for a great price.”
Another was unimpressed with all the changes, writing, “The place got a renovation. It’s beautiful inside, much brighter now. Menu got so much smaller. Got the fish this time because they don’t have the shrimp dish I always get. The dish was $19 and I’m leaving here still hungry. So disappointed.”
On Facebook, the restaurant has 4.6 out of 5 stars based on the opinion of 270 people.
Tune into Restaurant: Impossible on Thursday, May 21 at 9 p.m. to see the changes to Habanera and the Guero.