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AMERICA'S *has* missed a step.

Mikeflan Nov 11, 2010 08:44 AM

Or more accurately, stumbled, fell, and bashed its knee into the ground.

Let me elaborate: A few friends and I decided to go to the new America's in the River Oaks shopping center. I have fond memories of Churrascos, and at one time, Americas on Post Oak was one of the most exciting joints in town, in my opinion.

Things have changed. The new restaurant's interior is by the same designer as the Post Oak location, Jordan Mozer. But instead of the otherworldly glass and tile rainforest, everything here is made out of sheets of felt. Thick felt. Walls, lamp shades. It's a terrible thing for a new restaurant to look dated, but this one does. But alas, other's tastes may like thick felt hanging from the ceiling like tentacles. Mine do not. One of my dining companions actually mentioned that the decor reminded her of the movie Avatar. I'm not sure what this meant, actually, but I chuckled.

I understand a new restaurant can have some rough patches, but there were huge potholes in the service. We sat down, our waiter came and took our drink order, and disappeared. Someone else came out, asked if we wanted drinks, and disappeared. A host appeared, asked for our drinks, and disappeared. A busboy followed, doing the same. Ten minutes later, still no drinks.

These things happen. But the waitstaff seemed largely clueless about the menu. Asking about the menu yielded responses of "I've never had that, but I hear it's good" or "It's very good." Nothing more descriptive or informative. I expect that at quite a few restaurants, but not ones professing to be fine dining. Add to this this strange absence of ... well.. our waiter. He took our order. And he brought our check. That was about it. Didn't even bother to ask if we wanted dessert (sent a host out about that).

We had three entrees: a filet with mushrooms, an order of the carnitas, and the namesake steak, the churrasco. Verdict - meh. The churrasco was the best of the bunch, but even it felt stale compared to my rememberances of years ago. It was decent, but by no means exceptional, and everything had that "seen it before" feel. Combine that with the throwback and offputting interior, and it felt like a bad chain restaurant. Which I suppose America's is now, considering the Cordura family now operate six restaurants off the top of my head (Two Churrascos, two Americas, Amazon Grill, and Artista).

For a $75 lunch for three people, the best that can be said is that it was a learning experience.


800 Bagby Street, Suite 400, Houston, TX 77002

Amazon Grill
5114 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77098

Churrascos River Oaks
2055 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77042

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    Mikeflan RE: Mikeflan Nov 11, 2010 03:12 PM

    As an addition to the above review, minutes after I wrote this, the manager of Americas called up regarding a comment I left during the meal. If the service was lackluster then, the conversation with the manager was the closest thing to service perfection I have experienced. While I stand by my post regarding the quality of the food and service during *that* meal, the level of professionalism on behalf of management leads me to believe the flaws may be more of a fluke rather than the norm, and I feel almost guilty about my heavy handed review of the place. The manager seemed genuinely embarrassed about the service and assured me that it would not happen again.

    With such conviction that I believe her.

    It all starts at the top, and the top here is top notch. The phone call changed my opinion, from writing off the place to giving it another shot sometime down the road. When I do, I'll post the results.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Mikeflan
      WtotheN RE: Mikeflan Nov 15, 2010 05:36 AM

      Sorry about the in-restaurant experience, but glad the manager turned it around afterward. We had a similar service experience. It was a mid-week evening, so not too many guests, but we still had service issues. The waitstaff all seemed in a hurry, yet everything took forever... Food wasn't as good as other Cordua outlets, but pretty good.

      I agree with you about the felt everywhere - makes the whole place feel dowdy somehow.

      1. re: Mikeflan
        bornie RE: Mikeflan Nov 16, 2010 06:50 AM

        we had a terrific dining experience at America's about a wk after opening at their new location... Thought the lambchop lollipops were absolutely terrific and their signature steak lived up to its reputation.. The tres leches is the best and most decadant dessert in houston! Service was attentive and otherwise unremarkable. Nice selection of affordable wines.. All and all, a very positive experience..

      2. Lambowner RE: Mikeflan Nov 15, 2010 02:06 PM

        We have been going to Churrasco's since the first location opened on Bissonet way back when. But we had to stop for a couple of years recently because the food and service at the two locations grew remarkably bad. We had a particularly embarrassing meal while entertaining clients at the Shepherd location. Every order was wrong, late and cold. The waiter was outright rude. Five people and our tab exceeded $800. That sealed it. Previously, we had several orders of their famous crab finger appetizer come our table at various meals way past prime and smelling and tasting strongly of chlorine. After washing our hands of what had been a favorite restaurant for decades, we recently returned to the Gessner location for Sunday lunch and enjoyed a good experience. But the decline of this Houston institution was really sad for us.

        Churrascos River Oaks
        2055 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77042

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