The Heat Is On

Peli Peli Kitchen Spices Up New Whole Foods 365 Location

The South African fusion spinoff of the fine dining favorite is about to make some moves.

By Timothy Malcolm August 29, 2018

Peli Peli Kitchen screams to diners from the west end of the Whole Foods 365. A slew of tables nearby invite a working lunch (heck, with a beer).

The team at Peli Peli Kitchen was eager to open its latest location: inside the new Whole Foods 365 at North Loop and Yale. They figured the dishes developed at their other PPK location in Spring Branch would translate flawlessly to the new supermarket.

Well, sort of.

Turned out many of the ingredients used by Paul Friedman and Thomas Nguyen at the fast-casual spinoff of their popular South African concept weren't approved for use by Whole Foods. Imagine relying on the same flour forever and then being told it couldn’t be used in your new concept. That was their battle dozens of times over.

It took a little time and considerable taste-testing, but Peli Peli Kitchen rolled out their Whole-Foods-approved concept August 22 at the new 365, which offers products at a more affordable price point than the traditional Whole Foods. Peli Peli is one of two Texas concepts attached to the store, the other being Austin-based Juice Society.

The Peli Peli Kitchen menu emphasizes snackable and lunch-worthy plates like naan tacos, sandwiches, and peri-peri chicken. Its name taken from the chili pepper piri piri, the orange-colored sauce that coats the chicken (and also marinades it for 48 hours) has Portuguese origins and is popular in South Africa. It has a distinct kick that doesn’t burn your mouth, and it’s seriously delicious.

The Peri Peri Chicken—in wing form—at Peli Peli Kitchen.

Also spring for the South African burger, highlighted by a patty that’s actually an herb-coated meatball called frikadelle; and the curried tofu plate with cauliflower, mushrooms, fried onions, and peppadews.

The menu was developed with a newcomer to the Peli Peli team, Ryan Stewart, a get-your-hands-dirty South African native who brought his family to Houston and will head up the PPK franchise. The idea is for PPK to grow beyond its current two locations—potentially into more Whole Foods markets—and expand beyond the region. Nguyen said he’s looking to franchise PPK by next year.

And now they have all the ingredients necessary to plot whatever move they’d like.

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