This is Chef’s Special, a column dedicated to highlighting the haunts and hangouts of Houston's culinary and hospitality pros.
Ryan Lachaine has been in Houston for the better part of two decades, working his way up from line cook at Gravitas (his first job that didn’t require pads and skates) to executive chef and partner at the beloved small-plate Montrose restaurant Riel. Previously a semi-pro hockey player, the Manitoban turned Houstonian spent a decade and a half cutting his remaining teeth in some of Houston’s finest kitchens under some of its best chefs.
During those years, Lachaine spent his off-hours in less lavish digs. The decorated chef found his favorite mom-and-pop haunts and after-hours dives—places he goes for comfort food and cheap whiskey—forming relationships with both establishments and proprietors along the way. We recently met up with Lachaine at his restaurant to talk bagels, karaoke, and cheap bourbon.
“East European and Jewish food. We ate a lot of that back in Winnipeg,” he says. While Lachaine laments Houston’s lack of suitable sandwich delis, there is one in particular he’s taken a liking to over the years: New York Deli & Coffee Shop (formerly New York Bagels) in Meyerland. This authentic New York Jewish deli is part grab-and-go bagel shop, part neighborhood diner.
“I probably still eat there once every two weeks,” Lachaine says.
The classic family-owned diner is, naturally, famous for its homemade bagels, sold by the dozen out of the bakery. But the sandwiches and classic deli fare really define this neighborhood gem. In particular, says Lachaine, the Dinty Moore sandwich. Named after the famous canned beef stew, this corned beef sandwich on white toast with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and Russian dressing, it’s the kind of sandwich enjoyed by Jewish grandmothers, MTA road crews, and world-class chefs alike.
While bagels and corned beef make for a superb pre-shift lunch, Lachaine and company have other ideas after a long night of slinging caviar and truffle pierogis. He and the rest of his Riel staff are a lively lot, a motley crew of tattooed and pierced gourmets that would make Anthony Bourdain shed a prideful tear.
Most nights after closing, the Riel family will head to Glitter Karaoke. A longtime industry bar, Glitter has enjoyed some added buzz lately after its owners, Robin and Terry Wong (along with their partner and pitmaster Quy Hoang) opened Blood Bros. BBQ.
Glitter is known for hosting some of the best late-night pop ups in Houston. In fact, it was there that Hoang first collaborated with the Wongs on a Glitter steak night, an idea that eventually evolved into their barbecue concept. Lachaine himself hosts occasional pop ups in the Glitter kitchen, like his now annual mini-hot-dog event on the Thursday before Good Friday.
“They’re the ultimate industry guys,” Lachaine says of the Glitter/Blood Bros. crew. “Everyone knows them, and no one has a bad thing to say about them.”
On August 15, the group plans to roll out its first Riel/Blood Bros. collaboration at Glitter, featuring dishes that combine the best of both kitchens.
We wouldn’t miss it. But if you must, just stop into Glitter one night. You might see Lachaine throwing back a shot of Old Grand-Dad and a Buddha beer. Just don’t expect to catch him singing on stage—he’ll leave that to his employees.