Roberto Castre says he and his family didn't have a lot of money budgeted to open Chick Houz, their new Peruvian rotisserie chicken concept in the Energy Corridor. They signed the lease for 14838 Park Row, #E, in December and targeted an April opening, but Chick Houz wasn't quite ready by then, and with COVID-19's spread placing restrictions on restaurants, it was becoming increasingly difficult to imagine opening at any time during the spring.
But, Castre says, they couldn't wait any longer.
"I saw the numbers, and I told my family, 'We have to open now or we'll never get to open.'"
On May 6, Castre and his family, who own and operate Galleria-area Peruvian restaurant Latin Bites, opened Chick Houz. They built out the restaurant themselves; for instance, he and his brother-in-law built the counter.
"The counter was so hard to build," says Castre. "We looked at a lot of videos, and we finally made it. It looks good!"
If Roberto Castre doing Peruvian rotisserie chicken sounds familiar, it's because in 2018 he opened the similar Chicken Station in the East End. That fast-casual restaurant, which garnered rave reviews here, is still going but without Castre, who says he severed ties with partners last year.
After taking time off for a little while, Castre is back with chicken that's brined, marinated for 24 hours with Peruvian spices, then cooked for two hours on the stick. You can get whole chicken, half chicken, and quarter chicken, or you can pivot with a salad or sandwich—Castre says the el lechon (pulled pork marinated in Peruvian and Asian spices, cooked for 24 hours) is the big hit. Familiar Peruvian street sides like salchipapas are on the menu, and his sister Yamila Castre's desserts are on offer, as well.
Castre says the Energy Corridor was attractive for a few reasons. First, it's close enough to Katy's substantial Peruvian population, a group that the chef says has already responded positively to Chick Hous. Also, there's a built-in lunch rush he hopes to draw (at least once offices are running at close to full capacity), something that wasn't easy to get in the East End.
And like with Chicken Station, Castre's hope is to legitimize Peruvian rotisserie chicken as a top everyday lunch and dinner option. The short-term goal is to open a second Chick Houz in the Houston area by next year; beyond that, he's looking toward Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth.
For now, though, Castre is happy to be back bringing slow-cooked and delicately spiced chicken to the masses. He says he's found a groove in the fast-casual lane.
"To be honest, I'm really happy doing this," he says. "I love fine dining, but that's really stressful. I'm gonna turn 40 next year, so I'm trying to be more relaxed, you know?"