Ronnie Killen to open in former Hickory Hollow space

Houston Chronicle

Ronnie Killen's restaurant empire, which has a sizable following for its command of steaks, barbecue and burgers, is growing again. The pitmaster who put Pearland on the nation's barbecue map with Killen's Barbecue, teased on social media Sunday that the former Hickory Hollow space at 101 Heights would be a good place for the next Killen's venture.

And so it shall. Killen announced Monday he has signed a lease with Braun Enterprises which purchased the longtime barbecue and chicken-fried steak restaurant from owner Tony Riedel last August. Killen said he is picking up his keys today and beginning work to transform the much-loved Hickory Hollow – which served its last meal in January – into a new restaurant called, simply, Killen's. It will be Killen's first restaurant inside the Loop in Houston.

"It will be upscale comfort foods. Sort of the best of what we do at our other restaurants," said the owner of Killen's SteakhouseKillen's BarbecueKillen's Burgers and Killen's TMX, all in Pearland, and Killen's STQ in Houston.

The menu will include chicken-fried steak, naturally, but also a variety of the foods that have made the Killen's brands so popular: fried chicken, fried shrimp, burgers, steaks, seafood, barbecue beef ribs and brisket, and a smattering of Tex-Mex favorites. Customers should also expect to see dishes such as meatloaf, cornbread, biscuits, and more "Americana food" and "Southern Texas cuisine," Killen said.

The deal to take over the Hickory Hollow space has been in the works for months, Killen said, adding that he actually wanted to buy the property. But Braun has offered him a five-year lease with the option to purchase after, he said. It was a deal he could get behind.

"If you look at the location with all the construction – in 10 to 20 years it's going to be a goldmine there," Killen said.

Nostalgia also played a role in wanting to move into Hickory Hollow. He said he remembers the restaurant from his childhood and that the low-slung building reminds him of his original steakhouse in Pearland.

Killen has been busy lately. In late December he opened Killen's TMX, a restaurant serving regional Mexican food and Tex-Mex classics using his famed barbecue. He also is readying the opening of a new Killen's Steakhouse in the Woodlands, in the former Bob's Steak & Chop House, 1700 Research Dr. in Shenandoah. That steakhouse is set to open in April.

Expect the new Killen's in Houston to open within four months.

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