After reviewing a revived, classic, Houston restaurant, Ninfa’a on Navigation just last week, I happened to have lunch at another vaunted, name from Houston’s restaurant past. If you were living in Houston in the 80’s or 90’s, you’ll remember Ruggles Grill was the place for fine-dining in Houston. It was less stuffy than Tony’s and the other high-end restaurants, and the food was fantastic. Most memorable to me, was the outrageous desert menu with something like 20 deserts to choose from. The Chef/Owner, Bruce Molzan, ran into some financial troubles and a famous dispute with it’s staff over their claims that he owed them thousands of dollars in tips. The dispute culminated in a Saturday night walkout of the entire staff. Can you imagine being there on that night? …Awkward. In 2012, Molzan closed the doors of Ruggles Grill for good.
In 2008 Molzan and two partners opened Ruggles Green in the Upper Kirby district becoming the first Certified Green Restaurant in Houston, and it received a lot of attention from the local media. Now the chain has five locations across the city. So you are probably wondering “what’s a ‘green’ restaurant?” According to their website they:
- Use local and organic produce and ingredients.
- Use all-natural meat products: no hormones, no antibiotics, no steroids.
- Compost with some help from their friends at Animal Farm.
- Offer the most extensive gluten-free menu in Texas.
- Use water saving devices like energy star dishwashers, low-flow sprayers, toilets, and aerators.
- Recycle everything: plastic, cardboard, glass, paper, metal, etc.
- Purchased electricity is 100% wind powered.
- Use100% LED (light emitting diodes) for indoor and outdoor lighting.
- Supplement their electricity with 2.5KW solar modules.
- Use state of the art energy management systems to regulate their electricity.
Interesting concept, and admirable way of doing business, but does the food live up to the hype, and the Ruggles name?
I visited the CityCentre location for lunch one day, and business was good. The line to order at the register was backed up to Katy, and there didn’t seem to be any open tables to sit at. No worries though, they have a large patio and there was plenty of seating over looking a large green lawn.
Ruggles Green’s menu is pretty extensive with lots of options, from tacos and burgers to pizzas, and salads. I noticed a lot of dishes containing hemp. I have to admit the high-protein hemp brownies sounded interesting. Somehow I think they are different than the hemp brownies you might of had in college. After reading up on hemp protein, it is made from grinding up the seeds of the hemp plant, and while it won’t get you high because it doesn’t contain any measurable amounts of THC, it does contain all 21 amino acids, which puts it in the superfood category. Although, like legumes it is fairly high in carbohydrates. They also had lots of gluten-free options on the menu, but I tend to stay away from flour substitutes. Many flour substitutes have the same, high-carb and overly processed characteristics I’m avoiding by staying away from flour.
Their Buffalo burger was tempting, but I was in the mood for a salad, and boy were there lots of salads to choose from. One interesting thing about Ruggles Green’s salads is you can add up to six different proteins. The options are, goat cheese, chicken, tofu, salmon, grilled shrimp, and blackened shrimp. I was not very adventurous on this occasion, and just went with the grilled chicken. Although, the blackened shrimp looked really good. I opted for the spinach salad. Fresh spinach, boiled eggs, all-natural bacon, diced tomatoes, red onions, sliced Portobello mushrooms, croutons, and queso fresco; tossed with warm bacon vinaigrette.
The monstrous line moved quickly, and by the time I made my mind up as to what I should order from the vast menu, I had made it to the polite cashier.
It took a while for my food to come out from the kitchen, but as I mentioned earlier, it was a very busy lunch crowd. The salad was beautiful. The greens were all organic and tasted very fresh. The chicken breast was tender, juicy, and well seasoned. The bacon they tossed into the salad gave it a wonderful flavor. Combined with the mushrooms, and boiled eggs, it turned out to be a very protein-rich salad. The best part was the dressing. The vinaigrette dressing was very tasty. Next time I’ll definitely add the goat cheese though. It would have paired nicely with the sweet but tart vinaigrette. The only surprise, was that mixed into the salad, were lots of croutons. It was easy to pick them out, so it was fine, and upon further review, they were listed as an ingredient in the salad. All my gluten-intolerant friends need to be sure to ask for the gluten-free option.
Ruggles Green’s spinach salad is one of the best salads in town. And, with lots of gluten-free options, sustainably farmed meats, and veggies to choose from, I’ll be back for sure. If you are looking for a healthy lunch, Ruggles Green delivers.