Prime steak is on the menu for Keller with the opening of Keller Chophouse, a new fine-dining spot from veteran restaurateur Zack Moutaouakil.
Located at 124 S. Main St., the restaurant is taking over the space occupied by Texas Bleu, which closed in July. Opening night is Friday, August 14. They'll start with dinner and add lunch at some point down the road, Moutaouakil says.
Moutaouakil is a well-regarded operator who owns Mercury Chophouse in the Tower in downtown Fort Worth and its sibling in the Brookhollow Two office building in Arlington.
When the owners of Texas Bleu approached him, Moutaouakil says he felt optimistic he could duplicate the success he enjoyed with his Arlington spinoff.
"I think Keller is a good move," he says. "I hope that it will go as it did in Arlington, where we were the first fine-dining steakhouse. In Keller, I don't think there's anything close to what we have, with steak, fresh seafood, and fine wine."
He'll open with a full menu that's similar but not identical to his other locations. For example, the bone-in filet he offers as a special downtown will become a regular menu item. "It'll be 95 percent the same," he says.
That said, he'll also listen to what Keller diners say and adjust accordingly.
"We'll start out with Prime beef and see what the demand is for good steaks," he says. "We'll figure out the culture. But the response so far has been phenomenal, and really made me feel welcome."
Moutaouakil bought the Fort Worth Mercury Chophouse from the M Group in 2008, then opened the Arlington restaurant in 2017, replacing La Cacharel, another fine-dining restaurant but with a French menu, which had been there for decades.
Texas Bleu opened in 2015 with founding chef Erin Miller. Chef Stefon Rishel, formerly of Max's Wine Dive, currently of Wishbone & Flynt, was chef in 2016.
That address was home to a number of restaurants over the years, including Texas Harvest Pie Co., before it was razed and rebuilt into a two-story building.
Moutaouakil gave it a facelift, what he calls "a hectic three weeks of remodeling," that included painting, updating the bar, and changing the decor. "We didn't want people to come in and call it Texas Bleu," he says.
He recognizes that, with COVID-19, these are odd times to open a restaurant. "Downtown Fort Worth is not the same downtown I knew 25 years ago," he says. "The dynamics have changed. But what are you going to do — sit there and cry, or look for opportunities? It feels like we're holding our breath — we don't know for how long."