After double the time and double the budget, the Ruggles Green Heights location is finally set to open later this month. I was able to walk through last week and get a glimpse of what they've done with the old 11th Street Cafe. Needless to say, it's a total transformation. According to RG President Federico Marques, they were advised by the City to just tear the old building down. RG was committed, though, to both the Heights and the building. When a lot of other companies would have cut their losses and walked away, RG seized the opportunity to make something great out of basically 3 brick walls--- because that was all that was left at one point. Even the floor/foundation had to come out due to years of neglect and spotty patch work by previous owners. They salvaged the front and side walls and everything else is new. What has gone in between those walls is not only going to be a restaurant Heights residents will love, it's going to be a model of how eco-conscious a restaurant can be. It will definitely be one the greenest restaurants in Texas, one of the greenest in the country, and, if Marques has his way, possibly even the greenest in the world.
Before they even open, Ruggles Green's Heights location has an estimated 400 points by the Green Restaurant Association's standards. After three months in operation, if they can get up to 428, they will be the greenest restaurant in the world. Lofty ambition, for sure, but expected from Marques, who is an unintentional restauranteur. Green is Marques's business. He got in to the food industry by trying to help a once well known Houston restaurant save money by becoming more energy efficient. Now he helms one of the most energy efficient restaurants groups in the country. Even if Marques and the Ruggles Green Heights location miss the "World's Greenest" designation, it's still pretty impressive to even get close. And I hope some of the other local restaurants who are addicted to styrofoam cups and generate tons of waste will be inspired by RG to see how they can do better!
To read more about how the Green Restaurant Association, which has been certifying eco-conscious food establishments for two decades, awards points read here.
I asked Marques what some of the green features of the Heights location he is most excited about:
1. 2.5 kW solar array powers 100% of our lighting and more2. 100% LED lighting (90% more efficient than incandescent )3. Electric car charging station4. Historic renovation of old 11th street cafe using reclaimed wood, brick, and stone wherever possible5. 110% renewable energy credits to offset any non-green energy we purchase6. Extensive recycling of paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, etc.7. State of the art Energy Management System installed8. Extensive electric and water conservation equipment9. We recycle all our fryer oil and turn it into biofuel.10. We offer locally grown, organic, vegetarian, vegan, and extensive GF menu options.
I love the biofuel aspect. The restaurant actually makes a profit on their used cooking oil. I just don't know why more restaurants don't capitalize on that concept!
In addition to all of these great point earners, Ruggles Green also composts food waste. I asked what they do with left overs at the end of the night. Perhaps donate to a homeless shelter or something? Nope. Not because they wouldn't want to help, but because everything is made to order, they have very little waste at the end of a service. As Marques told me, "If you want a burger, they're making that patty fresh." Nothing sits under heat lamps and waits to be ordered. That is excellent both from a green standpoint, but also from a consumer standpoint. I love knowing what I am getting is freshly made. I've worked in enough restaurants to know that isn't always the case, even in some pretty nice establishments!
Ruggles Green Heights will have a grand opening on Thursday, April 25. Store hours will be 11 am- 10 pm during the week, open until 11 pm on weekends. In a few months they'll open at 9 on weekends for breakfast as well.
Each RG opens with a fundraiser for a local non-profit. I'll definitely share more details on that as they are finalized. Until then, here is a peek at the lovely newness you can expect inside those three, old brick walls.
On The Heights Life Facebook page, there is no shortage of people looking for vegan and gluten free options. RG will have both.
Do you remember the bathrooms at 11th St Cafe? Ugh. A far cry from the new ones at Ruggles Green.
I expect these cubbies to be full by opening. The restaurant will have both beer and wine.
The masonry work around the pizza oven is all reclaimed/remnants, giving the restaurant more green points.
Nothing like a shiny, new kicthen!
All the granite used for counter tops is remnant pieces.
Reclaimed stone, wood, and 100% LED lighting.
As many of you know I am luke warm about any 3rd, 4th or more location in the Heights. I prefer unique, but if this location of Ruggles Green is the the greenest in the world, that will be both unique and inspirational. I am also excited to have a healthier option in walking distance from home. I look forward to this addition to the neighborhood and sincerely thank Federico Marques and Ruggles Green for having a vision for the Heights and not giving up, even at the cost of a lot more time and a lot more money.
Hope to see you there on opening night, April 25!