A few weeks ago, preparing to write a profile of the company's meal programs for the 6/7 issue of SN, I had a nice conversation with Douglas Dick, the company's vice president of food service operations. Douglas, who came to the company from food and beverage management in the hotel industry — Four Seasons and Westin — described, with obvious pride, how the company started out as a lone grocery store in an undeveloped part of town in 1937, and then grew up into a small chain of top-of-the-line gourmet specialty stores that also qualify as full-line supermarkets. I did say unique, didn't I?
Limiting expansion and keeping a pretty tight management structure has made a huge variety of products and good customer service managable, Douglas told me.
"The fact that we've kept ourselves to five units is a major factor in our success," he said.
While Rice Epicurean offers the newest and the trendiest in all departments as any specialty store would, it keeps its supermarket heritage evident.
As Douglas pointed out, a customer can get a nice plate of signature coriander-coffee beef tenderloin sliced right at The Carvery, and also pick up a case of Coke on sale.
The company's aim, as Houston's thermometers rise to unseemly heights, is to add plenty of cool, light salads that have their own cache, like linguini with summer succotash. Well, I could go on to describe some of those that particularly pique my taste buds, but instead, I decided to do some research -- enough to get you there so you can see for yourself what's on the menu this weekend.
Taxi-ing there is another option. Yellow Cab's fare from the Hilton to the store is $19, but the good news is that four people can ride in the cab for that one fare so it seems like a good enough deal if the fare is shared. And, I was assured the cabby accepts all major credit cards. No bartering though, even though I'm told Rice Epicurean's signataure all-white-meat chicken salad is worth a lot.