Here's why Memorial City is a great fit for Pit Room's second location

Michael Sambrooks, who opened the lauded barbecue restaurant in Montrose in 2016, wouldn't just go anywhere for the joint's expansion.

Photo of Emma Balter
The Pit Room is opening a second location of its Montrose barbecue joint in Memorial City.

The Pit Room is opening a second location of its Montrose barbecue joint in Memorial City.

Jenn Duncan

When Michael Sambrooks opened the Pit Room in 2016, he never thought there would ever be a second one. "It was a unique one-off," he said. But as the Montrose barbecue joint catapulted to smoked-meat fame in Houston in just a few years, he began to explore options. Now, the news is out: A Pit Room is coming to Memorial City in fall 2023.

Pit Room is a neighborhood restaurant for Montrose residents, but it also draws fans from all corners of Houston. Unsurprisingly, many have implored Sambrooks for years to open a location closer to home. He says a lot of his customers live in the Memorial area, and his son goes to school there, so he's had opportunities to make connections and recognize the need. "They are starving for non-corporate, more local restaurants," he said.

Sambrooks had been looking for a location in Memorial for three years, either for Pit Room or Candente, his Tex-Mex restaurant next door on Richmond Avenue. The developer MetroNational, in the process of renovating a shopping center at 10301 Katy Freeway, was keen to bring in a barbecue operator as an anchor. The strip already has a Goode Co. Seafood and a Velvet Taco, with a golf simulator business coming soon.

The developers approached Sambrooks, who thought it was a perfect fit for Pit Room. In Montrose, the restaurant is close to the Texas Medical Center, and in the middle of a thriving restaurant-rich district. He saw similar potential in Memorial City, with the Energy Corridor driving lunch crowds, but also bars that create a hub for socializing.

"It's the same market, but far enough away from the Pit Room that we could serve different customers [and not] cannibalize ourselves," he said.

Expanding never would have been possible without the success of the original location. Sambrooks credits this to his commitment to craft barbecue using only high-quality ingredients, and making everything in-house. What also helped grow a loyal following, he adds, is being open for both lunch and dinner seven days a week, creating a restaurant for the community that neighbors could stop by any time, whether for a heaping plate of 'cue or just to watch the game with a beer and a bite.

Sambrooks hopes to recreate that magic in Memorial, but in a much larger and shinier space. The kitchen at the new location is as big as the entire Montrose Pit Room, allowing the team to do more volume as well as add offerings like burgers, steaks and fried items. It will have a similar indoor-outdoor set-up, featuring a 2,600-square-foot covered patio with its own bar and 6,400 square feet inside. Pit Room Memorial will also expand on its sauces and dessert menu, including a dedicated ice cream bar for its homemade ice cream sandwiches.

Sambrooks is currently working with a designer who is spending time in the original restaurant in Montrose to see what makes it unique, and translate that to the new space. Pit Room Memorial plans to have its doors open by this time next year.

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