It's a comfy type of eco-friendly at Houston's new Ruggles Green


by mponto

Posted on November 16, 2009 at 2:12 PM

Ruggles Green is not your everyday green restaurant.One of the reasons I like visiting San Francisco is that they've taken the whole tree-hugger concept and made it chic. And that's exactly what the brand new Ruggles Green did right here in Houston.

Located at 2311 West Alabama (across from Whole Foods on Kirby), the little restaurant had their soft opening at the end of November. And it's not what you would expect in an eco-friendly green food joint.

First of all, you won't find any lime green plastic chairs and stark white walls. The place is warm and cozy with wood accents. Secondly, the food is really good. And thirdly, it's set up to be kind of an organic wine bar.

Now that's perfect for the Texas tree-hugger.

Some of you already know Bruce Molzan. He owns the other Ruggles in town and has worked under Wolfgang Puck as well as a bunch of other great chefs.

Bruce, the food guy, has put together an amazine menu.I talked with Bruce and he's done a lot of "firsts" over the years, so developing Houston's first "green certified" restaurant seemed almost like a natural evolution.

"I was trained as a classical chef and after so many years of cooking, I was getting bored. It was time to reinvent myself with something fresh, new and challenging," said Bruce. "My friend Fred had been studying the green scene for years. He approached me and said we should do something green."

Bruce makes it sound simple, but creating a menu that is at least 25-30% organic was harder than he thought it was going to be. It wasn't because he didn't have any ideas - believe me, you just need to sit down with Bruce for five minutes to know that he's overflowing with creativity - but it was because no other restaurants in the area were looking for organic items.

You have this totally incredible tomato soup.  It comes with a puff pastry dome!"I wanted to make some simple like organic pizza dough, so I thought I'd just get some organic flour, organic sugar and organic olive oil. Turns out none my normal big suppliers carried those items," said Bruce.

Bruce said he could have got the stuff he needed at specialty places, but then his prices would be outrageous and who wants to spend $40 for a sandwich? Thankfully, he didn't give up. He ended up finding Rainbow Foods which delivers to Whole Foods across the street and a local farm that has him really excited. Really, really excited.

"We went Gundermann Farms and they had 25 varieties of lettuce that were all organic. I had never even heard of some of these types. It was incredible," said Bruce.

Bruce's role at Ruggles Green is to create a mouthwatering menu that looks good, tastes good and uses 25-30% sustainable and organic foods. So if Bruce is the food guy, Federico Marques is the guy that makes sure everything else is green.

Wherever possible, Ruggles Green used recycled or sustainable materials like bamboo and hemp."I've been friends with Fred for 15 years. He's the smartest guy I've ever met," said Bruce.

Federico has been involved in the whole living systems, eco-environment industry for years. He's even worked for NASA and Bayer.

Federico said that the restaurant industry is extremely wasteful --from everything from the lights to the how they dispose of their oil.

"All this oil can be turned into biofuel. It doesn't have to be waste," said Federico.

Recycling their cooking oil is just the beginning. Ruggles Green also uses 15 watt lights instead of the standard 65-75 watts ,and they have a dishwasher with a new water softener. It now uses 50% less water.

They are even going to be using an electric car for deliveries and catering.

Ruggles Green feels warm and cozy.  You drop in for a quick bite or hang out and enjoy a leisurely glass of organic wine.One of the cool things about Ruggles Green is that it's not just about the food. Even the building uses recycled parts, and that's where Randy Bower comes in.

"The granite you see around the pizza oven and artwork areas came from another site," said Randy. "We've also used an energy efficient air conditioning unit, and ventilation.

Really good food. Yup...if you visit Ruggles Green, you'll find great salads, spicy fish tacos, burgers and pastas. Their wood-fired mac & cheese also sounds fabulous, but I haven't tried it yet.

And for you die-hard Ruggles fans who already love the existing locations, they do have their famous white bread pudding on the menu.

Don't worry, you can still get Ruggle's Famous White Chocolate Bread Pudding.In addition to the basics, you'll also get some unusual items that are worth trying such their 98% lean buffalo burger and their fire-roasted tomato basil soup that comes with puff pastry dome. Of course, the menu items incorporate organic, all-natural, hormone-free, and preservative-free products wherever possible.

And then there's the hemp items. If you visit Ruggles Green you are going to see hemp everywhere. It's in the brownies, in their veggie burger, and even in their empenadas. The question, is why?

"It's a superfood. It's high in Omega 3 and protein," said Federico. "It's entirely sustainable. Plus, your getting protein with your brownies."

All I can say is if it's anything like the other items on the menu, it's guaranteed to be super good.

2311 West Alabama
Houston, Texas 77098

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