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New restaurants bring variety to Victoria

ALLISON MILES

By ALLISON MILES
Sept. 30, 2011 at 4:30 a.m.

Keson Perry demonstrates how to make Pad Kee Mao at the new Thai restaurant Noot's Thai Kitchen in Whispering Creek Shopping Center.

On any given day, Pad Thai, shrimp cones, pineapple fried rice and more make their way onto the tables of hungry customers at Noot's Thai Kitchen, which opened Sept. 9 at 6360 N. Navarro St.

James Munsch, the owner, said he hopes the flavors offer something different for Crossroads area residents.

"I was born and raised in Victoria and ... honestly, I think Victoria needs more variation," he said of the eatery he started with help from his wife. "We wanted to bring that."

But Noot's isn't alone. Several new restaurants recently set up shop in Victoria.

From its home at 1002 N. Navarro St., Raven's Family Dining plates pizza, spaghetti, sandwiches and more, for instance, while Burger Nation, 3112 N. Navarro St., serves items such as burgers, fries and milkshakes.

A sign further up on Navarro Street advertises the Monereaux's Cajun Kitchen is coming soon.

The eatery influx is a good indicator that Victoria's economy is improving, said Bobby Trevino, president of the MidCoast Restaurant Association. Although he didn't know how many restaurants operate in the city, he estimated it tops 100.

"There's an abundance, from small mom-and-pops to franchises," he said. "Before, you could count them on your hands."

Sheri Hoffman and her husband, Jim, opened the Main Street Cafe in late June at 4103 N. Main St. The goal was to provide the area with something other than the many Mexican and Chinese restaurants, she said.

"We thought, 'They're all really good, but let's do something different. Get things back to the way they used to be,'" she said. "A mom-and-pop cafe with regular, everyday comfort foods."

The restaurant offers different foods, depending on the day of the week. Cajun food is featured one day, Italian another and so on.

That sense of variety was important, the restaurateur said, because some customers eat out each night and don't want the same things all the time.

Victoria resident Carlitra Zanders agreed.

She eats out about three times a week and said she's glad to see something other than Mexican food making its way to town.

"We've got mainly everything now," she said, noting seafood is her personal favorite. "I'm happy."

Andrew Lee owns Bayside Seafood at 4202 N. Navarro St. Like Zanders, he said he's happy with the current mix.

Variety is good, he said, but new restaurants mean added competition.

"As a business person, you hate to see another restaurant coming in," he said. "When it comes to seafood, there are just a couple of us around here."

Competition does make the industry trying, but it can also be a good thing, Trevino noted. It keeps eateries on their toes, evaluating prices and customer satisfaction.

"Some will survive, some won't," he said, adding it takes about five years for a restaurant to establish itself. "It's tough, but the bottom line is Victoria benefits from having a variety of businesses."

Speaking in terms of the economy, now is an opportune time for restaurants to set down roots, Trevino said.

"This is a great time to come in and get established before ... the influx of people," he said, citing Caterpillar's incoming plant. "It's a great economic time to get started because of low interest rates."

As for Munsch, he said he's pleased with business.

It took a year or two to get the ball rolling and open but the restaurant is slowly developing a following.

"We've been getting a lot of repeats, and we've been getting new faces," he said. "It looks like we're doing pretty good so far."

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