Home sweet home: Old Victoria Grill returns to original digs
Oct. 5, 2013 at 5:05 a.m.
It's 9 a.m. on a Thursday at the Old Victoria Grill. And though the restaurant won't open for another couple of hours, co-owner Ferydoun Darshad is hard at work.
Already, he's ventured out to stock up on supplies and checked in with his brother, co-owner Faramarz Darshad, prepping ingredients in the kitchen.
Yes, it's just the start of what is sure to be a long day, but Ferydoun Darshad said that's a good thing. Because after a seven-year absence, Old Victoria Grill returned home to 207 N. Navarro St.
"This feels really good," he said with a glance around the empty dining room, the places set and waiting for guests. "I missed this place."
The building - a home built in 1885 but later converted to a restaurant - has a long history in Victoria's dining past.
It opened in 1980, originally as a Ruggles, Darshad said. It was that incarnation that brought him to the Crossroads.
He worked as a chef.
The eatery later became a Cattlemen's Bar and Grill, he added, and later a Quast's Restaurant.
In 1988, Darshad and his brothers, Faramarz and Farshad, took the reins themselves. They purchased the building and renamed it Olde Victoria Restaurant.
It was there they remained until 2006, when they quite literally set their sights higher.
The brothers relocated to the 12th floor of One O'Connor Plaza, renaming their venture "Olde Victoria at the Oak Room."
Although the customers kept coming and the eatery continued serving up signature dishes, Darshad said it wasn't quite the same.
"Up there, people said they missed this," he said, motioning to the converted house. "It was very nice, but it was different."
Thus, when the lease came up and he learned there were other interests looking to move in, they decided it was time to return home.
They moved out in November and buckled down on freshening the building up - installing new drywall, cleaning things up and making other updates. As for the garden, that remained largely untouched.
That's where Mark Garretson, who owns EarthWorks Nursery, stepped in.
The man with the green thumb approached Darshad about helping to manicure the landscaping and get the gardens going. Old Victoria Grill plans to source its herbs and produce - as much as is possible - directly from its backyard gardens.
Garretson said his efforts are a labor of love, as it's exciting to help a business provide homegrown foods.
"There's nothing better than that," he said, wiping some dirt from his hands. "And it's all organic."
Garretson said ornamental plants won't likely join the mix. Instead, he plans to outfit the garden solely with things the restaurant can use - citrus trees, an asparagus bed, artichokes and more.
"We may put some koi in the pond. But you wouldn't want to eat them," he said with a smirk.
Darshad said his favorite element of the new-old building is the open feel. Windows usher the garden inside, for instance, rather than offer diners a view of the parking lot.
"When you walk in, you're relaxed," he said of the business now run by two of the three brothers. "It's very comfortable. And we want people to be comfortable here."
Food is a passion for Darshad, who never attended culinary school but has honed in his skills through 30 years in the business. He said his aim is to serve up comfort food with a twist - spices and flavor combinations a bit outside the norm - in a casual atmosphere.
A quick lunch service is available to those on the go, while full service is available at dinner time.
Although he doesn't yet have a liquor license, he said guests can bring their own wines.
The eatery seats about 90 people, so it's smaller than at One O'Connor, but he said he hopes that means he can have more interactions with his guests.
"It gives me a chance to have that personal touch," he said. "It's a good size."
So far, customer reaction has been positive, he said, with longtime guests coming in to check out the eatery's latest update.
One such guest is Jim Cole with the law firm Cole, Cole & Easley. He said he made his way in on the restaurant's reopening day earlier this month and has been back since.
It's the quality of food, he said, that keeps him going back.
"You can always rely on the fact that you're going to get something that maybe is a little different than you'll get at other places," he said. "It's imaginative, and it's well-prepared."
Much like Darshad, Cole said, it feels good to be back where the business got its start.
"It's like going home," he said.