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Levi Goode, president of Goode Co. restaurants, chatted with us about the family business and how operations have changed amid the pandemic. He also talked with us about Houston’s food scene and shared some of his places to eat around the city.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about Houston?
A: First and foremost, the people. This city is just a great city. There’s so much to go see and so many things going on. The genuine nature of the people that live in this city, in my opinion, has no other equal. This is a city of opportunity. If somebody wants to come to Houston and work hard and apply themselves, doors open. I’ve seen it so many times. Houston’s one of the places where people welcome you with open arms. I’ve had so many experiences with that, I’ve witnessed it and I’ve actually helped other people on numerous occasions. It’s a city of open arms and I think that’s very special and unique as big of a city and as spread out of a city as we are.
Q: What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think about Houston?
A: Diversity and resilience
Q: What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think about Texas?
Q: What are some of your favorite dishes from Goode Company restaurants?
A: I’ll tell you, one of our Damn Goode Margaritas and a simple plate of cheese enchiladas at our Kitchen & Cantina is definitely one of my happy places. At our seafood restaurant, I enjoy our Campechana De Mariscos on a sweltering Houston day. It’s a nice respite to the heat we’re experiencing this time of the year. I like our style and I think it’s really unique. To me, all of our food is kind of my comfort food because it’s what I grew up eating. When I go away somewhere, it’s always what I want when I come back. I think we have a unique style of cooking fresh Gulf Coast seafood over mesquite wood that I really enjoy. At the barbecue restaurant, my go-to is a chopped brisket sandwich on jalapeño cheese bread. I’ll also say that the Smoked Redfish Dip at our seafood restaurant is a nice little appetizer as well. I like to bounce around our menus quite a bit but I do have some go-tos I gravitate towards.
Q: What are some of your favorite Houston restaurants?
A: I like my good buddy Drake Leonard’s cooking over at Eunice. I really like his style of cooking and his style of food. I did spend a good part of my childhood in Cajun country in the southwestern part of Louisiana. His food, while it’s much more refined and house-presented than what I ate as a kid, there’s definitely some reminiscing when I eat some of the dishes that he prepares. I enjoy his food, his style in the kitchen. Another place that I like to go is State of Grace. Bobby Matos is a heck of a chef and I’ve really enjoyed his food since they’ve opened. I like Lankford Grocery and Market for a good, greasy cheeseburger. I like Laredo Taqueria on Washington just for a taqueria-style meal. The barbacoa tacos are pretty fantastic. Their spicy fajita tacos on corn or flour tortillas are a good go-to as well.
Q: From your perspective, how does the Houston food scene differ from food scenes elsewhere.
A: Just from an anthropological level, the melding of cultures and the geography, both being in big beef country and close to the coast, it’s all this different stuff just kind of put in a blender and it really creates some exciting dishes in this city. Not to mention the competition. The competition here is fierce. I would argue the competition in Houston is probably some of the most fierce in the country. I would put Houston’s competitive landscape up against the likes of Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. All that said, in my opinion, competition is great. It pushes competitors to put their best foot forward and that’s what it’s all about. If you’re not playing hard, you might as well not even suit up, you know?
Q: Would you say the competitive nature of the city’s food scene has pushed Goode Company and its restaurant concepts?
A: Absolutely. Houston’s really evolved over the last five years, 10 years. The whole food landscape has definitely evolved and competition continues to evolve each and every day. What’s the zeal of life if you can’t put on your eye black, suit up, get out there and give it your best? I have no fun playing the safe route. I like to get out there. I like to innovate. I like to explore and try new things and I think that’s kind of the spice of life.
Q: How has the pandemic impacted Goode Company?
A: As big of a dark cloud as the pandemic has cast over the whole world, in particular in Houston and our business and our business operations, it’s really kind of driven a lot of ingenuity and innovation for me. Through the pandemic, we’ve created a new concept that opened about a month ago. It’s curbside takeout only but we’re looking to expand that to maybe have some weekend sitdown opportunities. We also opened up a fried chicken concept called Goode Bird about a month ago. Everything’s made from scratch.
It’s got buttermilk fried chicken, cornbread, mashed potatoes, jalapeno cream corn, pimento mac & cheese, collard greens and all sorts of good stuff. That’s been fun. We’ve got just such a wonderful teams that’s been so flexible and agile in this environment to be able to not be so paralyzed with all the negativity and be able to spin all that into something positive that allows all of us to collectively apply our skills and collective knowledge all with the intention of supporting this community. Comfort food is something that I thought might be of need for our community. So we rolled that out about a month ago and it’s beena smash hit so far. We’ve sold out every day and we’re really excited for what the future many hold on that. I’ve also opened a grocery business through the pandemic.