Updated 9:55 a.m. with Winter Park Hillstone menus; dowload below.
Over the years, so many restaurants have tried to emulate the success of Houston's, trying to capture its combination of food, ambience and service. So many, it seems, want to be Houston's.
Now, Houston's doesn't want to be Houston's. At least not the Winter Park link in the national chain. The restaurant, which sits on the shore of Lake Killarney, is in the midst of transitioning its brand to Hillstone. Hillstone is the name of the parent company, whose brands also include Gulfstream, Bandera and Rutherford Grill. There currently are Hillstones in New York City, Boston and San Francisco.
The transition has begun. The menu has been switched, but so far the sign out front still says Houston's. A woman who answered the phone at the restaurant -- she thanked me for calling Houston's -- said there were no plans that she knew of for a big announcement; the sign will be replaced and that will be that. The Winter Park Houston's opened in 1996 to instant acclaim.
Hillstone is not known for its marketing acumen. Even as Houston’s, the Web site address is hillstone.com, and it offers no more information about each restaurant brand other than its address, phone number and manager’s name.
Hillstone’s New York menu features, like Houston’s, a short list of appetizers and regularly-scheduled soups of the day. Sandwiches and burgers are joined by sushi rolls, and entrees feature fresh fish and steaks but, sadly, no prime rib, one of Houston’s fortes. (Update: WP Hillstone menu has prime rib; prices range from $17 to $33 for dinner entrees. Download menu below.)
Sandwiches at the New York Hillstone are in the mid to upper teens; entrees range from $17 for a dinner-sized salad to $37 for the bone-in cowboy salad.
I’ll update with the Winter Park menu as soon as I get it.