Getting a restaurant off the ground is not an easy task. Add inexperience and the bad timing of a pandemic, and it’s practically impossible.
Somehow, though, siblings Jorge and Norma Loredo persevered with La Cruderia, their restaurant in the Sharpston/Chinatown area. And, following three successful years in business there, increasing demand from customers fueled the decision to launch a second location of La Cruderia, at 7710 Long Point Rd. in the Spring Branch Management District.
The original location at 8394 Bellaire Blvd. in the Southwest Management District remains, providing legendary micheladas (beer cocktails) and an extensive menu of culinary offerings.
At first, Jorge Loredo said, it was hard to attract customers.
“We were virtually unknown, and we struggled (with) introducing ourselves to the community,” he said. “Lacking experience, we didn’t know where to focus our efforts. We turned to social media, a move that slowly brought an inflow of customers. However, just as we built momentum, the pandemic struck.”
When the mandate for restaurant closures was announced, it was devastating.
“At the time our team was just a handful of dedicated employees, including my sister, who practically lived at the restaurant, and myself, juggling every spare moment outside my day job to support her.”
But brother and sister refused to give up and took to promoting their drive-through service, an aspect of the business they hadn’t focused on as they were still trying to wrap their heads around the rest of the operation.
“Remarkably, our drive-through marketing struck a chord. The allowance in Texas for selling alcoholic beverages to-go proved to be very beneficial. Pairing our delicious food with options like a refreshing micheladas attracted new customers and helped keep our drive-through as busy as it could be,” Jorge Loredo said.
As restrictions eased and restaurants were allowed to resume all operations, La Cruderia slowly transitioned back to full, dine-in service.
“Not long after we had our restaurant overflowing with customers,” Loredo said.
The youngest of six siblings, Loredo said he and his sister, the second oldest and only daughter, hail from Rioverde, San Luis Potosí, Mexico.
“After spending 12 years in the corporate world within the oil and gas industry, I felt a craving for a new and exciting venture,” Loredo said. “Meanwhile, Norma had been deeply involved in the restaurant industry, exploring various roles and eventually finding her passion in the kitchen.”
With a desire for something different, Loredo said he stumbled on an opportunity to introduce authentic Mexican cuisine and micheladas to the southwest part of Houston:
“While there were plenty of taquerias and Mexican spots around, none offered the level of authenticity we envisioned.”
Norma, having graduated from culinary school and working at an upscale seafood restaurant in the Post Oak area, brought her culinary expertise to the table.
“Together, we crafted what is now our menu, and the rest, as they say, is history,” Loredo said.
The menu is a celebration of Mexico’s regional diversity, with a focus on seafood. Whether it’s the spicy flavors of the Yucatan, the fresh ceviches from the Mexican Pacific or the vibrant street food from Mexico City, La Cruderia has it on the menu.
While La Cruderia features a bar with video screens playing whatever soccer (fútbol) happens to be on at the moment, the atmosphere is cozy. On a cloudy Houston day, it was the perfect place to catch up with an old friend.
The house specialty drink is the michelada, which comes in a long list of different varieties. But being as it was lunchtime, we decided to go for two Mexican Cokes.
The Southwest District location offers daily lunch specials from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For just $8, choose from two seafood choices — ceviche or fish tacos — or five “other cravings,” including tortillas soup, chilaquiles (freshly fried corn tortilla chips swimming in salsa and various toppings), torta (Mexican sandwich), tinga de pollo (shredded chicken served atop tortillas) and asado de puerco (pork stew).
If the lunch specials don’t strike your fancy, there is an extensive menu to choose from with five different ceviches, three different soups, nine different tacos, tostadas, tortas and much more.
Before we knew it, our lunch had gone on for more than two hours while we enjoyed the specials, our Cokes and the laid-back atmosphere. The lunch crowd had dissipated while servers prepared the restaurant for dinner service.
It was the perfect time, we realized, for a michelada.
8394 Bellaire Blvd
Houston, TX 77036
— by Dorothy Puch Lillig