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A Taste of Excellence: Chef Ivan Rodriguez Takes the Helm at Back Table Kitchen & Bar

By: Catherine Whitsett
| Published 10/26/2023

Chef Ivan - Photo Credit: Audrey Carni
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THE WOODLANDS, TX -- Dishing up surprises ahead of the New Year, The Woodlands Resort’s waterfront Back Table Kitchen & Bar has appointed culinary veteran Ivan Rodriguez to the role of chef de cuisine. Rodriguez, who most recently made his mark at sister property The Westin at The Woodlands’ well-regarded Italian eatery Sorriso as executive sous chef, is already making the menu at Back Table his own. While a handful of its most popular Southern-inspired signatures will remain, Rodriguez will be broadening its repertoire thanks to a background that spans from New American to South American.

According to David Frederico, Area Director of Operations of The Woodlands Hotels, “With so many exciting changes being introduced at The Woodlands Resort as part of its just completed, nearly $30-million renovation, we couldn’t resist giving Back Table a culinary refresh that would appeal to both our overnight guests and the increasingly foodie centric and international Woodlands community.”

Rodriguez, who prior to Sorriso operated a successful Houston food truck business – Mr Porco HTX – known for its delectable tortas, is no stranger to The Woodlands or The Resort. Before that, he served as the property’s banquet sous chef and sous chef for The Woodlands location of True Food Kitchen. Rodriguez also held the head chef position at the well-regarded Ambriza Social Mexican Kitchen, where he created the menu concept for three Greater Houston locations, served as sous chef at acclaimed Washington, DC Peruvian staple Nazca Mochica, and closer to home, was sous chef at Allo French Rotisserie in Vintage Park.

Rodriguez began his culinary career at longtime Tomball, TX favorite, The Original Rib Tickler, as a line cook in 2004 and earned his Elite Diplome de Cuisine in 2010 from Houston’s Culinary Institute LeNotre.

Highlights of the new menu include starters like Fried Green Tomatoes with lobster, chives, poblano crema and avocado, Smoked Trout Dip with extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest, pickled red onions and fried Saltines, Kale Salad with green apple, Marcona almonds, golden raisins and lemon vinaigrette and Texas Corn Chowder with potatoes, crème fraiche, bacon and chives. Entrees include meat lovers options such as Steak Frites with house chimichurri and Smothered Cowboy Ribeye with black garlic potatoes, sauteed broccolini and peppercorn Shiitake gravy, plus seafood, veggie and chicken options ranging from Grilled Salmon with hot honey glaze, cilantro pesto and corn succotash plus Baked Lobster Mac with four cheese sauce and parmesan breadcrumbs to Polenta & Vegetables with Creole lemon butter and Dr. Pepper Can Chicken with teriyaki glaze, creole potatoes and collard greens. Save room for desserts such as Sweet Corn Tres Leches with corn infused milk and hibiscus cherry glaze and Pineapple Upside Down Bread Pudding with coconut cream, cherries and fresh caramelized pineapple.

Happy hour bites range from $2 Charred Grilled Oysters with black garlic butter, Manchego cheese and habanero mignonette and $5 Street Corn with Cajun aioli and Cotija cheese to $10 Double Smashed Burger on a brioche bun with fries, cheddar cheese, secret sauce and house pickles or Nashville style Spicy Chicken Sandwich on Texas toast with fries and jalapeno remoulade. Happy hour sips include $5 draught beer, a selection of $6 wines by the glass, $9 well cocktails and $10 signatures such as a Dulce Vida Paloma incorporating grapefruit infused tequila and soda, French 77 with St. Germain and prosecco, Tequila Honeybee with honey harvested on property and Cucumber Mint Collins.

Notable Houston-based firm, Collaborative Projects – known for their work on award-winning Bayou City spaces such as UB Preserv, Julep, The Rice Box-River Oaks, The Pastry War and Goode Company Armadillo Palace – has created a light-filled environment brimming with warm, coastal flair and a color palette that pairs exposed brick walls with pops of blues and greys. The 5,413-square-foot venue encompasses the main dining room with seating for 111, split between taupe banquettes, black walnut tables with Imperial blue upholstered chairs and high tops with Italian walnut bar stools; spacious, three-sided bar accommodating 48 between the counter and high top tables; small game room with foosball and darts; a private dining room for 40; and expansive wraparound terrace with both dining tables and lounge areas with fire pits overlooking the 18th green of the Panther Trail golf course.

Located at 2301 N. Millbend Drive, Back Table Kitchen & Bar is open daily for happy hour from 4-6 pm and dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5–10 pm, plus Friday and Saturday from 5–11 pm. For more information, visit backtabletx.com or call 281.364.6400.

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