So close, yet so far

Houston restaurant chain scraps plans for downtown Austin location as lawsuit looms

Houston restaurant scraps plans for Austin location as lawsuit looms

Peli Peli Kitchen peri peri chicken
Plans for an Austin location of Peli Peli have likely been scrapped. Courtesy photo

A dispute between the owners of Houston favorite Peli Peli and landlords AMLI Downtown means plans for the anticipated Austin location are likely scrapped. Owner Thomas Nguyen tells CultureMap that he “highly doubt[s] that we will be able to open there.”

The South African eatery first announced it was taking over the former home of Cantina Laredo at 201 W. Third St. in July 2016. Originally, it was slated to open in 2017 after the team made a splashy introduction at that year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Restaurant watchers suspected signs of trouble after the chain's local social media channels went dark after ACL. In July 2018, Nguyen told CultureMap that there was a delay in construction due to a grease trap issue that needed to be resolved before the site could be utilized, but he was still confident that the location would eventually open.

That same month, Nguyen and Peli Peli co-owners Paul Friedman and Michael Tran filed a lawsuit against AMLI Downtown Austin LP. The details of the suit are not available online, but CultureMap has requested documents from the Travis Country District Clerk.

"I wish I had better news because we were so excited about Austin," admits Nguyen. Both he and Tran have a personal connection to the city as graduates of the University of Texas at Austin.  

The Houston outposts of the brand — three upscale restaurants and two locations of fast casual offshoot Peli Peli Kitchen — will remain open.