The Taste: Houlihan’s
Sep 25, 2017 11:00AM ● Published by Arden Haley
When you dine at our local Houlihan’s in Gambrills it becomes obvious quickly, they care about the customer. Julie Stevens, the franchise owner of the two Houlihan’s in our region leads us through her restaurants’ impressive efforts to shine.
How long have you owned the Waugh Chapel Houlihan’s? Give us an overview of the history.
We opened Houlihan’s Waugh Chapel in April of 2013. After opening our first location in Howard County in 2007 we were very excited to expand into beautiful Anne Arundel County. We felt the Waugh Chapel Towne Centre was the perfect location to do that. There were so many great businesses coming to the center we were thrilled to be a part of it.
How do new dishes on the menu come to be? Do you conceive them and do you work with your chef on creating them? What is the process?
We have an amazing and talented culinary team at the Test Kitchen in the corporate offices in Leawood, Kansas. Chef Slavin is always busy working on new and interesting ideas as well as tweaking some old favorites. As a group, we really listen to our guests so when they say they miss something that we previously had on our menu, we may bring it back.
There are 32 company-owned and operated Houlihan’s and 38 locations owned and operated by franchisees. That gives the franchisees a pretty strong voice and Houlihan’s Restaurant Inc., the parent company, is really great about listening to us. Chef Slavin takes all the feedback from us into account when he begins working on the next menu in the test kitchen. In fact, our two locations have been a part of the testing phase of the last couple menus. Our staff has done this a few times over the last 10 years and are really good at it so HRI uses us to test, in a working kitchen, ideas that they are knocking around. It is really exciting to be part of a company like Houlihan’s that cares so much about the guests, that are so very important to us, as well as the staff that makes the restaurants so great.
Do you change the menu seasonally?
We have a Specials Menu that we rotate about three times a year. Each time we do this we try to have seasonally relevant items. This summer we had our Field + Farm Menu focusing on produce-forward plates complimented by interesting grilled meats. The Spiralized Beet Chips were a crowd favorite as was the steak salad! The fall will bring another new Specials Menu. We are still finalizing the details so all I can say is to ‘stayed tuned.’ I am sure you will love it.
How much autonomy do you have from other Houlihan’s locations? For instance, in the Farm to Fork category?
Each Houlihan’s location absolutely has some say in what food items they carry. For instance, our two Maryland locations carry a delicious Crab Melt Sandwich. How could we not, right? Also, our guests have been quite clear about their love of our Grilled Salmon BLT and the Meatloaf. While other locations have rotated them off their menus we kept them on.
We also have a wood grill in each of our locations. Not all Houlihan’s do. They are difficult to master but our cooks have worked really hard to perfect their cooking skills on the grill and you can taste the difference! There is nothing like a great premium Black Angus aged steak or Black Angus burger cooked on oak and mesquite. The flavor is incredible, so it makes the hard work worth it.
Tell us about your “$11 wine flights”... selecting any three wines by the glass.
Our wine flights are perfect for those days when you just can’t decide! You can pick any three wines that we sell by the glass and we will bring you a couple of ounces of each one to enjoy. We also do that same thing with our Martinis, a huge favorite. We have so many really interesting martinis it is sometimes hard to choose which one to have. We fixed that problem by letting you have small samples of any three for $11.
What items are made “in house” and from scratch?
Oh, my, gosh most of the items! Our freezers are really small because they hold only ice cream and French fries. Most of our sauces and marinades, like the Mojo that is part of the Grilled Shrimp and Sausage Mojo, are made fresh from scratch. Our grilled pineapple relish, salsa, Parmesan garlic sauce and the incredibly popular Thai wing sauce are just a few of the items. All our soups are made in house. Our chicken tenders are all hand-breaded and fried when you order them. What a huge difference that makes in the taste! Kids have really sophisticated palates these days and they can taste the difference. Our kids’ chicken tenders dinner is one of their favorites. And oh, if you want to go right to the sweet spot you should try some of our desserts! We chop up Snickers bars and bake them right into our brownies for our Serious Brownie Sundae or if you’re looking for something creamy and delicious you should try the Crème Brûlée. We use vanilla bean paste from Madagascar for a fabulous flavor!
You have won some of the What’s Up? West County Awards. Do tell!
Yes, and we are so proud of that! The What’s Up? West County readers have been the best! They voted our wine and martinis flights as “Best Tasting Flights” in 2014 and 2015. In 2016 and 2017 we won for “Best Happy Hour.” What a great honor that is. I can’t even tell you how excited the staff was when I told them of this awesome recognition!
The Taste: Houlihan’s Grilled Shrimp & Sausage Mojo
Mojo SauceYields approximately 1 cup
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/8 cup minced garlic cloves
- 1/8 cup cilantro, finely chopped
Squeeze and measure out fresh juices—these must be fresh hand-squeezed to get the proper brightness and flavor in the sauce; concentrates will not work. Place all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly. This sauce will quickly separate after mixing so be prepared to whisk just before you use it or put it in a dressing shaker bottle so you can give it a good shake before using it. Keep sauce refrigerated at 41°F to maintain freshness. Sauce has a shelf life of only two days before the fresh herbs begin to discolor from the acidity.
- 28 (16/20) shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 baked potatoes – hot, cut in half, lengthwise
- 1 zucchini, cut into ¼-inch thick half moons
- 1 yellow summer squash, cut into ¼-inch thick half moons
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 2” x 2” squares
- 2 Roma tomatoes, halved
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon medium-grind black pepper
- 2 jalapeno-seasoned sausage links (fully cooked), halved lengthwise, cut on bias
- 4 teaspoons crumbled/grated Cotija cheese
- 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
- 3/4 cup Mojo Sauce
Preheat grill to high.
Place the peeled and deveined shrimp into a mixing bowl. Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil over the shrimp and lightly toss to coat the shrimp evenly.
Place all of the cut vegetables (including the baked potato halves) into a large mixing bowl. Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables, season with salt and pepper then lightly toss with your hands to evenly coat the outside of the vegetables. Place the vegetables on the grill. Once you have placed all of the vegetables on the grill, place the coated shrimp and sliced sausage links on the grill next to the vegetables.
Rotate vegetables, shrimp, and sausage a quarter turn after approximately 1 minute and continue to grill for 1 minute (if vegetables begin to over char, turn sooner). Repeat turns until vegetables soften and have grill marks. Note: the Roma tomato will cook faster than the other vegetables, you may need to turn and remove it sooner. Remove the vegetables from the grill and evenly distribute across four plates. Place the potato halves with the cut side facing up.
Once the shrimp and sausage have reached a minimum internal temperature of 145°F and have nice diamond grill marks, remove them from the grill and distribute them evenly on top of the bed of grilled vegetables on each plate.
Stir or shake Mojo sauce and pour about a tablespoon evenly over all of the vegetables, shrimp and sausage, covering the potato as well. Garnish each plate with 1 teaspoon crumbled cotija cheese and a sprinkle chopped parsley over entire dish.
Serve immediately and enjoy!