James Beard Nominated Chef Ronnie Killen Debuts Sunday Brunch with Mexican Flavors
In January 2019, Chef Ronnie Killen opened his fifth restaurant and first Mexican concept in Pearland, Killen’s TMX, for dinner and promised that brunch and lunch would soon follow. Beginning Saturday, March 16, the two-time James Beard nominated chef is rolling out lunch, followed by Sunday brunch—the latter a first for any of his restaurants.
Lunch service, available Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., will emphasize Tex-Mex heavy-hitters: cheese enchiladas, crispy tacos, tacos al carbon, barbecue-loaded chile con queso and combo plates. Meanwhile, the dinner menu will transition to more moles and regional Mexican preparations.
On Sundays, the beautifully appointed brunch buffet greets guests with gleaming Le Creuset Dutch ovens and hand-painted China loaded with a mix of classic and Tex-Mex brunch items that will change seasonally. Expect selections such as carne guisada, earthy huitlacoche tamales, ceviche, beans of the day and guacamole alongside shrimp and grits, eggs and bacon, skillet potatoes, yogurt, granola and fresh fruit. Vividly hued raw salsas provide a bright counterpoint to savory dishes. Their freshness is perfectly suited to the menu and are a thoughtful pivot from the moody, complex charred salsas served in the evening. The buffet is priced at $35 per adult and $12 for children age 12 and under.
Heartily portioned a la carte plates include Killen’s takes on iconic Mexican breakfast fare—huevos rancheros (the chef’s personal favorite), migas, breakfast tacos and a well-stacked torta—as well as genre-bending creations: a crab tinga omelet, smoked chicken chilaquiles verdes and brisket hash. Pining for an American classic? Killen’s fluffy pancakes are epic by themselves, but, when topped with horchata whipped cream, they become otherworldly. For Tex-Mex meets barbecue, go for the smoked brisket enchiladas (also available at lunch and dinner) or tacos al carbon.
Although this is the first time Killen has offered brunch at one of his own establishments, he is well-versed in executing brunch buffets thanks to his background overseeing them at fine hotels and resorts, such as The Omni Mandalay in Irving, Texas; Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Mo.; and The Ritz Carlton in Rancho Mirage, Cali. “I really just want to bring traditional Mexican breakfast foods to Houston,” says Killen.
Not-to-be-missed are the housemade pastries. Killen’s Restaurants Pastry Chef Samantha Mendoza has spent months honing her recipes and technique to produce shatteringly flaky croissants, sugared morning buns, iced cinnamon rolls and fruit Danish. In addition to these staples, expect a dizzying array of weekly specials, from pain au chocolat and blueberry coffee cake to Mexican conchas, rolled churros and airy orejas (palmiers). “Everything is scratch made,” says Mendoza. “For the laminated pastries like croissants and morning buns, I use our dough sheeter. And we use quality ingredients for everything. We use French butter with a higher fat content, which makes the pastries rich and delicious.”
As a cheeky brunch devotee once said, brunch without cocktails is simply a sad, late breakfast, so Killen’s TMX naturally rounds out Sunday Funday with fresh mimosas and sangrias, Bloody Maria’s, margaritas and micheladas, as well as fresh-squeezed juices, teas and coffee.
The brunch debut is clearly a boon for Killen’s hometown of Pearland. As the chef puts it, “No one was doing it in Pearland, not this way… so why drive to Houston?” Of course, those willing to make the pilgrimage from further afield on sleepy Sunday mornings will be rewarded for the effort. The only struggle now: choosing whether to aim the GPS toward Killen’s TMX or Killen’s Barbecue.
Killen’s TMX, 9330 Broadway Street, is open for dinner, Monday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 4-10 p.m. and Sunday, 4-9 p.m. Sunday brunch is 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Beginning March 16, lunch will be served Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. The restaurant accepts reservations via OpenTable and seats walk-ins on a first come, first served basis. Valet and self-parking are available. For more information, follow the restaurant on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit killenstmx.com.
Photo credit: Brunch spread, Isabel Protomartir; Interior, Kimberly Park