Mico Rodriguez, the main brain behind the M Crowd Restaurant Group (Mi Cocina, Taco Diner) and the Restaurant Life (The Mercury, Mercury Grill, Citizen), has just bagged Taqueria Cañonita, the Mexican restaurant Stephan Pyles and Michael Cox developed before it was subsumed by Carlson Restaurants Worldwide along with Star Canyon and the defunct AquaKnox. The purchase is part of a major retreat for Carlson from the distinctive fine-dining segment it was hoping to plumb with its Emerging Brands division, under which the Pyles/Cox restaurants were tucked. "They'd rather be running hundreds of [T.G.I.] Friday's that are very highly focused...and not fooling around with this kind of evolutionary project," says M Crowd/Restaurant Life CEO Rodriguez. Indeed. Under the terms of the purchase, Rodriguez took control of the Taqueria Cañonita restaurants in Plano and Las Colinas. Carlson retains its Vegas Taqueria Cañonita. Before the purchase, Rodriguez said he tire-kicked all the Emerging Brands restaurants, which included Timpano Italian Chophouse, Samba Room, Star Canyon, Fishbowl and Mignon. In fact, he says he briefly entertained joining forces with Brandt and Brady Wood of the Entertainment Collaborative to purchase and operate Fishbowl. The plan was ultimately scuttled because of the stiff rent stapled to its Knox Street digs. Before he reopened the Plano taqueria, Rodriguez simplified the restaurant's décor and completely scrapped the menu (he says he solicited Pyles' blessing before he went through with the purchase, and he notes Pyles' creations had been scrubbed from the menu anyway). "It was easy to integrate because of the Mexican story line," adds Rodriguez, who recently opened his new Tex-Mexican cafe called Mi Cocina's Bianca Elena in Flower Mound, with another set for the Las Colinas area sometime in March. Under M Crowd, Taqueria Cañonita has a menu that features Mexican regional dishes along with tacos. He expects to have the Las Colinas taqueria revamped in early March.
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Somewhere in Arkansas someone is busy trying to breed a legless, four-winged chicken. There are just too many places serving hot and Buffalo versions of these flight forelimbs to supply the entire wing market. A group of businessmen in Garland is adding to the wing supply strain. Entrepreneur Tim Sexton just opened Wild Over Wings (WOW) with plans to open three more WOWs over the next 12 months in the Dallas area before he franchises the concept. WOW offers chicken wings in some 10 different flavors, including honey mustard, honey barbecue, teriyaki and its signature lemon-pepper flavor. "If you want to blast off, you can try extreme," says Sexton. "It's very, very hot. Brings tears to your eyes."