The Crescent Court carcass of Phil Romano's We Oui, his casual restaurant that was a little bit French and a little bit slutty, is poised to morph into an upscale casual New Orleans grubbery called Gumbo's. But first the new concept owners, Austin-based Fired Up Inc., will have to tear out We Oui's red and black interior appointments. The good thing about this new concept though is that We Oui's French-language instruction pickup lines piped into the bathrooms will be just as apropos as they were in Phil's brainchild. Fired Up was launched in 1997 by Norman Abdallah and Creed Ford, a couple of Brinker alumni, and the name is apropos. The company's first move was to gobble up the six-unit Johnny Carino's Country Italian Restaurant chain in 1997. They promiscuously expanded it to 34 units, with another 24 or so due this year. Fired Up purchased Gumbo's in 1999, and they now operate two in Austin with another on the way in Denver, as well as Dallas.
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Santiago Pena, a contractor and metal sculptor whose works included the interior of Star Canyon and the bug on the front of the defunct Dragonfly Restaurant and bar, is opening a taqueria in Deep Ellum called Santiago's Taco Loco Express. With 14 varieties of soft tacos and four burritos, Taco Loco will be mostly take-out. And delivery. To execute the latter, Pena says he's purchased a PT Cruiser he plans to paint lime green with chili pepper flames licking the front fenders...Richard Chamberlain, owner of Chamberlain's Steak and Chop House, has found ichthyology. He and his partner Jeff Barker plan to open Chamberlain's Fish Market Grill next month in the former Grady's space just down the street. Fish Market Grill will be a hybrid restaurant and fishmonger. Why a seafood restaurant? It seems some of Chamberlain's current employees have hit a meat ceiling, so Chamberlain is opening more opportunities. "We have waiters that are really in line for management positions," he says. And if the new Chamberlain's déjà vu's you into thinking you're in Mel Hollen's Bar & Fine Dining, it's no martini-induced illusion. The genuine Mel Hollen is giving Chamberlain's that "old San Francisco" look with lots of dark wood, brass and glass...Kent Ingram, the front-of-the-house heavy who has filled slots at the Mansion, Voltaire and Steel, has left Texas de Brazil to sell wine for Republic Beverage...Steve Occhipinti, the front-of-the-house heavy who has done time at Pappas Bros., Fish and Lombardi Mare, is no longer at Jimmy Lu's. So where oh where is Steve O?