Over the past 8 years, the Peli Peli restaurant group has created a series of successful dining destinations in Houston. The team has served Partner and Executive Chef Paul Friedman’s award-winning South African fusion cooking and has stayed true to its passion for creating extraordinary experiences for its clientele.
It's no coincidence that the group’s first expansion outside of Houston will be in Austin. The University of Texas at Austin was where partners Thomas Nguyen (BA '98, JD '01) and Michael Tran (BS '99) first met. The Longhorns rejoined forces in Houston several years later and began their journey with Chef Paul to launch Peli Peli in 2009.
Peli Peli has found a home within the diverse mix of cultures around Houston, celebrating its unique identity with its expression through food, service, and community. Their new location will be in downtown Austin's famed 2nd Street District.
In February 2017, Peli Peli won the People’s Choice Award at the Greater Houston Restaurant Association’s Golden Fork Awards Gala. This was the latest among a number of awards recognizing the group for their strong customer support.
Peli Peli’s first location was listed among OpenTable’s Top 100 American Fare Restaurants for 2013. By 2015, it was rated the #1 restaurant in Houston on TripAdvisor (out of 7,511 restaurants). By early 2016, less than a year after its Galleria location had opened, both spots were ranked among the top 10 restaurants in Houston on TripAdvisor.
The formula that Peli Peli has created is much more than the delectable cuisine. With each new location, the team develops eye-popping spaces. In its Galleria Houston location, the team constructed what Zagat has called one of Houston’s "Most Instagram Worthy" dining experiences with its dynamic, one-of-a-kind lighting display built into the ceiling.
Peli Peli Galleria
The team ran a successful NextSeed campaign in April and May of 2016 (under Texas intrastate regulations). The group launched Peli Peli Kitchen (“PPK”) in October of the same year. The vision behind PPK was a fast casual version of its high-end restaurant. The team had successfully pitched on the Food Network’s Restaurant Startup and received the largest funding offer in the show’s history. Negotiations after the show left the group parting ways with its potential investor, but the concept was executed and delivered beyond even their own expectations.
Peli Peli’s Austin location will be taking over a second-generation restaurant space on 2nd Street. The historic block is an established destination for thriving restaurant concepts. Peli Peli aims deliver a unique experience in the city’s dining scene while also serving a place that is deeply important to its founders.
Peli Peli is also resolute in its mission to serve others. In June 2015, Peli Peli launched an event called “Table Service Day,” closing its Galleria location for an evening to host a dinner for 150 homeless clients and volunteers with the Star of Hope Foundation.
In 2016, the Peli Peli team partnered with MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to host a prom for over 100 teens receiving care at the hospital. Numerous restaurants, community leaders, musical acts, and dozens of volunteers participated, dedicating their time and resources to creating an unforgettable evening for the children and their families.
In April 2017, Peli Peli will host a similar event with Austin Independent School District for their special needs students.
These initiatives are woven into the fabric of what Peli Peli is looking to accomplish with its business, serving the community, and the team hopes to inspire other restaurateurs to do the same.
As co-founder Thomas Nguyen, an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin, describes, “I think it’s great for us to be able to come back to Austin and give back. I owe a lot to this city.” UT Austin was where Thomas met co-founder Michael Tran who brought the team together. Chef Paul Friedman’s decades of restaurant experience around the globe had honed his skills across multiple genres. However, he had always wanted to open a restaurant that showcased his home country’s diverse dishes. Chef Paul was a client of Michael’s retail point-of-sale services company at the time, and together with Thomas, they embarked on their exciting journey together.