Classic restaurants that have stood the test of time are a rare bird in The Woodlands, because in historical terms, the community is still so young. Longtime standbys, those that receive accolades upon opening, gather a following, and subsequently continue to accrue and maintain a solid base of loyal patrons over the course of many decades—those places are still mostly in their formative stages across the restaurant scene here. At almost thirty years old, and still going strong, Amerigo’s Grille can easily be considered the first classic upscale restaurant The Woodlands has produced.
One of the most wonderful times to be at Amerigo’s is at lunch. Follow your hostess through the lovely Terrazzo Room filled with original oil paintings, and take a seat in the Atrium. The room’s abundant natural light bounces off the crisp, white tablecloths, creating a mesmerizing effect. Sit with a friend in that soft, heavenly glow, and enjoy an impeccably prepared meal with the kind of informed, understated service that’s hard to come by. A glass of Pinot Grigio. An offering from the well-conceived, modern Italian menu. Some quiet conversation. You feel like the place was created just for you.
Connecting with guests, making them feel special, is foundational, says Tina Kosh Goodson, managing partner at Amerigo’s and daughter of owners Casey and Nancy Kosh. Tina grew up at the restaurant. “My parents first opened on Louetta [in Spring] in 1989, and then moved Amerigo’s in 1994 to The Woodlands, one of the first fine dining restaurants here,” says Tina.
Tina became a hostess at 16, eventually bartended, and then worked in several “front of house” positions until she went off to the University of Houston to study at the Conrad N. Hilton School of Restaurant Management. When she returned it was back to business, handling vendors, payroll, private dining and events, and the restaurant’s marketing. “My dad handles the back of house,” she says, along with longtime esteemed Executive Chef Arturo Osorio.
Tina says the team is committed to strengthening the fabric of the communities of The Woodlands area, at their restaurants, and across the area, through support many local non-profits.
Amerigo’s is the site of the annual Inspiration Ranch “Denim and Diamonds Gala” VIP reception, an event they host as part of the runup to the charity’s big gala evening at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott, which is underwritten in part by Amerigo’s. Inspiration Ranch provides equine activities and therapy to children and adults with special challenges, helping them to achieve emotional and physical milestones that might otherwise be unattainable. For 15 years, the Koshes have lent their time and support, says Tina. “This year’s gala was so much fun, lots of familiar faces!“
The restaurant is a longtime participant in “Houston Restaurant Weeks,” benefitting the Houston Food Bank and its distribution partner, Montgomery County Food Bank. And a fine arts scholarship is awarded each year in the name of Nancy and Casey Kosh by Pavilion Partners, the volunteer organization of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.
That’s just to name a few of the local organizations that receive their support.
But never were the family’s love of community and their restaurant skills needed in such a direct combination as when a devastating 2015 fire destroyed Wunsche Bros. Café, a local landmark whose closing left a gaping hole for longtime area residents.
The café and saloon had been open in one form or another since 1902, and generations of locals had grown up enjoying the restaurant’s welcoming, rustic feel. A live music stage showcased the likes of an early Lyle Lovett and Clint Black, and the local heritage menu was known for its chicken fried steak, sausage sauerkraut balls, homemade beer bread, and whiskey cake.
In 2018, the Koshes purchased the restaurant, still in its ruinous condition, and began the painstaking process of saving what they could, then restoring and renovating. It was an opportunity help heal the hearts of people who felt that without Wunsche Bros., something was missing.
“People wanted it to come back,” says Tina. “It took three years after we purchased it to get it back to normal. The Texas Historical Commission has guidelines for restoration. We were honored and humbled to bring back something that ties us all together. People were so excited!”
Reopened in 2020, Tina says the familiar Wunsche Bros. look and menu are back, along with a few updates. “We were able to create the kitchen in a way that works for us, a woodburning oven, a smoker that handles 500 pounds of meat at a time. We’ve added a few new items but stayed true to the menu,” she says. A new rooftop bar is open Thursday through Sunday with live entertainment and, as at Amerigo’s, the restaurant’s second floor is devoted to private event space. With the height of COVID behind them, people were ready to welcome the “new” old-time favorite, and the restaurant has been bustling ever since, says Tina.
The growth in The Woodlands and Spring has been remarkable over the last couple of years. Fresh new faces are coming into both restaurants, says Tina. They’re looking for, and receiving, that personal connection, the kind that binds a community together, and makes a restaurant into a classic.