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The SCENE Magazine

It's All About the Experience at this Hidden Gem in La Porte

Main 101 Grill and Bar is a hidden gem nestled between two vibrant towns, Seabrook and Baytown. The freestanding building is an oasis on Main Street at the corner of Main and Broadway in the quaint downtown area of La Porte (101 E. Main Street). A fine-dining restaurant with a casual atmosphere, Main 101 offers a unique and gourmet cuisine while striving to coordinate the perfect dining experience. 

Owner and culinary creator, Joseph Bertuglia has been entrenched in the food industry for more than 50 years, “I was born and raised in the food industry,” Bertuglia said. “My dad owned a prime meat shop. I grew up picking out meats, and I gained an understanding of the process that goes into grading meats. With that experience, I have been able to incorporate the same understanding and knowledge into everything I order without being swayed by outside influence (sales reps, for example) about products such as ingredients, wines, seafood and meats.”

Bertuglia is selective about every single ingredient and every product he offers to his guests. He only uses the freshest produce and the highest quality of seafood. All of the beef is USDA Prime, the steaks and seafood are all hand-cut in house, the sauces are made at the time they are ordered, and each piece of meat and seafood is cooked with a very specific technique to enhance and showcase its flavors. 

“We hand pick everything. Our food quality is superb. I make my decisions based what I feel is the best value and quality. I ask myself ‘If I had to use this item for the rest of my life, would it be pleasing?’ The answer has to be YES!,” said Bertuglia, “It's the same with wine. We choose the wine because of the value it has, not because the sales rep says we should buy it.”

Main 101 specializes in combining flavors that are not ordinarily paired together to create unique dishes. When coming up with new menu items, Bertuglia starts with a specific ingredient. He then starts combining flavors, with consideration of balance and a composed plate introducing different flavors to create the dish that guests will love as much as he does. While the extensive menu offers a variety of items, daily features are also offered to tantalize the taste buds, such as the Broiled Salmon (topped with tarragon tomato sauce and jumbo lump crab, served on a bed of chickpea puree, drizzled with cucumber mint fruit salsa, served with zucchini towers stuffed with cremini mushrooms, spinach and feta cheese). All of the sauces are made at the time they are ordered. 
Bertuglia prides himself with showcasing an extensive menu with something for everyone. Menu items include Stuffed Mushrooms, Spinach & Artichoke Dip, Pan Seared Chicken, Broiled Crab-Stuffed Shrimp, Fish Wraps, seafood pasta, steaks and pork chops, Chicken Carbonara, House-Made Italian Hot Sausage (time tested family recipe), Pork Tenderloin, Thin-Crusted Pizza, seafood pasta, burgers, seafood and a variety of salads (including the Roasted Tomato and Crab – a new creation – roasted tomatoes topped with herbs and cheeses to wilt the lettuce beneath it, topped with jumbo lump crab).

Bertuglia is just as particular about the service as he is the food that is served at his restaurant. “When I train my wait staff,” said Bertuglia, “I tell them that they are not servers. I say, ‘You are a coordinator of the perfect dining experience’ – whether it’s a romantic date, hurried lunch, a business meeting, or a reception.” But don’t call him a perfectionist, his philosophies are inspired by his favorite quote from the late Vince Lombardi, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence." 

Taught to have respect for the food and respect for the customer, Bertuglia will often cut conversation short with a customer as soon as their food arrives.

"The conversation can wait. It's all about the food,” Bertuglia has been heard saying. "The food has to be eaten at the optimum time. It's very important. Conversation can happen at any time. The food is at this moment,” he explained.

Main 101 is the ideal location for a business lunch, a business gathering or a romantic dinner. Three nights a week, they feature live music playing softly in the background to enhance the ambiance. Bertuglia’s goal is to create an environment of absolute guest satisfaction, and it is the highest priority of the entire staff to achieve that goal. Based upon their deep-rooted principles of service, high-quality cuisine and excellent value, this fine dining contemporary grill was designed and built with the customer in mind.  

INSIDER TIP: If you enjoy good wine, visit Main 101 on Wine Down Wednesday when they offer 20% off any bottles of wine or on Thursday when they offer $5 wine by the glass, as well as half off alcohol (excluding top shelf).

By Shawn Domingues & Betsey Ennis