What They’re Doing to Mai’s Restaurant in Midtown

Mai, oh Mai: The folks at Dang La Architecture, perhaps best known for slathering Styrofoam, a tan stucco-like surface, and a low thin beard of fakish-looking stone over the facades of several formerly distinctive-looking Midtown restaurants, have done it again. This time the firm’s chicken-fried-steak-inspired vision has completely transformed the exterior of Mai’s Vietnamese restaurant on Milam St. at Francis. Mai’s was famously singed by a fire in February, which destroyed the building’s interior and collapsed the roof, leaving only a 2-story brick shell. That made the perfect canvas for Dang La’s Second Life-like design concept: sort of an urban palazzo — minus those superfluous middle floors.


Inside, a rather different design team is in charge: Studio RED Architects’ Trung Doan tells Real Estate BisNow the new 7,500-sq.-ft. Mai’s Restaurant at 3403 Milam will have room for twice as many customers as before (more than 200) and will include a private dining room, a full bar, and a second-floor seating area. The restaurant is expected to reopen “early this winter.”

Photos: Aaron Carpenter. Rendering: Studio RED Architects

16 Comment

  • I like the new look.

  • Who cares what it will look like – I just want that food!!! I miss it very, very badly!

  • Rise you Vietnamese Phoenix, rise, I say!

  • Yeah, rise to provide food that’s only good when drunk. Seriously, have any of you tried the place sober? Or tried any other Vietnamese places in town?

  • Looks like a huge mistake to redesign it the same way it used to be. The front door facing Milam again? You could only park 3 or 4 cars there, all the real parking was in that lot across Milam(SMARKETING!) or the other lot with the black heart painted on the ground. Also, theyre bringing back the bar? Jeez, I never saw anyone ever sitting at the bar for a drink. The waiting area was always painfully tight. They need to either expand their imagination or hire some serious eatery designers. If theyre smart they’ll go for a partially bi-level open concept and build out an air-condition/heated vestibule as a waiting area and to keep the panhandlers away from waiting patrons. Much as I loved going there, the back alley of the joint always stunk when walking to/from parking.

  • EFIS and fake stone??? I guess they should call it “phoc”itecture. :)

  • Vietnamese Lightning?

  • I want my bun stat! HURRY UP!

  • It’s the best damn Vietnamese inner loop whether drunk or sober or daylight or moonlight. But I do hope the head chef and staff return too. Most of them are at Red Pier these days which is next to Les Grival, and yes, they are open till 3 a.m. on weekends to support the drunk crowd. Most of the menu feels like a copy of Mai’s when I was in there 2 weeks ago. Another missed opportunity for Van Loc!!!!

  • I second the motion that says the food is only good when you’re drunk. I was there a couple of days before it burned down and probably will never go back, seriously, even at 3AM there’s better food around.

  • Pho tau bay is pretty good, but isn’t as good as it was when it first opened out in Klein/Veterans Memorial..

  • EFIS and fake stone??? I guess they should call it “phoc”itecture. :)


    Now *that* is a savory comment.

  • You know, it really has more to do with what the insurance would pay for and how quickly they could get back on-line than any other factors.

    It’s Mai’s! Not Brennan’s.

    Hurry up and re-open! I won’t even notice the damn exterior.

  • The fire did everyone a favor. There is much better Vietnamese food in Houston.

  • great new look..love the food..I found this place doing my late night bike riding..I am just waiting on those doors to reopen…

  • i don’t know what the haters are talking about. i eat there late night, for lunch and dinner as well. they have BY FAR the best vietnamese egg rolls in the city. the food is great day or night and i dont drink. i see these haters talking about better vietnamese restaurants but haven’t seen ONE mentioned by any of them. well folks, let’s have it if you think there is better! somehow i dont think i’ll get a reply.