Local businessman discusses riverfront restaurant, ambitious plan

Published 12:04 am Saturday, October 21, 2023

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PORT NECHES — Local businessman and restaurateur Min Dai met with construction representatives along the Port Neches riverfront this week to discuss plans for his new vision.

Dai, who is partnering with Abe Song of Ko Korean Grill, are hoping to break ground in November for a double decker, beach house-style restaurant adjacent to Neches River Wheelhouse.

Dai said the family friendly restaurant would have interior seating upstairs, which can double as a venue for events. There are going to be four pickle ball courts on site, two beach volleyball courts and a sand beach kids play area with room for a large 20 to 30 foot screen outside for movie nights and hosting games and live music.

Dai said the restaurant is going to be pet friendly.

“The idea is to have a place where the entire family can hang out, where adults can be entertained, kids will have something they can do themselves, enjoy the weather,” Dai said. “We’re not just getting into one specific area. It’s going to change what people view as a restaurant.”

Dai said there would be a permanent kitchen on site that will have a full service menu but will also have an additional kiosk for local food trucks that come in on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

“We’ll see different kinds of food so the community can try a lot of different flavors without us changing our menu,” he said.

The food trucks will switch out different cuisines; one truck may serve barbecue, another may have specialty tacos or Mediterranean food — all in addition to what the house menu serves.

As for the exact menu, that’s in the works, Dai said, but it would be family friendly. There will be entrees, a lunch special, dinner and happy hour.

The success of the neighboring Neches River Wheelhouse isn’t lost on the restaurateur. He said they are hoping for something like the Wheelhouse’s success but also with a goal to introduce something new.

“Because I think when people think of a restaurant they feel like you just sit down, you have your meal and you leave,” Dai said. “This is more of a restaurant that can keep you entertained, where it’s no longer just the restaurant. You’re going to it for a whole experience. And it’s going to be able to cater to everyone from all ages.”

Dai said some people might have gotten false information about just building another bar, which is not correct.

Also at the riverfront with Dai and Song were Bruce Reyes of Construction Managers of SETX and Linsey McNeel of C+E Interiors.

“I think this is going to be unique and very fitting to the community. There’s not many like it around,” Reyes said. “It’s got a lot of thought put into it.”

Reyes believes the restaurant is going to attract a lot of attention for future developments down the road.

Earlier this month Dai received the approval of the City of Port Neches to purchase the 4.5 acres of land on Lee Avenue.

Port Neches City Manager Andre Wimer said Dai would have the same guidelines as the Wheelhouse, which received the go-ahead more than 10 years ago.

“The land was conveyed for $1 and Mr. Dai’s investment is in the $4 million range in terms of construction and also including furniture and fixtures,” Wimer said earlier this month.

The agreement between the City and Dai requires construction to begin in six months, but Dai indicated he wants to start construction in November with an anticipated completion date, weather permitting, in May 2024.

And just as provisions with The Wheelhouse, Dai’s property cannot be sold for five years and the operation of the restaurant/bar must be in compliance with Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission regulations.

The proposed development has been in the works for several years.

— Written by Mary Meaux