Author Archives: pauliepetro

About pauliepetro

Restaurateur, Connector, and Food & Beverage community supporter

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Vasili Kritikos

Vasili was born right here in Houston Texas in 1995, also the year the Houston Rockets won their second consecutive NBA championship. His parents claim that his Rockets fandom stems from watching the NBA playoffs while his mother was hospitalized during birth.


His grandparents hail from the Greek islands of Chios and Sparta with his father being first generation born here in the states, while Vasili and his two brothers are second generation. Vasili takes pride in his Greek heritage, and has visited Greece twice in his lifetime. He even pursued the art of Greek dancing, and freelances as a Greek dancer at various locations around town.

Many of Vasili’s family members were or are a part of the restaurant industry, and he is no stranger to working in the front and back of house. Throughout his childhood he helped his parents in many of their “Mom’s” franchise restaurants with his duties ranging from working cafeteria style food lines, catering, deliveries, expediting, and shopping for the restaurants. He also has experience bussing and serving which he puts to good use wherever he works.

Vasili graduated high school in 2013, and immediately attended Lone Star College Tomball for two years pursuing an arts degree in music. He changed his major however when he transferred to the University of Houston and decided to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. He hopes to practice corporate law in the future and participate in politics at the state and local levels. “What I’ve learned as a young political scientist is the real changes to our everyday lives happen locally. In order to give back to the community and small businesses like the ones that raised me, I want to run for the offices closest to them and that can have the most positive impact upon them.”

Hobbies of his including music, dancing, politics, gaming, and socializing. He is a former clarinet/bass clarinet player through 8 years of middle and high school band. Greek dancing is no stranger to him as growing up in a Greek family taught him many moves and techniques. Politics and political figures have always fascinated him, and he says he wants to make his name amongst “The small list of good Greek politicians”. Technology and gaming has always mesmerized him, and during his time at Lone Star, he worked for 2 years as a sales associate for GameStop. He states that working sales taught him many different things about the service industry than his long history in the restaurant business. Customers and regulars at the store that he worked at were always excited to see Vasili behind the counter, knowing that when he was on the clock, their transactions would be efficient with genuine customer service because of his passion for gaming and his desire to provide the best service possible. Vasili is not afraid to strike up a conversation with strangers, and he always tries to maintain professionality and courtesy to all.

He first heard about Paulie’s through friends of his siblings, and as soon as he started living on campus at the University of Houston, he wanted to be a part of our team. Italian food has always been one of his favorites, and he is a coffee fanatic, always excited to try new brews and roasts. Our shortbread cookies quickly made their way to the top of his favorite list!

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Daniel Perez

Daniel was born in Santa Cruz, California, moved to Sugar Land, TX as a child and claims to be “Texas to the core.” The phrase, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but got here as soon as I could,” definitely applies to Daniel, or so he claims.


At a young age he fell in love with the game of baseball. There was nothing like the rush felt between the lines. Baseball became life. He was obsessed with being the best player he could be. He spent countless hours practicing, often times alone. Dan played baseball throughout high school and was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to play ball in college.

Unfortunately, the dream was short lived as he blew his shoulder out in first semester at North Central Texas College. Forced to get surgery and months of rehab, Dan had to make the decision to give up the dream and call it quits. He transferred to Blinn College in College Station, spent a semester there and was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, where he is currently seeking a degree in Business Management.

After baseball, he was left searching for another outlet. Dan picked up the guitar and began teaching himself to play. “It was almost like falling in love with baseball all over again.” He spent hours learning new songs until finally writing his own song. Music has become the next passion. He currently plays bars and venues around the Houston area with his band, The Good Heart. Dan plays rhythm guitar and lead vocals. In between working at Paulie’s and going to school, he dedicates to music. Like many of us, music has always been there to express himself. His hope is that his music can do that for other people. “There is something about music that lets us all know we are not alone in whatever we may be going through and I think that is very special.”

Between working, going to school, or playing music, you can find Dan playing softball and getting together with friends and family to have a good time. There is nothing like a cold beer, good people, and good entertainment.  Dan is also brother-in-law to Paulie’s Beverage Director, Matt Zaldivar.

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Lindsey Morris

Lindsey is a native Houstonian who is returning to Paulies.  She is a well known professional in the Houston coffee community.


We consider Lindsey to be an OB (Original Barista). She spent her teen years in coffee shops and cafes and she was already wrapped up in the world of coffee when the third wave of craft coffees began to emerge.

While Lindsey tried the traditional route to a career, college right out of high school, she discovered quickly that this was not the path for her. She did try. She tried anthropology. She tried history. She tried journalism. She tried philosophy. Even business was just not for her. There was nothing to be passionate about and nothing to get excited about learning. Except coffee.

When Lindsey turned 18, she quickly moved out and moved to the Montrose. She wanted a change from the suburbia of Sugarland. She wanted to be in the thick of the city. She got a job at Agora and found some of her passion. It was here that she had a few customers comment on how they loved the way she made coffee. A light went on in her head. Lindsey started to ponder on the ways to make coffee better for her customers. She even had nightmares about making the cappuccino froth just right.

However it was at Taft Street Coffee that she truly began her education as a barista. It was here that she was introduced to the varieties of craft coffee and began to understand the process of picking and brewing the perfect cup of coffee.

Lindsey, the ever adventurous one, decided to make another bold move. She realized that she needed to see more of the world, to live in a place where she did not know many people, to find out what it life was like on her own terms. While California was amazing, Lindsey learned that you need to move there with a purpose. It makes daily life easier.

Back in Texas, she began working at Catalina Coffee. She was surrounded by a nice machine, a more traditional Italian menu, and a roaster. She learned latte art, proper espresso extraction, pour overs, and other methods. She was even given the opportunity to compete in barista competitions.

Lindsey was most recently roasting for Boomtown Coffee and double timing it at Paulies. Lindsey has a true passion for what she does. While Lindsey is not working, she enjoys playing with her two adorable puppies and she even blows glass.

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Kristina Cunning

Our newest addition to the Paulie’s team – and recently engaged!


Kristina grew up on the east side in the Northshore area of Houston. She always enjoyed science classes in school and taking Biology her senior year got her extremely interested in the subject. She graduated high school in 2011 and started college at the University of Houston that fall as a biology major. Kristina didn’t necessarily have a plan, but as she began to give her future more thought, she realized that she wanted to help people, but wasn’t exactly sure how to pursue it. By the end of her freshman year of college she was an avid home cook and quite passionate about food. She finally started looking into the nutrition field and realized there was a way to combine the things she loved most. She would be able to pursue her scientific interests by learning about the human body and its interactions with food. She would also be able to provide a service to people by helping them create a better relationship with food and hopefully living healthier lives. Kristina is currently 2 classes away from graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nutrition. She plans on furthering her education with a dietetic internship and possibly a Master’s degree in the field. Kristina hopes to become a registered dietitian and eventually work with educating people in underprivileged communities. The one thing her mom always made sure of when she was growing up was that their family had a wholesome meal to eat, something many people are unfortunately unfamiliar with and one of the biggest determining factors for where she’d like to focus in the dietetic field.

Kristina began her first job the summer of her freshman year of college as a Barista at Dolce Delights. The job started her off in the field of hospitality and also exposed her to the coffee shop culture. She really enjoyed working with coffee and eventually found a job with Java Pura Coffee Roasters, a Houston-based coffee roasting company. There Kristina worked as a catering barista. People would hire Java Pura to send baristas with coffee setups (ranging from brewed coffee to several espresso bars) to various venues and serve beverages as needed. Working with Java Pura required a lot of independence and also introduced her to craft coffee.

Kristina has loved cooking and baking for as long as she can remember. She finds that there’s something beautiful about the way food unites people. When she was young, cooking would involve making spaghetti in the microwave or baking tollhouse cookies. As she grew up, her cooking abilities, thankfully, evolved and she developed her own personal style. Kristina began to ask if she could cook dinner for the family or bake cookies for the party she was attending, and realized how great it was to make people happy with her cooking. Recently, she has really gotten into coffee and beer/wine and finds it quite extraordinary how much there is to learn about these subjects. Kristina and her fiancée just purchased their first in-home espresso machine, which they are super excited to start experimenting with. Kristina has always felt strongly connected to nature. When she was a kid you’d practically have to drag her indoors at the end of the day. She likes to disconnect herself from the hustle of the world by camping somewhere beautiful every once and awhile. She really enjoys bike riding, which was her main source of transportation for several years, and also likes playing volleyball, racquetball, swimming and hiking. Kristina is very excited to start gardening and composting and is beginning to work on lessening her carbon footprint by living a more self-sustaining lifestyle. Music has and always will be an important part of her life. She was pretty dedicated to band in school and sometimes misses the feeling playing music gave her. In fact, she just picked up her flute for the first time in a year the other day, and was so happy she could still play a quality sound. When Kristina has the time, she enjoys relaxing by listening to good music. Bluegrass, folk and classic rock are her favorites.

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Haley John

Haley was born in Arlington, TX and moved to Houston when she was 11. Haley currently resides in North Houston with her close friends Sarah, Reese, and their 2 year old daughter Paisley Mae. There, she goes by the name “Hay Hay” and spends her time enjoying life drawing “hoo hoo’s” with sidewalk chalk, blowing bubbles, and taking care of her best friend, an 8 year old English Bull Terrier named Acacia.


Haley has a love for photography, music, and art. After graduating high school, Haley began working with a photography company in which she photographed a variety of little league sports. She learned a lot on how to operate studio lighting and loved meeting new people on every photoshoot. While working there, Haley met her close friend Inga, who has inspired her to be the artist she is today. Haley is the face of Inga’s photography business, Lady Rouge Studios, where she models different pin up looks Inga whips up. Together, they create beautiful and unique artwork and keep each other sane by utilizing their creativity.

After working as a photographer, Haley began working in retail at Interior Fabrics. Her experience there left her with knowledge on how to calculate yardage for upholstery and window treatments, along with a new found love for interior décor. Sewing is one of Haley’s passions, and brings out her machine every chance she gets. Her mom introduced Haley to sewing machines at an early age and taught her everything she knows. It wasn’t until a few years ago when Haley obtained her own machine, and has not stopped creating since. She enjoys making a variety of items, including draperies and window treatments, pillows, blankets, dog beds, table runners, skirts, bags, fabric notebooks, and rugs. During the Christmas season, you’ll find Haley sewing up a storm of Christmas stockings, all of which are unique in their own way, and only one or two of each pattern are made. Fabric is one of her main art supplies, having a countless number of uses. Haley uses different textures of fabric to paint with, as well as creating a palate to paint on. She also uses fabric to manipulate lighting when photographing, with different colored sheers and textures on lamps. Recently, Haley began printing on fabric, giving her many ideas for future projects.

When Haley isn’t sewing, photographing, or painting, you’ll find her playing her instruments. She has played the flute and piccolo since she was 11, and picked up saxophone last year when her step dad gave her his from high school. For her, there is nothing more peaceful and relaxing than playing her instruments.

Haley is ecstatic to be working at Paulie’s, surrounded by all the creative people of Houston. This is her first time working at a restaurant, and has enjoyed learning about our espresso machine, drinks, and overall aspects of working at in a restaurant. She loves the fast pace environment, while still being able to connect with her customers and meet many wonderful people. In the few weeks of being here, she has already met many talented and interesting people and hopes to meet more friends to play music and create art with.

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Sarah Troxell

Sarah was born and raised (mostly) in Houston, Texas, with a few brief stints in Alaska, Canada, and Australia as a small child, and Austin while she attended The University of Texas.


Sarah followed advice from her Dad and began working in restaurants in high school as a hostess. He told her if she gained restaurant experience, she would always be able to find a job. Little did he know this small piece of advice would end up shaping her passion for the food and beverage industry. Sarah worked a variety of jobs in restaurants while studying to be a pharmacist at UT. Her passion for the industry grew so much that she left The University of Texas to pursue and eventually obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Culinary Management from the Art Institute of Houston. Her science and math minded brain really proved to be a great asset while attending culinary school.

Sarah has been cooking professionally for six years at a variety of restaurants ranging from food trucks to fine dining establishments in Houston. No stranger to the front of house, Sarah decided to transition from the kitchen to the counter at Paulie’s to learn different aspects of the restaurant industry from the talented staff and management at Paulie’s. She loves the environment of Paulie’s, as well as utilizing her ability to multi-task. One day she hopes to open a 24 hour diner in Houston, or an oyster shack on the beach in northern California.

When she isn’t at work, you will most likely find Sarah drinking an espresso and a vanilla flat white at Southside, or slurping ramen noodles in Chinatown. She loves reading and collecting cookbooks of all varieties. In her spare time Sarah loves cooking for her friends and family. Her all time favorite thing to make is risotto. She has made risotto at least once a week for over four straight years. She also loves baking (and eating) desserts of all kinds. She loves spending time with her boyfriend, who is also a chef, and her siamese ragdoll cat Roux. When she finds time to get away from the restaurant for a few days, Sarah enjoys traveling to see her favorite bands Phish and Modest Mouse. Sarah loves living in Montrose, and is definitely enjoying her short commute to work at Paulie’s!

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Paul VanDemark

Paul is a Yankee by way of Alma, Michigan, but we’ve adopted him as a Houstonian.


Alma is a very small town, around 10,000 people; his high school class was around 150 students.  Paul was into sports, mainly football and wrestling, but he also played basketball and found a late, but strong, interest in Ultimate Frisbee.  He wrestled from 4th – 10th grade before he decided to take football training more seriously.

After High School, Paul moved to Upland, Indiana, another very small rural town, to attend Taylor University.  He graduated with a BA in English Literature.  He also played football in college, but gave it up after grades came in freshman year.  Taylor University focuses strongly on community and building life long relationships.  When Paul got married in 2013, his best man and groomsmen were all college friends.

One of Paul’s most favorite experiences while at Taylor was being the President of the Integration of Faith and Culture. He scheduled concerts, hosted authors and other figures for speaking engagements, and showed movies to create a dialogue on campus that otherwise would not have existed.  This experience drove Paul to Texas after college to attempt to work with live music.

After only a few months of moving to Houston, Paul landed work with some of the biggest artists in the world and helped put on the largest live music event in Houston. After working in live music for three years, and becoming a married man, Paul decided to pursue a job that includes his second love, coffee.  His wife teases that vacations are often not the most exciting because he is always dragging her to local coffee shops.  Basically that’s what has brought him to Paulie’s.  He also loves pasta, but coffee is his true love behind the counter.

The mysterious lady mentioned, his wife, is named Alice.  They live with only one pet, Puppy, which is an energetic golden colored long-haired Chihuahua mix.  They live in The Heights and like walking Puppy in the neighborhood and on the bike path nearby.  They also attend Sojourn Heights, a bible based Acts 29 network church.  Alice helps by serving on the media team and Paul helps prepare and serve coffee to the congregation. They met while attending Sojourn before the church plant was able to afford it’s own building.  Paul would help set up chairs and get the PA tuned and mics checked.  Alice would help set up slides for songs and microphones each Sunday: over time they became friends, and later husband & wife.  Paul & Alice still attend and greatly enjoy the community they have found within the church.  Every Wednesday they get together with a group of friends from church and have dinner, jet him know if you ever want to join!

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Nicole Dallas

Nicole took time off to help her husband open a church, and has since re-joined the Paulie’s team.  She also found out recently she’s having a baby!


Nicole is a native Houstonian born and raised, but due to her gypsy heritage she’s most content when living out of a suitcase. She has spent time in 24 countries, countless cities, and the rest of the world is on her bucket list. She lived in Barcelona, Spain, for a little while to learn Spanish and experience a new culture, and got a surprise marriage proposal from her high school sweetheart (now husband) in Paris, France. But despite their shared love for Europe and her constant desire to wander, she and her husband have settled in Montrose for now, and the neighborhood holds a special place in her heart. She considers the Paulie’s crew as family, and if you know her, you know our Chicken Piccata is her favorite dish in the entire world, which both make staying in Houston easier.

She and her husband came to Montrose two years ago to plant a local church, Sojourn Montrose, and have devoted their lives to seeing it grow and flourish. Sojourners strive to be a people that open their lives and homes to one another and to the neighborhood of Montrose. They humbly admit they’re an imperfect church, yet have a deep desire to show people grace and love. Nicole will tell you that planting a church is the most difficult thing they’ve ever done, but hands down the most rewarding.

Nicole may be the quietest one in a room, but she loves being in the midst of people and finds joy in serving them. She has been working in coffee shops since high school and one of her favorite things about being in the food and beverage industry is having opportunities to listen to peoples‘ unique stories, especially in such a diverse place like Montrose. People bond over good food and drink and she enjoys getting to be a part of those experiences.

Though she’s not a fan of the Houston heat, Nicole enjoys biking, riding her moped, swimming, visiting various coffee shops, and relaxing at Menil Park with a good book. Of course, she’d prefer to do all of these things with her husband and her friends by her side. At home you can often find her playing the piano, something she’s been doing for the past 21 years and loves. She’s classically trained but a perfectionist to a fault, so getting her to play for you would take some serious persuasion (gaining courage is something she’s working on). She also enjoys baking and decorating cakes and dreams about becoming a pastry chef one day. Her biggest dream though is to one day be a mom.

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Dean Borgerding

As promised, I am releasing a “resume” of each of my 10 Baristas at Paulie’s, one per week. We have a talented bunch behind our counter, I’d like to share their stories with you all.

Last, but certainly not least, I bring you the DEAN.


Dean has resided in Houston off and on since 1998. Before that, he spent most of his life overseas due to his father’s job in the oil business. After completing high school and a taste of college, he joined the Army as an active duty soldier for the next four years as an MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) crew-member. After receiving an honorable discharge, he moved back to Texas and re-enlisted with the Reserves as an MP (military police) for another three years. He began his food and beverage career at various establishments as well as continuing his higher education at the Art Institute of Houston for Computer Animation. After a couple of years, he transferred to the University of Houston to pursue a painting degree. Shortly after he transferred, he found out that he was having a child, well not him but his partner Jacki.

His food and beverage history began in a little coffee shop known as Kaldi’s. It doubled as a sandwich shop and the only non-commercial cafe in Huntsville, Texas.  Like many things in Huntsville, it no longer exists.

Fast forward a bit to a time of extra hot lattes, upside-down caramel macchiatos and burnt coffee. Dean spent two and a half years grinding that little, green siren’s beans. He took many things from that time, specifically how to expedite long lines and what not to do with an espresso machine.

The next stepping stone took the form of a small, off the beaten path cafe with religious undertones. Taft Street Coffee is where he first began meeting the people that would have lasting effects in regards to the type of Barista he would become. A coffee shop inside a church provided a well of interesting experiences, some good and others, not so much. In the end, the space worked it’s way into a lot of people’s lives.

Dean began his employment at Paulie’s in November 2011. His current position at Paulie’s is Beverage Director and Assistant Manager which makes him the individual who is responsible for Paulie’s tasty beer, wine and coffee selections.

While at Paulies, Dean was shortly employed at other well known Houston shops. He bartended and crafted coffee at Double Trouble in Midtown under the Robins. He was also part of the opening crew at Blacksmith which is housed in the old Mary’s location. These employment opportunities also added to his knowledge of coffee beverages.

Outside of Paulies, he spends time with his partner and daughter. Museums, Menil park, coffee shops and local restaurants are where they like to get into trouble. He is sometimes seen toting a digital Nikon or some other hipster approved film camera. If you find him at home, he will most likely be caught purging his internet history of online hat shopping, trying to cook and making sure his daughter doesn’t leave the nest with subpar musical taste. His love of coffee is only fully illustrated by the fact that every night he prays to his made-up African coffee god while holding a rosary he constructed out of coffee beans. “Praise be to Coffea Arabica and a thousand blessings on your espresso!”

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Rebecca Qian

As promised, I am releasing a “resume” of each of my 10 Baristas at Paulie’s, one per week. We have a talented bunch behind our counter, I’d like to share their stories with you all.


Becca has one of the strongest work ethics I’ve seen at this restaurant, always ready for the next challenge! 


Rebecca Qian started with Paulie’s nearly two years ago. She is currently known as the “Cookie Monster” as she spends most of her time baking and helping customers plan their customized shortbread order. If you have placed an order for cookies in the past year, you have probably corresponded with her. She loves the challenge of exceeding customers’ expectations, no matter the theme, especially characters from the movie Frozen…

What attracted her originally to Paulie’s was the opportunity to learn coffee with Greenway Coffee.  She has come a long way from the day when the steam-wand was a foreign object. Her first goal was to win a community Latte Art Throw-down competitions. She has since accomplished that goal, in addition to becoming the 2014 Champion of the Paulie’s Latte Art Tournament.

Outside of work, Becca is a full-time post-bac student at University of Houston. She focuses on nutrition in hopes to obtain her Registered Dietician Certification. She graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee in 2011 with a Bachelor’s in Cognitive Studies and minor in Corporate Strategy and Chinese. Becca has worked in Research and Healthcare in Chapel Hill, Nashville and Philadelphia.  She stands by her dream to one day change the way people eat and see food.  She understands that the food and beverage industry has a huge impact on how people eat.  Right now she is learning all she can at Paulie’s and school.  She hopes to continue her studies at the VA hospital program to obtain her internship and Master’s in nutrition.

She has a great deal of restaurant experience for her age.  As much as she loves being in new cities meeting new people she finally felt at home in Houston.  She fell in love with the weather, people, and really just everyone at Paulie’s!

She has a slight obsession with Hello Kitty, elephants, sundresses, and Capoeira. A part of her will always believe that if she was given a really awesome cape and tiara she could save the world one day…with the help of delicious food!