Ford Fry is coming home. (Photo by Emily Schultz)
Gulf red snapper from the Atlanta kitchens of Ford Fry (Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee)
Angry Mussels, a dish that Ford Fry fans in Atlanta can't get enough of. (Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee)
Oysters on the half-shell are sure to be on the State of Grace menu. These beauties are from a Fry restaurant in Atlanta. (Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee)
Beef short rib agnolotti, another favorite in Atlanta. (Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee)
Want to know the restaurant everyone in Houston will be talking about this fall? That’s easy: State of Grace, which opens at the end of September in Lamar-River Oaks Shopping Center. It’s the creation of Ford Fry — he of Atlanta culinary fame, who was born in Houston and lived here until 1988, when he left for college. State of Grace is the first Texas outpost of Fry’s empire; his Rocket Farm group runs eight restaurants in Atlanta, most famously The Optimist, King + Duke and St. Cecilia. State of Grace promises to add punch to the Houston dining scene in a big way. We can’t wait to book a table. James Brock chats with Fry about his newest venture.
How does it feel to open a restaurant in your hometown?
I’m not quite sure how it feels yet, but I know it will be interesting. We are always thinking about what style of restaurant would be fun. I’ve had this idea of a “Texas proud” restaurant, and the idea has evolved as I’ve grown as a chef. With State of Grace, it’s important for me, with my first restaurant in Texas, to respect the city and the region. Why now? I enjoy what I’m doing and have done a lot in Atlanta over the past three years, so I think it’s time to let our restaurants “settle” there, but I have to keep busy, so why not “home”?
State of Grace is named for the moment when a deer majestically raises its head when it realizes a hunter is nearby. How does the name of the restaurant speak to the food?
I want to cook food that I enjoy, as well as food that speaks to the community and Houston heritage. The image of this deer reminds me of growing up in Texas — going out hunting when it’s early and the dew is still out. I love places that cook with high-quality ingredients without the pretentiousness. State of Grace is just a really nice neighborhood restaurant.
On what’s coming out of the kitchen.
The focus is respecting the season and the food that comes from nearby. You might see dishes like grilled octopus salad and lobster ravioli. Being close to the Gulf, the food will naturally lean in that direction, but it will not be limited to just seafood.
Bobby Matos, formerly executive chef at Tony Vallone’s Ciao Bello, will lead the State of Grace kitchen. How did you know he was the one?
When other highly regarded Houston chefs all recommended someone, I had to listen. And he’s just such a cool dude; he’s laid-back like me.