Culture / Foodie Events

Houston’s Hottest New Restaurant — and the Chef Who Came Home

BY Laurann Claridge // 12.02.15

Houston foodies are abuzz about the homecoming of Ford Fry — the Houston-reared chef who’s made quite a name for himself in Georgia with such critically adored eateries as The Optimist, JCT Kitchen and St. Cecilia. When rumor spread that Fry had secured a space just across the street from his alma mater, Lamar High School, curiosity hit a fever pitch.

In late October, he finally unveiled State of Grace — his first restaurant outside the Atlanta metro area. Fry and chef Bobby Matos have developed a menu as diverse as the cultures that flourish in Houston, from its Southern roots to its proximity to the Gulf and the Hill Country, not to mention the profound effect immigrants from Mexico and Asia have had on our food and drink scene. The interiors, care of Ford’s in-house designer Elizabeth Ingram and architects Square Feet Studio, remind us of a mod hunting lodge with loden velvet draperies, custom blackened-iron doors and windows, a marble-topped oyster bar and dozens of Lilliputian antlers.

Must-have offerings include lobster hushpuppies (warm orbs of fried cornmeal studded with lobster and powdered sugar, accompanied by a soft cane-syrup butter; $9) and hearth-grilled Spanish octopus, served with roasted potatoes and mustard-dressed salad greens ($18). Sharing is the best way to work your way through generous entrées such as roast chicken with a lemon-tinged velouté over creamy smashed potatoes ($24) or sticky, smoky beef rib that falls off its mighty bone even before you can roll it in the bright herb salad served alongside in a warm Malaysian roti ($52).

Pastas abound, from tender agnolotti stuffed with pear and pecorino ($16) to a house-made textured chitarra noodle that cradles shrimp, breadcrumbs and a roasted tomato soffrito ($20). Sides include crab-fried rice ($11) and spaghetti squash with a crunch of toasted pistachio ($7). Pastry chef Chrysta Poulos woos us with her boozy smoked chocolate sundae ($9) and sticky toffee pudding served with house-made malted-milk ice cream ($9).

The restaurant has been packed nightly, but if reservations are a problem, grab a stool at the oyster bar — if you arrive before 7 pm on weekdays you can take advantage of one of Houston’s choicest bivalve happy hours.

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