The chicken tortilla soup at Kitchen & Cantinia is made with red chiles and roasted chicken stock, hand-shredded chicken, avocado, cilantro and topped with traditional garnishes. (Photo by Caroline Fontenot)
The exterior of the new Goode Company concept, Kitchen & Cantina in the former location of Down House in the Heights. (Photo by Caroline Fontenot)
Inside the new Kitchen & Cantina in the Houston Heights. (Photo by Caroline Fontenot)
Kitchen & Cantina's interiors say, “Bienvenidos, y’all!” (as does a literal sign at the entrance) with its casual, welcoming space which is perfect for gathering with family and friends. (Photo by Caroline Fontenot)
At Kitchen & Cantina, you'll find chile con queso served with ground beef, onions, and tomatoes. And topped with all the "Goode" stuff: pico de gallo, sour cream, picadillo, guacamole. (Photo by Caroline Fontenot)
Levi Goode — chef and president of Goode Company Restaurants, the talented progeny of the late founder Jim Goode — is dutifully carrying on the family’s Houston hospitality tradition, opening a third Kitchen & Cantina restaurant this month. There are Kitchen & Cantinas in The Woodlands, Memorial and now the historic Houston Heights.
Kitchen & Cantina is inspired by the days Levi Goode and his dad spent fishing along the Gulf Coast, late nights back home on their ranch and the memories made with family matriarch Emma Longoria Goode, Levi’s Mexican born grandmother.
“My goal for Kitchen & Cantina was to create a menu that reflects my family’s culinary heritage and our traditional Texas lifestyle, combining rustic ranch cooking, fresh Gulf seafood, and homespun Mexican dishes that are an integral part of our personal history and memories,” Levi Goode says in a a statement. “We want our guests to feel like they are pulling up a seat at our family’s table.”
Located in the former stead of Down House, the new Heights Kitchen & Cantina dining room’s tall windows flood the space with natural light, and by night handcrafted Mexican pendant lights cast a flattering glow. You can take a seat at one of the reclaimed wood tables edged in steel with farm-style wood chairs, or slide into a cozy booth. The exposed white painted brick walls display hand-selected Texana and Mexicana pieces culled from the Goode family collection.
Here modern Tex Mex melds with classic Mexican dishes and ingredients and starts with scratch-made fresh tortillas and fire-roasted chiles and tomatoes for Kitchen & Cantina’s salsas. Guacamole can be a make-or-break dip. You can make it to your liking with Kitchen & Cantina’s made-to-order guac with toppings ranging from roasted garlic to toasted pepitas, bacon and chicharron.
It would be a pity not to include Kitchen & Cantina’s signature Mexican-style seafood cocktail Campechana on the menu. And thankfully, it is on this new Heights restaurant’s menu. It is truly one of the most remarkable versions made anywhere.
The Kitchen & Cantina Heights Menu
Ditto for Kitchen & Cantina’s chicken tortilla soup made with roasted chicken stock spiced with red chiles. Talking pork, Kitchen & Cantina uses the other white meat to fashion traditional pork tamales, pork and green chile empanadas and Goode’s carnitas. No ordinary pork dish, these carnitas take three days of marinating, braising and finally crisping the meat to create the depth of flavor you get when you slow a preparation down. Way down.
With a mastery of the grill, which no doubt comes from Levi Goode’s decades at his father’s side watching him tend to the embers burning under a live fire, fajitas (beef, chicken, or a combo with add-ons like jalapeno cheese smoked sausage, Texas quail and Gulf shrimp) are true to tradition. The fajita, so the legend goes, was born back in the 1930s in the ranch lands of South and West Texas when during cattle round-ups, the less expensive cuts from beef — like skirt steak — were a payment to the Mexican vaqueros (cowboys). They, in turn, cooked the meat directly over a mesquite-fueled campfire.
Living along the Gulf Coast, fresh-caught seafood plays a big part on many of Goode’s menus, including this one. You’ll find redfish on the half shell made with Texas farm-raised redfish robustly seasoned and mesquite-grilled before it’s basted with lime butter, and Laguna Madre shrimp created with jumbo wild-caught Gulf shrimp stuffed with jalapeños and cheese, then wrapped with bacon and slow roasted over mesquite embers.
Goode Co. Kitchen & Cantina in The Heights is located at 1801 Yale Street. The restaurant is open. Mondays through Wednesdays from 11 am to 9 pm, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 am to 10 pm (it is open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays when a Heights Theater concert is taking place) and Sundays from 11 am to 9 pm.