Texas native and restaurateur Ford Fry returns to his local roots with State of Grace, opening late-September in his hometown of Houston. Expect a blend of Tex-Mex, little-bit of Vietnamese, and Gulf-inspired cuisine bursting with classic Southern charm.
THE FOOD AND DRINK
Local chef Bobby Matos, most recently of Ciao Bello, was tapped by Ford in June to be the executive chef. Matos plans to feature clean, fresh, seasonal fare reflective of Houston's surrounding palates, farms, and waterways. Simple food well executed is Matos' speciality and he insists he isn't looking to follow crazy trends.
"We try to give our customers what they want to eat not tell them what is 'cool' to eat," he says.
Expect everything that leaves State of Graces' open-hearth kitchen to be fine-tuned with an eye to quality and detail, right down to the house-made charcuterie, bread, and saltines (find the latter, made by pastry director Chrysta Poulos, at the oyster bar). Mains will include lobster ravioli, sorghum glazed ham and figs, and grilled octopus salad. The desert menu will include treats like sticky toffee pudding, candy bar chocolate tarts, and a riff on one of Ford's favorite childhood treats of pecan ice cream balls covered in hot fudge. Not to be forgotten is the stunning glass front room where a large variety of small production oysters from the east coast and gulf will tempt guests.
Beverage director Lara Creasy carefully curated wine-focused drink menu embraces classic cocktails and creative flavors. Diners can select from about 200 wines, 8 craft beers, and updates on the southside, the Mary Pickford, and even a Long Island iced tea utilizing house-made ingredients, seasonal produce, and artisan spirits.
"The world of wine and craft cocktails can sometimes veer toward the overly intellectual," says Creasy.
"I never want any guest to have to overthink what they are having at one of our restaurants. I just want them to enjoy it, and have a good time."
While guests will initially come for the food, they'll linger thanks to design director Elizabeth Ingram's well-appointed touches. A "simple, elegant, timeless, Continental" vibe will be produced through a palette of loden greens, grays, and warm whites. Details found throughout the restaurant will incorporate blackened steel doorways, natural walnut, velvet & wool curtains, intricate floor tiles, leather & woven wool upholstery, and marble & brass elements. Comprised of a private dining room, side room, large main dining room, and oyster bar the 185-seat restaurant could feel disjointed, but Ingram says an underlying thread of consistency ensures individual and cohesive experiences: "Each space has a textural and chromatic relationship to the others, but will have an individual design element and mood of its own."
Fry grew up nearby and went to school across the street at Lamar High so this restaurant is truly a homecoming, "For me, State of Grace is about being proud of where I am from and a desire to cook the food that inspired me as a kid growing up just blocks away." As for the name, he says it embodies hunting memories inspired by an image of a deer that Ingram found during the design phase. In the photo the deer is calm yet alert. "I liked the concept of pausing and showing the deer's grace — its beauty," he says.