It's been a busy week for openings—Bernie's Burger Bus opening in Katy, the Heights and Austin is only one piece of news that hit in the last few days, after all—so let's get right to it. Two long-awaited restaurants finally debuted, starting with Atlanta celebrity chef Ford Fry's State of Grace, which opened its doors on Monday.
Though Fry made a name for himself in Georgia, the chef is originally from Houston, having graduated from Lamar High School—so it's no coincidence that State of Grace opened right across Westheimer from the River Oaks school. The menu, developed with executive chef Bobby Matos, appears to toe the line between Third Coast and Southern, offering a Gulf seafood pozole at lunch and lobster hushpuppies with cane syrup butter at dinner. It also draws from Matos's previous work as the exec chef at Tony Vallone's Ciao Bello, with a variety of pasta dishes including an oxtail-stuffed tortellini with smoked chile broth.
State of Grace also joins restaurants such as Liberty Kitchen and SaltAir in offering an extensive oyster bar menu that's worth perusing for the evocative oyster appellations alone: Sea Biscuits from Louisiana, Moonshoals from Massachusetts, Shooting Point Salts from Virginia and Murder Points from, well, Murder Point, Alabama. The restaurant's namesake fruits de mer platter, The State of Grace, comes with plenty of those oysters as well as shrimp, lobster, crabs, scallops and clams and, at $149, is the priciest plate on the menu.
Additionally, look for a large happy hour menu of cocktails as well as a dessert menu, which features beignets in what we're hoping is a nod to the late, great Crescent City Beignets that once occupied State of Grace's space in the River Oaks strip center. (FYI, if you're still missing Crescent City, you should know it reopened this summer, albeit much farther down Westheimer.) State of Grace is now open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, happy hour from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m Sunday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
The day after State of Grace debuted, Foreign Correspondents opened its doors in the Heights. The latest of three restaurants the Treadsack group is opening nigh simultaneously, Foreign Correspondents is the Thai restaurant from local fishmonger/Thai food evangelist P.J. Stoops that Houston food lovers have been waiting on since the project was first announced over two years ago. (Two years!) Though it may be tempting to draw an early comparison between Foreign Correspondents and DC's famous modern Thai restaurant, Little Serow, consider these facts first: Foreign Correspondents is not located in a basement, it doesn't serve a prix fixe menu and the servers don't appear to be escaped Amish.
Foreign Correspondents further distinguishes itself by offering both a brunch menu and a kids menu in addition to its lunch and dinner line-up of curries, salads and noodles, including the khao soi noodles Stoops first showcased in a pop-up dinner two winters ago. Also on offer: Topo Chico, a few beers and a cocktail list that includes another namesake (a restaurant/bar can't open in Houston these days without an eponymous dish/drink any more than it can open without offering some version of Mexican street corn): the Foreign Correspondent features gin, Thai chili-infused Green Chartreuse, cucumber, lemongrass and bitter lemon tonic.
Like State of Grace, Foreign Correspondents is housed in a recently remodeled strip center at North Main and that was previously home to Gorditas Aguascalientes and, later, Cappellini's Italian Restaurant. It is currently open from 5 to 11 p.m. for dinner seven days a week and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch on Saturday and Sunday; lunch hours are on their way soon. With Hunky Dory now serving its modern British cuisine at 18th and Shepherd, that now only leaves its next door neighbor Bernadine's as the last Treadsack restaurant to open—and it should be happening within the month.
Last but not least, another Heights restaurant saw a facelift this week as Ken Bridge renamed Dragon Bowl Witchcraft Tavern & Provisions for a third time. The small eatery at 11th and Shepherd is one of the oldest in Bridge's Delicious Concepts Restaurant Group, which also counts Lola and Pink's Pizza in its portfolio. The newly rechristened Republic Diner & Sojubang picks up where chef Jordan Asher left off when Bridge hired the chef to revamp the menu at Witchcraft this past July.
Asher has since departed, but Bridge apparently liked the chef's quasi-Korean concept so much that he's redone the entire restaurant to focus even more intently on Korean food, which actually brings it back in line somewhat with the original pan-Asian Dragon Bowl concept. (Many, including myself, will argue that Dragon Bowl should never have transformed into a craft beer bar to begin with, but that was the wave we were all riding in 2013.) Even the interior now sports oversized black-and-white photo walls depicting South Korean nightlife scenes.
In lieu of Asher's modern interpretations, however, Republic Diner & Sojubang will offer more traditional Korean dishes from galbi to dolsot bap and, naturally, twice-fried Korean fried chicken. And as the new name would indicate, look for plenty of soju to populate the menu as restaurateurs continue their campaign to convince us all the Korean spirit is the next vodka. Republic Diner & Sojubang officially opened yesterday, offering lunch and dinner daily.