The Opening & Closing of the Week: Oct. 3-9
Hunky Dory should have opened ages ago. By now, most of us have heard the tale of construction woes and city permitting slowdowns that prevented the new restaurant from opening; no need to rehash it all again. We're here now, in October 2015, months and months after initial announcements, and the restaurant is finally up and running. It's the first from chef Richard Knight after he and former partners James and Megan Silk closed their highly acclaimed restaurant Feast, which introduced Houston to Knight's nose-to-tail style of modern English cooking, three years ago. And in a way, the timing is actually perfect.
British food—the type of heavy, hearty fare that Knight, an Englishman himself, specializes in—is best enjoyed in colder weather. To wit: one of my most memorable meals was in a small pub in the wee Northern town of Homes Chapel many winters ago, when the wild mushroom risotto in puff pastry that I ordered came with three different preparations of potatoes on the side. In the cold, wet weather of Northern England in February, the carb-loaded plate looked like manna; I imagine I would have felt differently had it been served to me in Houston during August, however.
That said, it will be interesting to see how Knight changes up the menu at his new restaurant when the hotter months return. For now, however, Hunky Dory couldn't have opened at a better time—right on the cusp of fall, when Houstonians will surely be eager to tuck into such dishes as the Silver Salver (shown above), a sampler platter of various meat pies, cheeses, chutneys, spreads and bread, or Knight's absolutely wonderful Welsh rarebit: it's only a bit of cheese on toast, you may think, but oh how wrong you are! I've been craving it since Feast closed, and I suspect I'm not alone.
In addition to these nibbly bits, Hunky Dory will serve full spreads of roasted meat for dinner (look for the black pudding and onions if you want something truly authentic, or pork chops cooked in the wood-fired hearth that's the center of the cozy restaurant) as well as brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. (Lunch is coming soon.) The prix-fixe brunch menu is $28 per person and includes warm scones with homemade jam and clotted cream for the table—a spread that's, as they would say, right proper.
Meanwhile, the next two restaurants to open in the Treadsack portfolio (which also includes Down House, D&T Drive-Inn and Johnny's Gold Brick) will be coming soon now that Hunky Dory is, well, hunky dory. Look for Foreign Correspondents, a Thai restaurant from first-time chef/longtime fishmonger P.J. Stoops, to open in two weeks; Bernadine's, a so-called "love letter to Gulf Coast food" is planned for November.
Elsewhere, the stalwart James Coney Island that's anchored Town & Country Village for decades was briefly on hiatus for a week while undergoing a facelift. Now fully remodeled and sporting the new James Coney branding—the restaurant chain officially changed its name to JCI Grill in November 2013—it's back to serving the hot dogs and chili that first made them famous 92 years ago, as well as the new JCI Grill menu of healthier options such as kale salad and updated burgers such as the Jucy Lucy, stuffed with your choice of melted cheese.
Back in August, JCI Grill announced that they'd partnered up with another Houston favorite, chef Matt Marcus of the late Eatsie Boys Cafe in Montrose, to help amp up their gourmet hot dog offerings, among other dishes (including what Marcus promises will be the "best fried chicken sandwich in the city"). While Marcus is still hard at work developing a line-up of seasonal hot dogs, this overcast weather of late has me craving JCI's Seattle dog: an all-beef Hebrew National hot dog topped with spicy mustard, garlic cream cheese, jalapeño relish and caramelized onions.
Hunky Dory, 1801 N. Shepherd Dr., 713-864-2450, treadsack.com/hunkydory
JCI Grill, 701 Town & Country Blvd., 713-973-9143, jamesconeyisland.com