One of the fringe benefits of food blogging is the opportunity to try new places before they open and help get the word out if they have some good food and a nice atmosphere. I was one of a group of food media in Houston that was invited to a special luncheon at Lucille's at 5512 La Branch in the Museum District--the culinary baby of Texas Chef Chris Williams. The name comes from his Great Grandmother, Lucille Bishop Smith, who was one of those old school Southern Cooking Mamas, much like my Great Aunt Willie back in rural Mississippi. Unlike my Great Aunt, Lucille Bishop Smith established one of the first collegiate-level commercial food and technology programs at Prairie View A & M University, created one of the first all-purpose hot roll mixes, and served food to historical figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt.
|Chef Chris Williams|
Sounds like a man I'd love to have a beer with and shoot the proverbial stuff with.
Chef Williams bills Lucille's as a "Culinary Art History of Southern Cooking." If you look over their menu, they have a ton of old school Southern dishes like Chili Biscuits (red beef chili, stylized as sliders on homemade biscuits) and Braised Oxtails, with sides like his famous dinner rolls, and modern takes such as Watermelon salad as well as a roasted chicken with Chimichurri and asparagus. I was invited to a closed lunch tasting with several other food bloggers (including Eric Sandler of Eater Houston, Phaedra--a representative of My Table Houston and Chuck--a photographer that focuses on food and fandom) and media on August 31st, and I came away pleased with most of what I got to taste. Okay, enough talk--let's eat!!!
We were served a tasting menu that included Tomato Salad, Watermelon Salad, Fried Green Tomatoes, No Crumb Crab Cake, Fishy Fry, Pork & Beans, Braised Oxtail with Potatoes & Veggies, and Shrimp & Grits. It was a nice representation of the restaurant and were an interesting take on some traditional Southern dishes.
Of note: the Tomato Salad and Watermelon Salad had some ingredients (Greens, Tomatoes) which were grown in Chef Chris Williams Garden he is keeping in the back of the restaurant. This is a nice touch and reminds me of several places in Oregon, Washington State and British Columbia that do likewise.
Tasting Report Card
|Watermelon Salad on left, Tomato Salad on Right|
This was not how it was presented--this is how I ate it
The Backyard Tomato Salad has at least 4 kinds of tomatoes; fresh and tasty stuff. Given how many kinds of tomatoes there are, and thinking about how families in the South might grow more than a few varieties of tomatoes and other vegetables in their backyards (my Dad did this, as do a number of other family members) it made sense on a couple of levels. It included some bacon, a crunchy large garlic crouton./toast point, and had a bleu cheese vinaigrette dressing. It was a little more ordinary than the Watermelon salad, but I still liked it. Grade: B+
|No Crumb Crab Cakes|
Fried Green Tomatoes: These were fried in cornmeal, were a little spicy, and the tomatoes themselvces had a crispy, fresh taste, not mushy. My Great Aunt made fried green tomatoes, which I'd tried as a kid, and these were up their with hers with a spicy kick. Grade: A
No Crumb Crab Cakes: These crab cakes were made with Wonton, lemon confit and jumbo lump crab. The had an herbal quality and were nice, but did not stand out as much as they could have. I may be a little spoiled and used to having Cajun style spicy crab cakes from my time growing up in Southern Louisiana. Grade: B+
|Fish Fry, Crown Style|
|Pork & Beans, Lucille's Style|
Pork & Beans: Braised Pork Hind shank, with fava beans, English peas and black lentils. THIS was REALLY GOOD! The pork was very tender, sweet & peppery. The beans good complement gave you different textures and tastes to complement the pork. This dish was praised most by the group that tried it. The shank bone was picked clean and someone quipped it should be used to make soup! Grade: A+
|Shrimp & Grits|
After we'd had all the tasting dishes, Chef Williams came out to sit and answer some questions from us for a bit. Williams is a very soft spoken, but friendly man with a keen sense of focus and a methodical approach. He was very keen to let us know a bit about the history of the location--how it had alternated between being a residence or a commercial space such as a restaurant or a bar. Williams had been looking around for a location and had spotted the building while taking his sons to the Children's Museum.
|Sign in the back, a mosaic of her recipe cards.|
Personally, I am looking forward to coming back after they've been open about a month to give their Butcher Burger a try!
Lucille's has had its soft opening on August 28, 2012. It will be fully open for the hours posted below as of September 10, 2012.
Lucille's is located at:
Houston, Texas 77004
Hours of operation after Sept. 10, 2012:
Monday 11 AM to 3 PM
Tuesday– Friday 11 AM- 10 PM
Sat. Brunch 10 AM - 3 PM/ Dinner 5PM - 10PM
Sunday Brunch only 10 AM- 3 PM (May occasionally do a Sunday evening cookout)
And remember to Eat Happy, Y'all!!!