PaperCity Magazine

November 2018- Houston

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51 LA LUCHA Ford Fry fondly remembers enjoying plentiful meals at the historic San Jacinto Inn, which was shuttered in 1987. Original owners Bertha and Jack Sanders' last incarnation of the famed eatery (which burned to the ground twice) was situated near the Lynchburg Ferry Landing on the Houston Ship Channel, opposite the Battleship Texas at the San Jacinto Battleground. For decades, Jack would fish and bring his daily catch back to the restaurant where Bertha, who was known for her fresh biscuits and homemade jam, served an all-you-can-eat feast of oysters, peel- and-eat shrimp, fried chicken, and more. Sentimental about the San Jacinto Inn and its fresh-from-the-Gulf seafood, Fry has opened La Lucha in the Heights. The name is Spanish for "the fight" — an homage to the San Jacinto Inn and its namesake battle, where Texans defeated the Mexican army during the Texas Revolution. The irony that Fry's new Tex-Mex restaurant Superica is situated next door is not lost on us. Erected in the former spot of Hunky Dory, which was originally designed by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, the building has been re-conceptualized by the same team with a cool '70s vibe. Mighty black-painted millwork still frames the window of the open kitchen that overlooks the dining room, where brass sconces cast a glow over antique church-pew banquettes and Marcel Breuer cane chairs clustered around zinc-topped tables. The menu from Fry and chef Bobby Matos invites sharing. Start with a classic Dad's Daiquiri with warm, spiced Royal Combier liqueur and cracked pepper ($13). Move on to raw oysters culled from the Gulf — specifically, Shellbank Selects, Murder Point, and Navy Cove oysters, all from Alabama. GM Matthew Crawford suggests sipping mezcal before and after sucking the mollusk from its shell to bring out the mineral and melon-like notes ($3.25 each). La Caviar and Onion Dip is topped with fresh minced chives and bowfin caviar (aka Cajun Caviar) culled from the waters off Louisiana, served with a personal-size can of Pringles chips ($27). Beef lovers will gravitate to the Classic H-Town Pharmacy Burger ($13), but I couldn't resist the Pollo Especiale (half bird $18, whole bird $35). I never had the chance to eat at the San Jacinto Inn, but Bertha would be proud of Bobby and Ford's spicy, crispy-skin chicken that's brined, bathed in buttermilk with Crystal hot sauce, fried in seasoned flour, and served with biscuits. Add apple butter to the latter and a sauce to the bird: green harissa, oyster mayo, or my favorite, honey sambal. La Lucha, 1801 N. Shepherd Dr., 713.955.4765, FRY COOK F or many Texans, the thought of relocating to a state where Mexican restaurants are lacking or nonexistent might make us reconsider the move. After Ford Fry moved to Atlanta and started building his restaurant empire, he craved what he couldn't find outside the Lone Star State, the real-deal Tex-Mex fare — gooey queso, nachos, tamales, enchiladas, tacos, and fajitas — so he launched Superica in Atlanta, sweetened with a side of Austin's outlaw music scene. Now he's brought his colleague, East Texas chef Kevin Maxey, to Houston to serve up Superica's version of the best dishes the chef duo recreated from childhood memories. GM Glenn Johnson oversees the space he knows all too well, as he served in the same capacity at the restaurant that formerly stood in this spot, Bernadine's. He and his staff give Superica diners oh so many tempting choices in a loud, bustling room outfitted with retro school chairs, two-tone painted-brick walls, a three-sided bar, and lots of outdoor seating. Start with the chili con queso compuesto, where classic queso is topped with a dollop of sour cream, guacamole, and seasoned ground beef; how you get all four from plate to mouth is up to you ($12). Flautas come as a pair, filled with chicken and topped with guacamole and lettuce ($13), while the Delta-style hot tamales topped with chili gravy are apparently a huge hit, because they were sold out when I arrived ($12). As for enchiladas, our server recommended the chicken suizas with poblano/sour cream sauce ($15 for two). If you go with a crowd that likes to share consider the Flintstones-size short-rib, slow-smoked on the bone then wood-grilled and dabbed with molasses/chipotle sauce ($35). Superica, 1801 N. Shepherd Dr., 713.955.3215, SUPERICA With 15 restaurants to his name, Atlanta restaurant concepteur Ford Fry opens two new restaurants this fall in Houston, the town where he grew up and which inspires with childhood memories of Gulf seafood at the San Jacinto Inn and classic Tex-Mex at Felix's. By Laurann Claridge La Lucha roasted oysters Short rib PHOTOGRAPHY RALPH SMITH

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