PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity HoustonJune 2024

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 29 of 83

L ong before the Internet brought us the convenience of delivering nearly anything to our doorstep, there was the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog — the hefty tome that, in its heyday, was more than 1,000 pages and appeared in mailboxes in late August. Today, one of the former Sears stores in Houston has been converted to The Ion, a tech-innovation hub on Main Street where chef Chris Williams' long- awaited eatery Late August pays homage to the utilitarian store. The James Beard Award-nominated chef is the founder of Lucille's Hospitality Group, whose mission is serving the past, feeding the future. Williams commits to that vision here with the help of operating partner and executive chef Sergio Hidalgo. The intimate space conceptualized by Gin Design Group nods to 1970s architecture and design (with a wink to the original restaurants that were within Sears stores), with cushy teal velour seating and natural blond wood banquettes. Leaning on their individual cultural heritages and respect for the foodways that paved their way in the culinary world, the chefs elevate the humble ingredients found in Mexico, points throughout Africa, and the American South to fine-dining heights. For example, the field pea hummus is topped with chorizo made with rump roast and the richly flavored underbelly ($14); for added crunch, it's topped with fried chapulines (yes, grasshoppers). By its side are spears of warm fried bread made from the Smithsonian- enshrined recipe of the late Lucille B. Smith, Williams' great-grandmother. Striving to create a vertical ecosystem, the majority of the produce is culled from Lucille's 1913 Community Gardens. A vibrant example of that bounty is orecchiette pasta, a brightly flavored, vividly colored vegan dish made with a pesto-like blend of mustard and collard greens, kale, spinach, cilantro, mint, and parsley, all enriched LATE AUGUST MAXIMO FOUR THOUGHTFUL NEW RESTAURANTS L ongtime Houston restaurant creators Benjy Levit and Dylan Murray (Local Foods, Lee's Den, and Eau Tour) have debuted their exciting new fast-casual spot, Maximo, in West University. Taking up residence in the former stead of El Topo, the duo collaborated with El Topo's founding chef, Tony Luhrman, and Levit's culinary director, Seth Siegel-Gardner, to devise a menu that honors Mexican and Texas heritage cooking. Levit enlisted designer Brittany Vaughan of Garnish Design to refresh the 1,500-square-foot space with a gracious nod to mid-century modern Mexico. When the weather cooperates, one can dine alfresco on the covered 35-seat patio bordered by a hedge of cacti. When Luhrman first opened El Topo in this spot, we extolled the culinary meticulousness he brought to his menu. Today, he seems to be even more fastidious. Take the beautifully mottled corn tortillas made in-house. Unlike the majority of Mexican and Tex-Mex eateries across the U.S., Maximo goes to great expense and time to import heirloom varieties of raw corn from Mexico to make the tortillas de Nixtamal. The traditional Mexican process of nixtamalization involves soaking and cooking maize in an alkaline solution before the grains are washed and hulls removed, resulting in nixtamal, a more nutritious corn that's ground and used to create masa, the base for these noteworthy corn tortillas. Cradled in those warm, tender corn tortillas you'll find a variety of offerings such as the crispy fish taco, a wink to the English-born fish and chips with a puree of pea and avocado, pickled frescos, shaved breakfast radish, and a squeeze of lime crema ($7). The vegetarian-friendly tempura mushroom taco is made with a gluten-free batter that enrobes the hen-of- the-woods fungi before they're fried and topped with tiny, pickled beech mushrooms and corn nut chili crisp ($7). Cool dishes include the refreshing watermelon and cotija salad, a diced mélange of seedless watermelon, cucumber, and pickled fresnos topped with amaranth- peanut crumble and tossed in a black pepper-spiced champagne vinaigrette ($12). Maximo, 6119 Edloe St., West University Place, From top: Watermelon salad at Maximo. Late August interiors. BRIAN KENNEDY LEONID FURMANKSY with coconut milk before the little "ears" of pasta are topped with a quenelle of cashew vegan cheese ($26). As for libations, general manager Danny Davis — a level-three sommelier — has written the thoughtful bourbon- and mezcal-driven cocktail menu and wine list that focuses on small vineyards owned by black and brown winemakers (as well as females), playing up both obscure grapes and the wine regions in which they're grown. Late August at The Ion, 4201 Main St., (Continued from page 26) 28

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of PaperCity Magazine - PaperCity HoustonJune 2024