PaperCity Magazine

March 2015 - Houston

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MARCH | PAGE 14 | 2015 WEIGHING THE OPTIONS TEX-MEX WORTHY OF A WOW By Laurann Claridge. Produced by Michelle Aviña. EL CANTINA C hef Lance Fegen and concepteur Lee Ellis — two of the forces behind F.E.E.D. TX, the modern hospitality group responsible for hot spots Liberty Kitchen, BRC and Petite Sweets — are taking on Tex-Mex with a curve. While their company is known to craft eateries from the ground up, you might call El Cantina Superior a retrofit, as it was originally launched by Heights restaurateur/chef Ken Bridge (Pink's Pizza, Shepherd Park Draught House) last summer. We're told Bridge hired the F.E.E.D. team to overhaul and manage the "El" late last year. They cleared the back of the house and revamped the menu, leaving intact — for the time being, anyway — the kitsch decor with painted furniture, elevated booths and cool murals by artist Carlos Hernandez. Like most Tex-Mex joints, the new menu is lengthy, encompassing old- school cheese enchiladas with red chile gravy that taste anything but ordinary ($12) to Fancy Pig tacos, wherein a soft homemade corn tortilla wraps around a New SpotS If the name of the new Midtown eatery Weights + Measures makes you envision kitchen scales and measuring cups, think again. It's actually the term given to government-funded agencies whose directive it was to inspect a vendor's goods to certify they were selling exactly the weight, measure and quality of item they were claiming. Here, in a circa-1950s warehouse outfitted with mid-century- inspired furnishings, owners Richard Kaplan, Ian Rosenberg, Mike Sammons and Heath Wendell have conjured an open-concept restaurant and bakery, plus a bar dubbed Love & Squalor. Kaplan (Brown Paper Chocolates, The River Cafe) mans the range alongside baker Wendell, who finally found a retail home for his once nearly exclusively wholesale bakery business, Slow Dough Bake Shop. The men have come together in this expansive 5,000-square-foot space to launch an American-inspired menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as late night eats and drinks in the lounge and bar. Luring you inside are the aromas of Slow Dough's baked goods, from donuts and brownies to sophisticated loaves and flaky European pastries, available daily from 6 am to 2 pm and all day on the restaurant's lunch and dinner menus. While breakfast is loaded with Slow Dough's remarkable pastries, Amaya coffee and fresh juices, lunch and dinner have an edited focus on salads ($8 to $9), burgers and sandwiches ($12) and pizzas ($10 to $15), with pies ranging from the common (margherita) to the esoteric (roasted carrot with redneck cheddar, sauce soubise and dukka). Weights + Measures, 2808 Caroline St., 713.654.1970, El Cantina Superior, 602 Studewood St., 832.203.5180, crisp piece of pork belly with fried avocado and a smoky chipotle barbecue sauce ($13) and the mighty El Jefe's tortilla-crusted chicken-fried steak with guacamole, queso and a fried egg ($9.50). Fegen, Ellis and team have brought both playfulness and an incredible complexity to the fare, tinkering with a smoker to give an edge to dishes such as Tejas Tablitas, beef short- ribs smoked and grilled ($15) and the Big Belly burrito stuffed with smoked brisket and pork belly and caramelized onions ($13). The El 2.0 isn't trying to be a serious, authentic Mexican restaurant — although the able barkeeps sure aren't taking their margarita and small-batch mescal-based drinks lying down. The gang here aims to put forth dishes such as J n' B Dorado tacos, a rift on a certain fast-food joint's seasoned ground-beef tacos, served in deep-fried crispy shells with hot sauce inspired by tear-open packets ($14 to $19), as well as the beloved combination plates we've come to expect, all with a sense of fun that makes dining out Tex-Mex style everything it's supposed to be. But here, it's a whole lot more. CuliNary WEIGHTS+MEASURES aNd Circa-1950s warehouse feel Lee Ellis, Crash Hethcoxe Oaxaca Flameado Skillet La Rosa margarita with Tex of the Mexified BBQ Trays & Pounds ALL WEIGHTS + MEASURES PHOTOS BY MAX BURKHALTER ALL EL CANTINA SUPERIOR PHOTOS JENNY ANTILL CLIFTON Richard Kaplan in his curing room Harvey Wallbanger at Love & Squalor Ian Rosenberg in the lounge Heath Wendell working on his dough bench Mike Sammons at Love & Squalor View of dining room and open kitchen from bar Strawberry Danishes, apple fritters, glazed donut sand croissants SUPERIOR

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