Whats Eric Eating
What's Eric Eating Episode 94

A closer look at Houston's restaurant of the year, plus a new seafood spot

A closer look at Houston's restaurant of the year, plus fresh seafood

Nancy's Hustle Nancy Cakes
The signature Nancy cakes have become a staple on the menu.  Courtesy photo
Nancy's Hustle Jason Vaughn Sean Jensen
Jason Vaughan, left, founded Nancy's Hustle with business partner Sean Jensen.  Courtesy photo
Tastemaker Awards 2019
"Nancy" accepts an award on behalf of the restaurant. Photo by Jacob Power
1751 Sea and Bar smoked fish board
1751 Sea and Bar's seafood charcuterie board earns raves.  Photo by Shannon O’Hara
James Beard Foundation dinner Justin Yu Chris Shepherd Robert Del Grande Hugo Ortega
What will it take for another chef to join the ranks of Houston's Beard Award winners? Photo by Quy Tran
Nancy's Hustle Nancy Cakes
Nancy's Hustle Jason Vaughn Sean Jensen
Tastemaker Awards 2019
1751 Sea and Bar smoked fish board
James Beard Foundation dinner Justin Yu Chris Shepherd Robert Del Grande Hugo Ortega

On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Nancy's Hustle chef-owner Jason Vaughan and pastry chef Julia Doran join CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss the EaDo restaurant that took Restaurant of the Year at last week's CultureMap Tastemaker Awards. Backed by Vaughan's eclectic menu and top-notch service from a team led by co-owner Sean Jensen, Nancy's has been earning raves since it opened in November 2017.

Initially, Vaughan says he focused on familiar flavors that appealed to a wide variety of diners. As he discovered that Houstonians have a seemingly limitless appetite for trout roe — the key ingredient in the signature Nancy cakes — as well as specials like rabbit terrine and boudin noir terrine (served with crispy hash browns), he's been able to push the boundaries a bit. 

"Even six months ago we kind of started pushing a little bit into some of those things and feeling like we had a little more room to do whatever we wanted," Vaughan says. "We played it safe in the beginning. You just want a restaurant where everyone feels comfortable. We've changed some things in the last couple of months. I feel like we can do a lot more than we did day one, or I feel more comfortable."

"I think it's also about earning people's trust," Doran adds. "Now that we've established that trust with many guests, people keep on coming back and going 'maybe I'll try something I haven't tried before.'"

The conversation touches on a variety of topics, including Vaughan's experience working for the Hogsalt Hospitality group in Chicago, Doran's preference for savory sweets, and the possibility of opening another restaurant. 

Prior to the chefs joining the show, Sandler and co-host Matt Harris discuss the news of the week. They spend approximately 15 minutes discussing Houston chefs and restaurants being shut out of any finalist nominations in the James Beard Awards. Their topics include whether the city should feel snubbed, changes the Beard foundation could make to its various regions, and whether Houston chefs need to travel more to present their food to potential Beard voters. 

They also briefly recap the Tastemaker Awards, discuss the potential of Ben Berg transforming Carmelo's into B.B. Italia, and quickly note that three new bars and restaurants are coming to an expansion of the Memorial City Mall complex. In the restaurant of the week segment, they some first impressions of 1751 Sea and Bar, the new seafood restaurant that replaces Star Fish. 

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