Foodie News

Everything's Hunky Dory in the Heights with new tavern from restaurant dream team

Everything's Hunky Dory in the Heights with new tavern from dream team

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This rendering shows Hunky Dory's overall look. Courtesy of Treadsack/Hunky Dory
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The design will preserve oak trees on the property that will provide shade on the patio.   Courtesy of Treadsack/Hunky Dory
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An overview shows how the restaurant and, perhaps more importantly, the parking will be laid out. Courtesy of Treadsack/Hunky Dory
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"We liked the casual feel of the name, the fun way it sounds and the meaning of 'everything’s great.' That tied in really well with the vision we have of what the restaurant would be like."

That's how Down House chef Benjy Mason describes one of the reasons he and former Feast chef Richard Knight have chosen Hunky Dory as the name for the new restaurant they'll open next year with partners Chris Cusack and Joey Treadway, as Chronicle critic Alison Cook first reported on Friday.

Mason adds that he'd been listening to the David Bowie album of the same name recently, a holdover from when he worked alongside Knight at Feast and Hunky Dory was "one of the few CDs that did not skip, so we listened to it quite often."

 Having turned Down House into a Heights staple and successfully launched modern ice house D&T Drive Inn, Mason, Cusack and Treadway are ready to present a more complete vision of their ideal neighborhood restaurant.  

Knight demanded Cusack's observation that Bowie is "very sexually ambidextrous, like Richard is" be included in this article. On a more serious note, Cusack recalls that when Treadway read reviews of Hunky Dory he noticed that critics consider it "the album in which David Bowie cultivated his own voice: something that was not trying to be in response to things that were going on in the 60's."

Similarly, having turned Down House into a Heights staple over the past three years and successfully launched modern ice house D&T Drive Inn this summer, Mason, Cusack and Treadway are ready to present a more complete vision of their ideal neighborhood restaurant. As Knight says, "Down House sort of evolved. This one is a bit more, we’ve got the crew together and the dream team and the concept. It’s all a lot more thought out."

Another way the restaurant represents a step up is the decision to partner with Michael Hsu on the transformation of a large property that currently includes a used car lot into a restaurant; he's the architect behind Uchi's locations, as well as Artisans in Midtown. 

"Something that we really do well as a group is work collaboratively," Cusack notes. "Working with Michael has been that way so far. I hope and suspect that we’re going to end up with something unlike anything you’ve seen from him . . . more comfortable, more classic." Knight adds that they're "pushing Hsu" to move away from his typical modern style with "warmer woods (and) darker colors . . . We love him, because he's very excited about the project." 

Tavern as gathering space

Turning to the food, Cusack says that, although the group liked the "sexy, romantic feel" of words like steakhouse and chophouse to define the concept, they settled on tavern as the best fit. "I think a tavern is a great kind of gathering space, great food, has a strong drinking component to it," Cusack says.

Knight says the menu will be driven by a "very big, sexy, wood-burning grill. It’s a big, beast thing with a crank . . . We’ll leave it so people can see it. It’s a visual thing. The food tastes of this wonderful thing, and they can smell it in the room." 

 "We’ve been talking a lot about having the best roast chicken in Houston," Mason says. "It’s something that is simple, straightforward, and, when it’s done well, it’s amazing."    

On the topic of specific dishes, Knight shares that he's "been looking at the idea of this man-steak thing, which is cut from the top of the leg. Basically, you’ve got three or four muscle groups in there with different layers of stuff going on. It has the bone-in, which is great . . . Not being too fussy. Simple food, done well. Letting a few things speak for themselves."

"We’ve been talking a lot about having the best roast chicken in Houston," Mason says. "It’s something that is simple, straightforward, and, when it’s done well, it’s amazing."   

As for how it compares to Feast, Knight says "we don’t want to be a destination place. We’re more casual and fun. A place people can go out and have a quick bite, have a quick drink or a great, more elaborate birthday meal."

But Cusack thinks that Feast helped pave the way for a warmer reception for Hunky Dory. "We’re at a nice point where guests are a lot more educated about food. If there was a (menu item) that was completely unfamiliar to them five years ago, they’ve probably seen it once or twice and maybe even tried it."

The Heights restaurant boom continues. Hunky Dory joins other highly anticipated concepts like CK Steakhouse, Coltivare and Fat Cat Creamery as restaurants to watch over the next year or so. One more reason it's one of the nation's best neighborhoods