After a couple of months of rumors and speculation, State of Grace owner Ford Fry has made it official. The native Houstonian-turned-Atlanta-based-restaurateur will open a Tex-Mex restaurant called Superica and a casual seafood-oriented restaurant in the Heights restaurant spaces formerly occupied by Hunky Dory and Bernadine’s.
Slated to open in the first quarter of 2018, Houston’s Superica will take over Bernadine’s. Fry will expand the seating capacity slightly by incorporating the space currently allocated to the private dining room. Design changes will give both spaces a more casual look that keeps with the Tex-Mex atmosphere without resorting to cliches like pinatas hanging from the ceiling.
“Whenever we look at a location, it’s always what do we feel like the neighborhood could use. Some people would say Houston could use more Tex-Mex like another mosquito, but I think it’s on another level,” Fry tells CultureMap. “That’s the only way we’d bring it to Texas. Hopefully, we can perform on that other level than what’s out there.”
Fry created Superica in 2015 with his culinary director Kevin Maxey, a Dallas native who shares Fry’s passion for Tex-Mex. Currently, Fry operates two locations of Superica in Atlanta with another one slated to arrive in Charlotte, North Carolina, in early 2018.
"It’s kind of a play on Guero’s Taco Bar in Austin but with better food," Fry says. "That Austin vibe and feel, that’s what I really enjoy."
Diners can expect staples like chips and salsa, tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas that are cooked over mesquite and served with freshly made flour tortillas; the restaurant also offers brunch on the weekends. Of course, patrons will find plenty of cold beer, margaritas, and other tequila-based cocktails to match the cuisine.
“We try to let the building speak to what it is (design-wise), but the food is going to be more classic and modern Tex-Mex,” Fry says. “Go, hang out, drink margaritas. We’re not going to be like Caracol or anything like that. It’s not fancy, but it’s not cheap Tex-Mex.”
Superica’s atmosphere will help differentiate it from Houston’s numerous Tex-Mex options. Fry channeled the Hill Country as inspiration for State of Grace’s design, and he wants Superica to have a bit of an Austin vibe that takes advantage of the space’s spacious patios and features live music on the weekends. It’s a family-friendly concept with affordable options, at least based on the prices in Atlanta (enchilada plate under $15, fajitas plates under $30, etc).
The companion restaurant — which Fry says will include the words “at Superica” in its name to tie it to the overall concept — takes its inspiration from Fry’s childhood trips to the San Jacinto Inn. He recalls meals there that started with raw oysters and cold shrimp before ending with fried chicken.
“The menu will be fairly simple revolved around raw seafood, fried chicken, kind of a pharmacy-esque burgers,” Fry says. “Maybe I’ll play off the Avalon burger . . . I want to make it towards my memory (of what that tasted like).”
Overall, Fry says he’s pleased with how Houstonians have responded to State of Grace, but he’s looking forward to opening in the Heights. “I think sometimes River Oaks is polarizing to people from the outside,” he notes. “I’m pretty excited about being in a new area. That’s where I’d probably be if I lived there.”