Rice Village’s newest dining destination keeps things classic. Gratify Neighborhood Bistro, the newest concept from Brasserie 19 owners Clark Cooper Concepts, recently opened next to Coppa Osteria in the former Punk’s Simple Southern Food space (5212 Morningside Dr.).
Currently open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday (lunch and daily operations will begin in time), Gratify aims to fill a need in Rice Village for an adult concept with an extensive raw bar. In place of Punk’s rustic interior, the space has been decorated with posh furniture the company had been quietly collecting for a few years — and a disco ball. According to Clark Cooper co-owner Grant Cooper, customers are excited about the new arrival.
“In a week of soft opening, people walk in and their jaws drop,” Cooper says. “I had people hugging me. They love the space. They’re excited to have something like this in the neighborhood that’s more elevated, more grown up.”
Cooper cites the style of restaurants he and his wife Jacy frequent when they travel as a major influence on Gratify’s direction. They seek out small restaurants that serve classic fare like shrimp cocktail, tuna tartare, crab Louie, and more.
“It’s not a rocket science menu,” Cooper says. “Sometimes I think restaurants try to get real cute. We wanted the neighborhood bistro to be a place people could understand and put our take on it. Do it better, in our opinion.”
In Gratify’s case, making a better bistro means crab cakes with barely any breading, mac and cheese loaded up with lots of lobster and crab, and steak au poivre with frites that’s a nod to Cooper’s Belgian heritage. Other items include cheese and charcuterie boards, caviar, and short ribs with garlic mashed potatoes.
A tidy menu of agave-based cocktails and the company’s signature low markup wine list offer diners different beverage pairing options.
Some comparisons with Brasserie 19 are probably inevitable. After all, both restaurants feature mostly classic fare and an extensive raw bar, but Cooper sees them as very different establishments.
"It’s different in the decor. It’s different in the menu and the overall tone," he says. "The only similarities are a bistro and a brasserie are both essentially the hubs of a neighborhood. I think that’s where the similarity is. Other than that, it’s different."
At this point, the only thing holding Gratify back is a lack of staff. Cooper says the restaurant only has 30 percent of the front of house staff it needs to initiate daily lunch and dinner service. Similar issues have prevented the company from reopening the Dunlavy, its restaurant on Buffalo Bayou.
“It’s always about finding people who fit our culture,” he says. “Ideally we want people with us long term. As soon as we get the staff, we’ll be rolling.”