Walking up to Liberty Kitchen and Oyster Bar, customers are greeted with two stern warnings — no smoking and no Alison Cook.
The highly-anticipated Heights restaurant marks the newest venture for owners Lance Fegen and Lee Ellis, whose BRC Gastropub and Petite Sweets have enjoyed considerable buzz in the local foodie community.
Open only a week, Liberty Kitchen has yet to be reviewed by the noted Houston Chronicle food critic.
On Friday, Cook discussed the ban with a mixture of confusion and pride, suspecting her lukewarm review of BRC in 2010 may have sparked the preemptive un-invitation. The "Warning: We use white plates" on the sign banning Cook further alludes to her review that suggested BRC serve its pimento cheese dip in ramekins rather than on white plates.
"I'm a little nonplussed that Fegen seems to think I have it in for him," Cook wrote on her blog, noting that while she criticized BRC, she did praise its burger in her Burger Friday post. She also wrote a positive review for Fegen’s popular Glass Wall in 2006.
The critic received a barrage of online commentary, ranging from supportive to nasty.
"I've got to admit I'm amused to see my name on a restaurant door with a red slash through it," Cook wrote on her blog. "I mean, I was once hung in effigy at a restaurant banquet, and I felt strangely honored."
One post mistook Cook for Allie Matsu (aka Allison Hiromi), whose late night tweets brought scandal to Down House this summer. The commenter admitted the mistake only to mention a 2010 incident in which the critic was asked to leave Jonathan's The Rub.
Allison Hiromi declined to comment on the confusion with a Twitter post: "Thx CultureMap journalist, but I don't really want to make a statement or answer Qs regarding why @alisoncook or I got banned from a place."
CultureMap spoke with Ellis, who confirmed the No Alison Cook sign, but said he was unable to give further details at this time. He promised to get back with us soon.
Efforts to contact Cook, who in a long career has written for Texas Monthly, the Houston Press, Esquire, the New York Times Sunday magazine, Gourmet, Saveur, Food & Wine, House & Garden and Vogue, were unsuccessful. But she appears to be taking the sign and comments in stride.
"I've got to admit I'm amused to see my name on a restaurant door with a red slash through it," she wrote on her blog. "I mean, I was once hung in effigy at a restaurant banquet, and I felt strangely honored."