By any measure, Ford Fry knows Houston. The celebrity chef owns nine restaurants in Atlanta, but the Lamar High School grad made a triumphant return to his hometown when he opened State of Grace in 2015. Given that, it's no surprise that Food & Wine magazine tapped Fry for an "insider's guide" to Houston dining.
“Growing up here I always thought the city was a combination of country club, Tex-Mex and barbecue,” Fry tells the magazine. “Now every time I come back, there’s something new and exciting.”
Indeed, Fry's picks skip some of the expected fine dining spots or places that more typically receive national attention (Underbelly, etc) to tout a few spots that are legitimately new and exciting, including luxurious Vietnamese restaurant Le Colonial and Morningstar, the coffee and doughnut shop from Blacksmith owners David Buehrer and Ecky Prabanto. He also gives shout outs to what might be considered a few new classics like Killen's Barbecue, Helen Greek Food & Wine, and Mala Sichuan Bistro.
"I went with David Bueher from Blacksmith coffee and Justin Yu of Oxheart, and we blew it out," Fry says of his trip to Mala Sichuan. "Of all the things we ordered, I especially loved the tea-smoked duck and red-oil pork dumplings."
The chef also demonstrates that he has his fingers on the pulse of exciting restaurants that haven't opened yet by selecting FM Burger, Triniti chef-owner Ryan Hildebrand's casual burger joint, and former Reef and Underbelly sous chef Ryan Lachaine's genre-bending Riel.
"Ryan Lachaine is a great chef, so I’m really looking forward to what he has planned for Riel," Fry explains. "Dishes will certainly have interesting global spins from his extensive travels, which I love to follow on Instagram."
State of Grace has earned acclaim for its oyster bar. Perhaps then it's no surprise that the only bar on Fry's list is Julep, which also serves up plenty of bivalves, along with excellent cocktails from former Tastemaker Awards Bartender of the Year Alba Huerta.