Ford Fry names his first Houston restaurant State of Grace

Plus details on the little sister to the Optimist and who will be in the kitchen at Krog Street Market’s Superica
State of Grace design inspiration
State of Grace design materials
State of Grace design materials

With Mex-Tex spot the El Felix now open at Avalon, Ford Fry is moving on to his next projects. Superica, another Mex-Tex restaurant, is slated to open in late January in Krog Street Market, and he’s just announced the name of his first Houston restaurant: State of Grace. He’s also busy planning the “little sister” restaurant to the Optimist, slated to open at 280 Elizabeth Street next summer.

The El Felix and Superica

Chef Kevin Maxey is “wrapping things up” at the El Felix in Alpharetta, Fry says, and will be preparing to open Superica. When that happens, Kelly Sollinger will stay on as kitchen manager at the El Felix, with Maxey and Fry guiding any further menu development. Over at Superica, which will have a slightly different menu than the El Felix and offer weekend brunch, Sheldon Wolfe (currently sous chef at the El Felix) will lead the kitchen after Maxey gets it up and running. The restaurant will also feature some sort of outdoor grilling area for tacos or whole pigs, Fry says.

State of Grace

Fry’s restaurant debut in his home state will offer regional fare from Texas and the Gulf Coast. There will be an emphasis on seafood, as well as meat and pork. It will be slightly more upscale and have a “vintage feel,” Fry says.

The name State of Grace was inspired by an image of a deer standing in a field with morning dew and tree branches.

“Our in-house designer Elizabeth Ingram pulled the deer image from a French interior design magazine as an inspiration shot, and as I thought through name ideas, I kept thinking about it,” Fry says. “That image reminded me of growing up in Texas, even going out hunting when it’s early and the dew is still out. I have fond memories of being out on a family member’s or friend’s ranch, and enjoying the serenity and beauty of it.”

He explains that the photo catches the deer right when the deer realizes a hunter is nearby. “I liked the concept of pausing and showing the deer’s grace and beauty,” he says.

The Optimist little sister

Catering to the laid-back vibe of Inman Park, the little sister to the Optimist—which is still awaiting a proper name—will be “a blend between the oyster bar and main dining room at the Optimist,” Fry says. It will focus on small plates and offer “a real casual experience” with more flexibility than the Optimist. The Optimist’s executive chef Adam Evans will develop the menu and manage a chef de cuisine who has yet to be named.

The restaurant will feature a wood-burning oven for roasting fish and shellfish and an oyster bar. Downstairs, there will be a bar with a den-like, 1970s-style, retro feel. Although beer and wine will be served, the focus will be cocktails.

“So far, the graphics have been falling in a surf-rock theme,” Fry says.