Opened a scant three weeks, State of Grace on Westheimer across from Lamar High School is already beginning to seem like a clubhouse of sorts for River Oaks residents. Located in an older, comfortable shopping center, the very handsome restaurant – that amazingly resides where a Subway operated until recently – has the feel that it’s the work of an accomplished team that is quite knowledgeable about the immediate environs. That would be apt description of proprietor Ford Fry, who has nine restaurants in the Atlanta area but who grew up nearby, attending both neighboring Lamar High and St. John’s School.
The restaurant’s offerings should resonate with local diners featuring items from several food traditions that Houston diners enjoy. There is Tex-Mex (a cheese enchilada and queso flameado), Gulf Coast-inspired fare (oysters, crab fingers, flounder), Italian (fresh pastas in restaurant-familiar forms), hearty expense-account-worthy steaks, of course, and even some Asian flavors (crab fried rice, Korean fried chicken). And it all seems to be make sense for Houstonians.
Honoring the flavors and dishes of present-day Houston, the menu is more Tony Mandola’s Gulf Coast Seafood than Underbelly, which is not necessarily a bad thing at all. Fry, who has been on hand since the restaurant has opened, often chatting with customers, has hired Bobby Matos as the executive chef. Matos brings a familiarity with the diners that the restaurant likely hopes to attract, having worked at Tony Vallone’s Ciao Bello beforehand.
Though the main dishes average easily over $30, topping out at $55, State of Grace does have a terrific budget-friendly deal: $1 oysters on the half-shell from 3:00 to 6:00 from Monday through Friday. So far, the $1 oysters have featured a four oysters, both from the Gulf and the cooler waters of the northeastern Atlantic coast. The other day, two of the happy hours oysters were Southern Pearl from Bayou La Batre, Alabama – one of the most flavorful Gulf oysters around – and Blue Whale from Long Island Sound. Normally both of these oysters are $3.45 each, but at happy hour a dozen were just $12 versus the steep normal tariff of $41.40.
State of Grace has a very attractive raw bar separated from the rest of the restaurant, the Oyster Room, which features seating around the shucking station. It is a very appropriate place to enjoy a cool bivalve or several dozen, or even a grand seafood tower. The recently opened SaltAir on Kirby also has a similar attention to chilled seafood. Its selection of oysters might be better, but comparing visits within several days apart, the oyster service at State of Grace, from the shucking to the attentive and informative service to the more complementary accompanying sauces and even house-made crackers was clearly better.
If you enjoy raw oysters, you should visit State of Grace, at least during happy hour.
State of Grace
3258 Westheimer (between Kirby and Buffalo Speedway), 77098, (832) 942-5080