First Look at Punk's Simple Southern Food
Photo by Mai Pham A view of the interior through the front door windows at Punk's.
Walking into Punk's Simple Southern Food, the latest of the Clark Cooper Concepts restaurants and the next door neighbor to Coppa Osteria in the Rice Village, I couldn't help but be charmed by its down-home country vibe.
Like the other restaurants in their portfolio (they also own Ibiza, Brasserie 19, Coppa Ristorante and Coppa Osteria), a large part of Punk's identity is communicated through its interior design, which embraces you with simple wooden tables, distressed aluminum chairs, wooden walls, and country-leather stools -- think country diner, but with a modern spin. The word "Southern" is emblazoned on the far back wall in a bright blue neon. Brown wooden walls and mirrored frames above the elongated wooden bar evoke the feeling of an old-time country western saloon.
Photo by Mai Pham Sweet corn hushpuppies -- I wanted to eat them ALL.
Design aside, I think they had me at the sweet corn hushpuppies. Exceedingly light and fluffy, with a slight pop of texture from the corn kernels, the generous order of rounded fritters had the quality of just-fried donuts -- airy and piping hot -- with a salty-sweet flavor that was highly addictive. I plopped one, two, three, and a fourth (somewhat guiltily) in my mouth, forcing myself to push the plate away so that I could save room for some of the other things we'd planned to try.
And we had plenty on order: Deviled eggs, pimento cheese served with fresh veggie sticks, chipotle tomato butter broiled oysters, pickled shrimp and tater tots were the other starters we had that evening, all of them dishes that you might have have as part of a typical southern family meal, many of them made with executive chef Brandi Key's family recipes.
Photo by Mai Pham The idea is to order a lot and share: tater tots, hushpuppies, pickled shrimp, pimento cheese.
"'Punk' was Charles' nickname when he was a kid," said Key as she explained her inspiration for the menu. "He used to run around in the backwoods as a kid, then come home to a great dinner, and that's what we're trying to do with this menu."
Dishes are simply presented, often on simple white stoneware, or, in the case of the buttermilk fried chicken, on an aluminum tray. You may be tempted by other things on the menu, like pulled pork sandwich or Ma's meatloaf, but Grandma Pat's buttermilk fried chicken is the thing to get.
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5212 Morningside, Houston, TX