This Week's Cafe Review: What's the Deal With Grace's?

Categories: On the Menu

1799115_557443561029864_22666737_o.jpg
Photo courtesy Grace's
It's mighty good-lookin', I'll give it that.
Lately I keep getting that question.

"What's the deal with Grace's, anyway?"

I'm never quite sure how to answer, never sure if my friends are looking for stats (hours, etc.), a back story, or an answer to why the menu is so--as one of my buddies described it--bipolar. The first two questions I can answer. The third, well, I'm as confused as you are.

Since Grace's opened, a lot has been made about the fact that Johnny Carrabba, successful restaurateur and owner of Carrabba's and Mia's, chose to open a large, expensive restaurant on a multi-million dollar lot on Kirby Drive, and it's not even Italian. The restaurant is named after his grandmother, Grace, and reflects all the local cuisines that shape the Houston culinary scene.

Because the menu contains Asian food, Cajun food, southern food, Mexican food and one pasta dish, it's a little, well, befuddling to say the least. Add to that the $17 price tag on a hamburger or the $28 crab cake, and people have been less than kind about poor Grace's. Recent write ups by other critics have been downright harsh, causing some area diners to jump to Grace's defense, while others applaud the taking down of the man, representative of all upperclass snootiness on Kirby Drive.

I'm all for honesty and sometimes harshness in food criticism. If you read my Mr. Peeples review, you know that. But in this case, as much as it pains me, I've got to defend Grace's too.

It is not an incredible restaurant. It will not go on anyone's list of the best new restaurants of 2014. It will not make national news. But it's not bad.

I didn't have anything there--and I went three times and ate a lot--that was downright bad. I skipped the Mexican-inspired offerings though, and only tried one fairly unimpressive Asian dish. Mostly, I stuck to the southern, soul food-type entrées and appetizers, and I was pretty pleased.

I think what might put people off initially are the prices. Grace's is not cheap. But it's not aiming to cater to a crowd of folks like me on a journalist's salary. It's drawing in the River Oaks and Upper Kirby elite, and, unlike Carrabba's, it's challenging those who might not otherwise find themselves eating things like yellowtail carpaccio or cioppino, a seafood stew. Sure, there are still the short ribs and baked potato that some of the older set might be used to, but there's also enough to make people feel a little more, you know, continental. Even if none of the Asian dishes at Grace's is as good as what you might find in Chinatown.

Carrabba stated that he wanted to open a place that would allow people craving a variety of disparate items to come to one spot to satisfy them all. In that way, mostly, he's succeeded. And I don't think it's always fair to judge a restaurant purely on its usefulness to myself as a critic. Is it my choice for dining? No. But I give it credit for being packed every night and satisfying others. Just because I don't like McDonald's, that doesn't mean it doesn't have a place in Houston dining.

As I've argued for other restaurants before, Grace's is useful. It succeeds where it intended to--not in being the best at everything, but in satisfying in many ways. Carrabba maintains that Carrabba's, open since 1986, is still a work in progress. Clearly, Grace's is too. I'd like to return in several months to see what, if anything, has changed. To see how Grace's will, inevitably, evolve.

Location Info

Grace's

3111 Kirby Dr., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
23 comments
Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah
Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah topcommenter

Thanks for the reply, but I gotta ask why it pains you not to be "snarky and sarcastic"?

Jessica LaFon Cordier
Jessica LaFon Cordier

How could you possibly draw all that from this one article that clearly doesn't say shit about Houston.

Josh Kind
Josh Kind

After reading this I am just glad I don't live there anymore. Houston sucks and obviously everything else about if sucks!

WestSideBob
WestSideBob topcommenter

The current day example of what the Confederate House had been to the neighborhood clientele.  A recognized place with safe dining or noshing choices ... dare I call it a very upscale Luby's ??

CamByars
CamByars

I really liked their salmon special, the quail, and the crab cake, but the prices are insane, so I go when I am not buying.... It fits the neighborhood, it serves it's purpose... well said!

brannigan
brannigan

What can you say, Johnny Carrabba knows his market and he's packed every night, no matter what the critics say.


Btw, I found Katherine Shilcutt's review kind of unhinged, veering from outsider shrill to downright goofy when she insisted the menu fonts were racist. Might be small megaphone syndrome, she's shouting so loudly to drum up some readers and attention for an enterprise that more and more seems to be a sinking ship.


Anyway, looking forward to reading your thoughts about Grace's!

Pendleton
Pendleton

@Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah 

Honestly, that's a very good question. Isn't a review simply what you think as a critic? Why does there have to be any 'pain' in reviewing, or defending, a rather mainstream restaurant without snark or sarcasm, just letting the cards fall as they may? Saying it doesn't set your pants aflame is enough. Saying that it's a fond addition to the dining scene for many others is enough. You don't have to say more than what you think, or apologize for being balanced and level-headed. Leave the snark and mental gymnastics to others.

JohnKiely
JohnKiely

@brannigan  I showed the menu to several Chinese, who all agreed it's racist and looks stupid. They won't complain, nor go there, because they don't care for overpriced mediocre fare.


Always the best way to deal with racism, just shout down the person who brings it up, right?

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@Pendleton @Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah Oh please, I was kidding. Maybe "pains me" was the wrong phrase. I was merely trying to get across the point that I don't think Grace's is an amazing restaurant, but I feel like I need to defend it in spite of its mediocrity because it's serving a purpose and making a lot of people very happy. Does that answer your question?

WestSideBob
WestSideBob topcommenter

@Millicent @WestSideBob Sure, but like Luby's, Grace has the same dishes, day after day. with no twists in the prep.  The old folks in that hood don't want surprises, just their "old favorite" comfort foods.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@JohnKiely

I get that the prices are high, but how do you get that the food is mediocre? Because we all know your Chinese chums--assuming they actually exist--have never eaten there.

Reilly
Reilly

@JohnKiely @brannigan  

The way to deal with racism is to attack it where it exists, not trivialize it with some half-baked insinuation where it doesn't. That's just counterproductive, even if it makes one feel intellectually superior and self righteous.

Millicent
Millicent

@JohnKiely @brannigan  That's absurd. It might conceivably be offensive to some Chinese, but others would probably laugh, while others think nothing of it. But to call it 'racist' because it might offend is inaccurate, silly and way too PC, especially since management at the restaurant is comprised of a black guy and a Vietnamese, among others. I realize Ms Shilcutt needs an added edge to  be noticed nowadays, but this isn't the edge she needs. And hopefully not the takeaway from her otherwise decent review.

flambeau
flambeau

@WestSideBob

Analogies are not your strong suit Bob. Stick to grilling fruit with Balsamic

flambeau
flambeau

@JohnKiely they found the pictures to be 'credible'? ...you speak nonsensically. what does that mean?

JohnKiely
JohnKiely

@Bruce_Are @JohnKiely  They found the rest of the review and pictures to be credible as well.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...