Review: Punk's Simple Southern May Be Trying a Little Too Hard, But Don't Miss the Biscuits

Categories: Cafe Reviews

PunksRev01.jpg
Photos by Troy Fields
Looking for great chicken fried steak in Houston? Look no further than Punk's Simple Southern, where the dish truly shines.
As we placed our order, the server's eyes grew wider and wider, and his hand moved furiously across his notepad, attempting to keep up with our laundry list of desired appetizers. When we were finally finished, he stepped back and looked at us -- two people who had just ordered enough food to feed the Rockets' starting lineup.

"Okay. Sounds good." He kept eyeing us as if concerned that we might be dangers to ourselves.

"We're hungry," we replied simply and sheepishly.

"Hey, man, no worries," he finally said, laughing. "When you come here to eat, you eat."

And indeed we did. Something about the country cuisine at Punk's Simple Southern invites large portions and shared platters and a feeling of being with family, even among strangers. We passed biscuits -- flaky, buttery, pillow-soft mounds of dough that might just be the best in Houston -- back and forth across the table, and even offered some to the waiter, now an accessory in our plot to eat our way though the entire menu. We double-dipped spoons into a single bowl of gumbo, thick but not quite dark or complex enough for our tastes. We took photos of each other with the chicken-fried steak, a portion larger than each of our heads, and we finished the feast with two desserts because why the heck not?

In true Southern fashion, the menu is designed for indulgence, for people watching neither their waistlines nor their wallets, for families gathered together for something like Sunday dinner any night of the week. Of course, in the heart of Houston, you won't often find the large Southern families for whom "Ma's Meatloaf" and "Grandpa Doc's Buttermilk Biscuits" are named.

Tucked into a multi-use development in Rice Village between Coppa Osteria and Cloud 10 Creamery, Punk's tends to attract a more cosmopolitan crowd in a Disneyland-like setting. More than a hearkening back to the simple family meals shared around outdoor picnic tables in the Deep South, Punk's is a theme restaurant, and one that captures that Southern charm well, if inauthentically.

Food is served on aluminum trays or coated metal plates in lieu of china, and chic mason jars stand in for glasses at the bar. There's just something a little too kitschy about the country decor and dishes like "Grandma Pat's Crispy Buttermilk Fried Chicken" for me to be completely sold on the Punk's idea. It may be Southern, but there's little soul in the menu, aside from the names of some of the dishes, which only add to the silliness of the place.

It isn't all that simple, either, since everything from the biscuits to the restaurant itself is served with a bit of flair.

And who is this Punk character, anyway?

Location Info

Punk's Simple Southern

5212 Morningside, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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26 comments
mcs8080
mcs8080

C'mon, $21.00 for average fried chicken?


henblair
henblair

VERY Mediocre. and a rip-off, too.

rccl15
rccl15

Kaitlin

In regards to gumbo, as you start on the texas side of louisiana and move towards New Orleans the gumbo gets thicker. Charles is from DeQuincy , La which is very close to the border so his gumbo is thin because that is what he knew growing up I am sure. In NOLA its very thick---his is just his regional version of what you know gumbo to be, it seems. 

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Just write a bad review; no need to apologize and make excuses for lousy food. Shows journalistic integrity.

666_
666_

A temple dedicated to gentrification in the most sinister sense. Overpriced "southern" food done much better at dozens of soul shacks, BBQ joints and greasy spoons throughout greater H-Town. Ritz Crackers? Understand the kitch factor, but an executive chef possessing Key's puffery –––––– errrrrrr –––– "pedigree" shouldn't allow a processed food product out of her kitchen.

tadeusz
tadeusz

Probably a restaurant that fits well into the neighborhood; when you're self-consciously striving to get ahead and keep the right image, it's imperative to embrace Southern food while not being seen at such mid-market places like Black-Eyed Pea, Cracker Barrel, a simple greasy spoon, or god forbid, a soul food place.

Punk's is the West U version of Ouisie's, without Ouisie's charm or pedigree. To compensate, they've dressed it up like Grant Cooper himself, sorta edgy-cool-hipster. Fortunately, Brandi is given some freedom in the kitchen, and I hope she shines.

barleyvine
barleyvine

Couldn't agree more with your review.  I too was very dissapointed with the fried chicken.  I went back again, and had the chicken and a biscuit and it was really solid, but the fried chcken by itself, pricy, and underwhelming.

johndi
johndi

Lol. Charles isn't making the food. Like at all.

vonSchliessen
vonSchliessen

@rccl15 

Absurd, now we have gumbo rules dictated by geography? This is silly. Blond and dark don't hew to boundaries, they reflect families and tradition. Thickness and thinness doesn't do the hokey-pokey either.

CR250
CR250

@rccl15 

I offer a different take, I am from Houston, my mom is from Houston and she made a very dark roux as do I.  Go to Danton's, his roux is coffee colored and Danton Nix is a native Houstonian.  I think it is in the individual and how dark they like their gumbo.  In Houston, in restaurants, it is easier and faster to buy pre made roux from Sysco and so it seems most restaurants gumbo is light colored.  Making gumbo and particurlarly roux consistently the same every time is very tough and time consuming.  That's why your better off making it at home, the slow, slow and slower way.  45 minutes minimum, low and slow, for the roux to be red to coffee color.  Also, the stock is the second most important part, and again, few restaurants have the time to make house made stock, hello Sysco. 

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@gossamersixteen I'm not going to write a negative review if I enjoyed a lot of the food.


Stay tuned for next week though.

vonSchliessen
vonSchliessen

@rccl15 

(btw: dark roux is more flavorful...but has less ability to absorb ilquid, since the flour has absorbed the butter and cooked more ---therefore all things equal, dark is LESS thick)

kellynic
kellynic

@KaitlinS - I think the review had some valid points. However, I find it tacky to bring into question the pride one's dead grandparents may have in their work. Yes, Doc and Pat are actually Brandi Key's grandparents.

Additionally, many of the comments (regarding things like ingredients and processes) are just wrong. I'm sure if you asked Chefs Brandi and Caty, they'd be more than happy to discuss it with you. It would help add credibility to your writing and make for responsible reporting on your part.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

@KaitlinS @gossamersixteen If I paid $21 for lousy fried chicken I'd be livid. Considering the mark-up was easily 2000% for five pieces of chicken.  I look forward to next weeks review.. :)

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@kellynic I don't think I was bringing the pride into question. I said there are many dishes they would be proud of. What I do question is the use of grandparents' names to make something seem more soulful when the general vibe of the place is very corporate. 

If you can point out ingredients and processes that I got wrong, I'll look into it, and I'm happy to make any necessary corrections. 

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@gossamersixteen @KaitlinS Things like the biscuits and pimento cheese and desserts made up for the fried chicken (which wasn't lousy, just not the best) in my mind. 

But yeah...I look forward to the reactions to next week's review. If you follow me on Twitter you can probably guess what it is...

kellynic
kellynic

@KaitlinS - I'd do some research on the pimento cheese (no cream cheese) and the Punk's sauce. Additionally, you should check out Key's most recent Instagram post - it may help explain why many of the dishes are named after Pat and Doc! =)

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@kellynic Oh, interesting. I've never made pimento cheese without cream cheese, and it was so rich, I figured it had to have it. As far as the Punk's sauce, it seems my intention got lost in the editing process. It should read it tastes like bbq sauce and vinaigrette, not that it's prepared that way. Thanks for the input!

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

@KaitlinS @jimbo1126 @gossamersixteen *Quesarito...  and the ground beef one is the best.

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