Locally sourced, locally styled, creative, kid and pet friendly, patios, games, all in one nice spot in the urban landscape. Those are the description of more than a few places in Houston, especially in the Heights, Midtown and in the Washington Avenue Corridor. Since shutting down Triniti Restaurant & Bar, Chef Ryan Hildebrand has been hard at work readying FM Kitchen And Bar, a new spot that has recently opened on Shepherd Drive just north of Washington Aveneu. A few months ago on their Facebook page, FM Kitchen issued an “art manifesto,” pledging to work with local Houston artists in the design for the restuarant. The restaurant will collaborate with graffiti artist Daniel Anguilu, known for his iconic works in Montrose and beyond, to provide both indoor and outdoor spaces for creatives to show off their work. Of course anyone in Texas knows FM isn’t just a radio frequency, it’s a designation of a Farm to Market Road, and given Chef Hildebrand’s love of the locally source material from Texas based farms, it is an entirely fitting name.
Per their Website: FM is a place to celebrate all that Houston has to offer. In particular, the artists that love and populate the city. In the hope of honoring that legacy and continuing to provide a venue for expression and creativity, we invite you to celebrate our city in a space dedicated to an experience for all the senses. When my daughter Helena and I arrived recently to enjoy an end of school year father/daughter lunch, we were struck by the amazing openness of the space with large garage type windows letting in A LOT of light. Along with the polished reclaimed materials inside, the weather resistant table tennis, cornhole and bocci ball sets, a large dog friendly patio and a lot of walls like a blank canvas getting ready for the creative brush strokes.
We were nicely greeted by General Manager Jason McCain and had a chance to chat with one of the designers, Erin Hicks as we checked over the menu and placed our order. Erin talked about the influence being local, Texan, the use of reclaimed materials, the openness with the garage doors making it feel like an old school Texas space and encouraging me to come back in the future as more artwork is applied in the space. For me the space felt like a converted Small town Texas garage fused with a Roadside Diner and then confabulated with a Gastro-lounge. A bright space with plenty of room, plenty of natural light and comfortable. So far, so good for me and and Helena.
Of course for me, Craft Beer and Craft Cocktails are my starting point and FM Kitchen has a good selection of great local taps including Saint Aronold, 8th Wonder Eureka Heights and more. The motto Authentic, All Texas is taken quite seriously from the beer to the Vodka used in the cocktails–Texas made, Texas sourced.
So it was entirely appropriate that my Beverage Mascot, Uncle Tex as along for the ride! As Uncle Tex is stubborn as a mule, I ordered their Watermelon Mule which includes Melon-infused Vodka, Fresh watermelon juice and garnish, and a splash of Ginger Beer, served in a copper mug over crushed ice. This is a cool, refreshing cocktail with just enough ginger bite in there to make you notice, and might make you wonder if some Gin made its way in there. Tex and I also enjoyed a Buckle Bunny Cream Ale from Eureka Heights–another refreshing warm weather beer from Houston. So far total Wins! The Cocktail is an A+ especially! And lest I forget, Helena had their honey apricot Iced Tea, which she said was a more flavourful alternative to the usual Lipton or Luzianne!
OK! Getting down to brass tacks, we were ready for some lunch. Helena and I studied the menu for a bit and I decided to order their half rack of smoked ribs, with tater tots & balsamic glazed broccoli with pearl onions on the side. Helena indicated she’d smelled some kind of BBQ smoking as we approached FM Kitchen, and her schnozz was right on the money. GM Jason McCain said “If you don’t like those ribs, tell me, and I will get you something else while I eat those ribs!” Of course you can imagine that Uncle Tex wasn’t pleased, despite assurances that no Green Pigs from Bad Piggy Island would be sourced here! And that did not dissuade either of us from enjoying these tender, juicy, fall off the bone tender ribs with Chef Hildebrand’s BBQ Sauce. Too delicious and only bones were leftover. And note the Jenga style plating echoing the outdoor Giant Jenga from their gaming area! The tater tots were nicely seasoned, crunchy outside and tender inside. The Broccoli and Onions were REALLY Tasty–the balasamic glaze brought out something unexpected, to say the least. Helena also had an FM Chicken Sandwich made with Chef Ryan’s Shhh Sauce. She found it tasty and I was lucky to even get one photo of it that wasn’t really usable. Just go try it for yourself! Grades: A++, A, A+ and A respectively.
Of course no First Look is complete without checking the desserts out, and one of my daughter’s favourites is Bread Pudding. And as fortune would have it, FM Kitchen has a great representation on the menu, mad with a vanilla cream sauce strawberries, dusted with a small snowfall of powdered sugar. This rich, cinnamony, berry vanilla treat was heavy, rich and quite satisfying. Jason McCain insisted I try one of their shakes (I’ll call it an artisanal shake given the garnishes). Served in a Mason Jar Mug that has a layer of something like Chocolate ganache or fudge, topped with whipped cream, crunchy chocolate pearls and chocolate covered pretzels. This shake was DA BOMB which my daughter and I both enjoyed. Overall a sweet ending to an awesome first meal at FM Kitchen. Grades: A+ and A++
One Public Service announcement: be mindful of your parking at FM Kitchen just like you would at any space on the Washington Avenue Corridor. If you live close by, I’d recommend using a cab or Uber or some other ride share service. If you do drive there, be sure to park only in their lot and please be sure to center your car in the space and not park in the compact spots if your car is an SUV or other non-compact vehicle. Especially do not park in the white gravel lot at 4610 Netts just catacornered from FM Kitchen. It is not marked as private property/no trespassing and your car will be towed if you park there, regardless of marking.
I want to thank Chef Hildebrand, Jason McCain and the rest of the staff/crew at FM Kitchen & Bar for a great end of school year lunch with my daughter and give them my assurances that we will be back.
FM Kitchen & Bar is located at 1112 Shepherd Drive (at Netts); Houston, TX 77007. Phone 832 804 2006. Open 7 days a week, 11 AM til Midnight.
Until next time Dear Readers…
Eat Happy, Y’all!!!
Not too long ago, a reader reached out to me on social media, and had inquired as to when I’d be doing another craft beer post. Upon reflection, I realized it had been a little while and while I’ve never stopped loving craft beer as many of my friends on Untapd, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram already know, there had been some timing issues in and around last year’s surgery, coupled with not wanting to review a special release that was all out when I finally got around to tasting it. Still, one of the ongoing projects I have been doing has always centered around visiting our local craft breweries. There have been several new craft breweries that have opened in the Houston area in the past few years, which is nice.
However, I also wanted to make sure that they stuck around a while before writing about them too–I did not want a here today, gone tomorrow brewery on this website. Uncle Tex (our unofficial Craft Beer Market here at HankOnFood.com) agrees completely! Thankfully, there have been more than a few that have stuck it out and have proven to have some legs, and here are just a few of them:
8th Wonder Brewing in East Downtown
“Houston: we have BEER!” is a GREAT CATCHPHRASE that greets you when you check out 8th Wonder Brewing in East Downtown. Named after the nickname of the Astrodome, this brewery at 2202 Dallas Street, a few blocks east of 59 and the George R Brown Convention Center, has been making some great brews for the past few years now, applying their craft in a dome-like warehouse located in the shadow of the Houston skyline in East Downtown. 8th Wonder has become known for exploring styles across the beer world. And like any good brewery, each batch undergoes strict flavor analysis and quality control. Only blocks away from the professional baseball, basketball, and soccer stadiums, 8th Wonder is the craft beer for the home team. Swing by the WonderWorld taproom before a game, and get some of the freshest, tastiest beer in town is a challenge that is easily accepted by yours truly and the old Drunken Porkchop.
The building iteself is like an old Air Force corrugated metal shack used for keeping crop dusting planes out of the weather. The taproom boasts over 20 taps, including much of their regular rotations (think Dome Fauxm Cream Ale, Rocket Fuel Porter, and Hopston IPA), as well as variations on these, and many seasonal/experimental brews as well. The place reminds me a bit of another local fave, Buffalo Bayou Brewing, but with a larger interior and exterior table/chill space, and with some flat screen TVs all over to watch sports, news or even cartoons if the staff is so inclined. Overall, Tex and I really enjoyed the chill space, and we especially enjoyed the Taproom selection on this particular day.
Just FYI: $15 gets you 3 pint tokens and a 16 oz 8th Wonder Pint Glass (see photo!), which is a pretty good deal all things considered, though my glassware collection is building up a bit…
I have always been partial to dark beers, such as Porters, and there was a beer called Mission Control Porter available that day which was so smooth, and had certian hard to define quality which made the flavour even better. Thanks to the wide opens spaces, the industrial fans, the tap room was comfortable and a relaxing time was had. They also had a blend of the Rocket Fuel Coffee Porter and the Dome Fauxm called Coffee & Cream that was lighter than the rocket fuel, a little hoppier, but still so tasty! And also 8th Wonder Cougar Paw Red Ale was in stock (in honor of U of H which has a malty front, but a dry hoppy finish. (Note: I usually have found Brew of H around at local bars, but this was my first time trying Cougar Paw, and I liked it quite well!)
And just FYI: the hours of operation for their taproom are: Monday thru Saturday 11a-10p and Sunday 11a – 6p
Eureka Heights Brewing in The Heights
Another local brewery, another chance for Uncle Tex to Tag Along, along with my son Jason and a few bottles of root beer too. Eureka Heights has hit the taps of our local watering hole, The Flying Saucer Sugar Land, more than a few times in the past year or so. Their product is quite drinkable, full of flavour and has some varieties. I’ve also found them in taps in the Heights as well as Midtown and knew that a visit to the brewery taproom was in order. One of the things I always love about brewery visits is the chance to try a few beers that do not always get as wide a distribution as the others. And the visit to Eureka Heights yielded a few of those!
One of the things I like about Eureka Heights is the fact you can buy a flight of Five Tasters and then afterwards buy a pint of your favourite. No overconsumption, plenty of beers to taste! On this particular Day, Uncle Tex and I tried a nice range of beers: Buckle Bunny Cream Ale, Wicket Awesome ESB (English Style Bitter), Business Time IPA, Space Train IPA and Moo Caliente Spicy Milk Stout. Each beer had some good, unique taste points: the Buckle Bunny Cream Ale was crisp, citrusy and with a hint of yeast. The Wicket Awesome was only sour to the nose, but had a resiny taste profile with a hint of hops, and twang. The Business Time IPA didn’t taste like a typical IPA–it had a hoppy nose, sour front, hoppy in the middle, sour at the end. Tasted like a hoppy ESB or Flemish Sour. And the Space Train IPA was a little weak compared to some IPAs–it did have a hoppy nose but was more pine and citrusy in its flavour profile, less better, more refreshing. The Moo Caliente is like spicy dark chocolate with heavy cacao, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. A spicy yet smooth treat to this beer drinker!
Eureka Heights Brewing is located at 941 W 18th Street, Houston TX 77008, and the taproom is open Wed-Fri 4 PM to 9 PM, Saturday Noon to 9 PM and Sunday Noon to 6 PM. And flights of 5 Beers run $10, but no souvenir glass–that costs extra, though they also do fill can growlers, aka Crowlers of their own! They even have a dog patio area, and kids are welcome provided they are supervised or do a good job sitting still while playing with their phones or Nintendo 3DS’s as you sip your beer and chit chat.
Town in City Brewing
Town in City Brewing is a small tap room AND restaurant. However, when I dropped by I was here, with Uncle Tex, for the Beer. Parking there is VERY LIMITED, so if you live in the Heights it’s a nice walk or Uber ride over. If you’re driving in from elswhere, you will need to drive around the block to find parking. Jason was along as well and was happy they had Dublin Dr. Pepper.
Like Eureka Heights, Tex and I shared a flight from Town in City. We went Dark to Hoppy in this flight of four. We had a City Porter which was dark, delicious and smooth, with coffee and smoke undertones. We had a very rich and malty Mafic Stout that had a strong roasted element, like charcoal roasted cacao–a little bitter for a stout, but quite good! We enjoyed a Chipped Tooth IPA which was a very hoppy, piney, almost musky and potent IPA that fit the usual IPA profile I’ve grown to appreciate. And the Mosquito’s Revenge, which is billed as a pale ale, but tastes like a medium bitter IPA–three kinds of hops is why! Again, very worthy beers from a very worthy local brewery.
Town in City Brewing is located at 1125 W Cavalcade St, Houston, TX 77009. The taproom is open Wed-Thu 3 PM to 10 PM, Friday 3 PM to midnight, Saturday 10 AM to midnight and Sunday 10 AM to 10 PM. They often have food trucks and serve snacks, but are not a full service restaurant. They feel like an old pub called Munchie’s on Richmond where I hung out with friends back during the early 1990s in my grad school days at Rice… but I digress…
Rinsing out the Glasses
For those who were concerned about my alcohol intake: I went to the breweries on different days, I had a meal before I came and I limited my intake. Hank on Food only advocates responsible consumption of alcohol and practices what he preaches on this. Overall, Houston’s craft beer culture is growing and spawning new, creative breweries that are getting props from the established breweries and being enjoyed by local beer lovers, as well as visitors to our fair city. I will be visiting more of the new kids on the Beer Block this year, and will continue to support and patronize the established quality brewers like Saint Arnold and B-52 who have remained independent and keep on producing quality beer for those who love the best product they produce.
Drink Craft Beer, Y’all!!!
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