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Liberty Kitchen Sink

This Heights restaurant tries to be all things to everyone — but to me it's an oyster bar with a terrific burger and milk shake.

Have at look inside the charming Liberty Kitchen via our slideshow.

There is a bowl of gumbo at Liberty Kitchen with your name on it. And it's utterly unlike any other gumbo in town. It's served in a bowl nearly the size of a washtub, and it's topped not only with fried oysters but also plump pieces of fried okra. The dark, thin roux has a deepness and richness to it — swimming with both shrimp and andouille sausage — that is difficult for me to resist each time I visit. It's equally tough to resist the fat, breaded shrimp and meaty tomato-bacon jam inside Liberty Kitchen's "fried shrimp rémoulade sandwich" (just don't call it a po-boy).

Liberty Kitchen is an inviting place from the second you walk through its heavy front door. A semiprivate room with a rugged wooden table under a chic chandelier greets you to the left, while a long, sleek, marble-topped bar with its back to a wall of windows greets you on the right. Vivid pops of shiny orange are scattered among the rough-hewn boards that trim the shabby chic dining room, the Warhol-esque hues grinning against rustic New England background. The dining room is beguilingly casual, as is the sunny patio. The service is friendly and competent, the food mostly good.

The gumbo is difficult to resist.
Troy Fields
The gumbo is difficult to resist.

Location Info

Map

Liberty Kitchen

1050 Studewood St.
Houston, TX 77008

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Heights

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to midnight Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.
Gumbo: $8
Deviled eggs: $8
Ceviche: $8
Liberty burger: $12
Hawaiian MacCock burger: $13
Fried shrimp sandwich: $14
Alabama catfish: $16

READ MORE
SLIDESHOW: ...and Oysters for All at Liberty Kitchen
BLOG POST: 5 Things Not to Do If a Food Critic Is Eating at Your Restaurant

And yet, Liberty Kitchen remains — at times — inscrutable.

I don't entirely understand the bent of the restaurant — whether it's Tex-Cajun-New England, or something more or less than this awkward stitching together of adjectives — although I admit to liking it most of the time. I enjoy Liberty Kitchen as more of an oyster bar than anything else, but an oyster bar where you can happen to also get a terrific burger and a milk shake that would put any old-school diner to shame.

Still, despite an ultra-casual atmosphere in which diners perch on old wood-and-metal school chairs and the waiters wear jeans, some of the prices are scorchingly high. I don't understand this, nor do I understand the uneven application of some of those prices. An extra $2.50 for a "fresh local hen egg" when restaurants like The Burger Guys charge less than that for a whole duck egg is but one bizarre example. And while that enormous bowl of wonderful gumbo is only $8 (this is one of Liberty Kitchen's best bargains), a tiny bowl of oyster stew is $7. The vast size difference between the two is baffling considering they're only $1 apart in price.

I also do not understand the rambling menu, which often undermines the talent in the kitchen by forcing its focus to be shattered into dozens of different directions. Fifteen different appetizers alone, ten items from the grill, a random section of mac 'n' cheese skillets, and the list goes on. There are so many dishes that it's no wonder the consistency of the food is schizophrenic from day to day.

On a recent lunch visit, there were two suckling pigs spread-eagle across a pit in the open kitchen. Their flesh was already starting to char and crackle a bit and I stared at them, wide-eyed, wondering if they'd be on special that day. Liberty Kitchen has strangely named "weekly platter specials" that actually change from day to day, with options like Dixie-fried chicken with cream gravy and hot sauce syrup on Wednesdays or tomato gravy with meatballs and a pork rib over spaghetti on Sundays.

Unfortunately, it turned out that the twin suckling pigs staring lasciviously at me from the kitchen were only the weekly platter special for dinner that night — not for lunch. Chagrined, I turned to that bowl of gumbo and a half-dozen Peter's Point oysters from Massachusetts. The almost translucent oysters were narrow and thin, with a sharp salinity to them that's entirely absent in Gulf oysters.

This is one of the things I love about Liberty Kitchen — being able to drop in any day of the week and be presented with an array of oysters from around the country, including Gulf oysters in season. Liberty Kitchen has the chops to be a serious oyster bar, especially with the cold draft beers behind the cool marble bar and the option to choose from a variety of other raw seafood dishes, from a ceviche marinated in ginger beer and chiles to a Hawaiian-style tuna poke. In fact, I often wish that Liberty Kitchen's entire menu was confined to its seafood-heavy appetizer list — nearly every item in that section is solid, and most of it well-priced.

Not every item, however, is terrific. The "deviled" eggs we tried were really just hard-boiled eggs cut in half, dusted with paprika and topped with fried oysters and bacon. Were the eggs actually deviled, this would rocket to the top of my must-eat list each time along with the gumbo.

Our other dishes that afternoon were equally muddled. My Alabama catfish from Liberty Kitchen's charcoal and peach wood grill was overcooked and underseasoned, while the creamy malt slaw that accompanied it was equally bland. Where was the punch of malt vinegar? Where, even, was the creaminess? It was dreadfully dry, as was my friend's overcooked patty on his "Hawaiian MacCock" burger. (Lance Fegen seems to have a thing for both Hawaiian flavors and oddly juvenile phallic references; his other project, BRC Gastropub, stands for "big red cock.")

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18 comments
Maballeza
Maballeza

Papas seafood is much better. The gumbo here reminds me of dot cafe gumbo. Not good. Got cold in 5 minutes.

Cocky McPhallicman
Cocky McPhallicman

Phallic references? Get a grip lady. Its funny and if this were England nobody would bat an eyelash.

Alexanderc432
Alexanderc432

You pretty much took the words out of my mouth...I think their gumbo is definitely different in a good way but I was very underwhelmed by the lack of seasoning. I'll be back though, hopefully on a better day.

Jay Francis
Jay Francis

Liberty Kitchen does many things well. But on the one time that I tried their fried chicken offering, I found the crust to be way too browned and the chicken dry. Indications were that, because of the demand, they had to do big batches of chicken in the afternoon and then do a second fry at the time of the order. But the purpose of this comment is actuallyto note how perceptive the staff was, with an offer to bring me another serving to try, and then to comp me for my meal. It could be a different philosophy on how chicken is fried. I felt the only thing to do was to put my money where my mouth was. So I went home, fried up a batch of my double dipped buttermilk batter chicken. I returned to the restaurant with it, and the recipe, as a friendly gesture of an alternative approach to frying chicken, should they be interested in experimenting (the waitstaff had told me earlier that their recipe was a work in progress). I haven't had the opportunity to go back so I'm not sure what they've done with their recipe; but would be curious to know if anyone has had their fried chicken lately.

Hugh Ramsey
Hugh Ramsey

The burger is the same as BRC.

$8 with fries on Mondays, highly recommend.

Feldman
Feldman

That review completely sums up my thoughts and experiences. I love the building, the decor, the bar, the subway tiles and the wonderful afternoon sun that peers through the windows opposite the bar. It's the menu that's confounding. The oysters are a big draw for me and I too would love to see LK become more of a seafood place. I also love the inventive drink menu and desserts are worth it, so leave room for one!

Houstess
Houstess

Yes, it is funny if you are 12. Now go do your homework.

Dimaxion
Dimaxion

Is it getting a bit late for raw oysters?

Rokslde
Rokslde

Hostess there is a pub in London if memory serves called the black cock...so did I do my homework..you are an absolute retard as well as a jackass...and there is a tiny pub tavern near car outside Scotland called the cock and ass pub..so you really need to shut the hell up. I will preface your likely lame retort with the following..why don't you do your homework, get off your ass and get on a plane, fly to Great Britian and see the thousands of crazy names for pubs for yourself...you igornorant, rubber nosed clown

Cocky McPhallicman
Cocky McPhallicman

How about McDonald's McRIBMEHARD? I guess MCD is pre-teenager too. Or Wendy's Ultimate O-Face Burger? I guess our writer's journalistic integrity is fully outstanding, considering she references " his other project, BRC Gastropub, stands for "big red cock" but she does not reference, as any writer with an ounce of dignity, the fact the there is A BIG RED ROOSTER in front of the restaurant. For a long long time Roosters have been known as cocks. Let me use it in a sentence that I overheard this week, " Man, last Friday night was awesome. I got a beer at BRC (did you know that stands for "Big Red Cock?") then i went to a COCK fight and drank Modelo's with some interesting characters, after which I went to Liberty Kitchen for a beer and a Hawaiian McCock burger. Man it was awesome. The only thing that could have made it more awesome would have been seeing a restaurant critic at one of the establishments so I could tell her how much I savor my Cockburger."You people amuse me.

Dimaxion
Dimaxion

I often try restaurants, and then return to offer them my improved versions of their dishes. Last weekend, however, was my last as Tony Vallone himself tossed my ass out into the parking lot.

Wyatt
Wyatt

"you are an absolute retard as well as a jackass"

Easy there, Oscar Wilde, don't expend all your rhetorical ammo in one post.

Rokslide
Rokslide

no i meant hostess...like the cupcake. not angry at all foam nose... but that kind of response is so typical...you are the kind of person that likes to instigate but when its time to put the gloves on you hide in the 'why are you so angry' corner. you are exactly who i thought you were and i imagine most people on here see that...and lastly you cant even dress like a proper clown..no prideful clown would ever wear a foam nose, especially since foam noses dont squeek!!!

Houstess
Houstess

It's "Houstess" Rok, and I did once dress as a clown, but the nose was made of foam. You seem angry. Keep Calm and Carry On, guv'nah.

Dimaxion
Dimaxion

(if only you amused us half as much)

 
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