One of Houston's most critically acclaimed restaurants, Feast, is moving to New Orleans.
They aren't abandoning Houston quite yet, but in a recent interview with CultureMap, chef and co-owner Richard Knight hinted that our city wasn't the most receptive to Feast's unusual nose-to-tail concept.
And from the restaurant's own Twitter feed, the owners admitted today: "We have been critically loved but we still don't have the sales here in Houston. We still have 3 table nights." It apparently isn't enough that Frank Bruni named Feast an outstanding newcomer in the New York Times, that Robb Walsh called it "bloody brilliant" or that the restaurant has received more national attention for its efforts and outstanding cuisine than few others in Houston ever have in its few short years in operation, including nominations from the James Beard Foundation.
Houston is letting this amazing restaurant die.
This is condemnable, for many reasons. Houston is lucky to have a restaurant like Feast, which advocates using every part of an animal in an effort to reduce wastefulness and to reintroduce people to their culinary roots. Which advocates using locally grown food, locally baked bread and locally butchered meats in an effort to support the community. Which advocates honest, clean and delicious food that's accessible and affordable to nearly everyone.
And which is, quintessentially, the very restaurant we need to promote and patronize at every possible turn. So why isn't Houston doing this?
1. The wrong-headed perception that all Feast serves is offal. Feast -- like most restaurants -- has its menu posted on its website. If you aren't interested in eating offal, that's perfectly fine. (Sure, you're missing out on some of the tastier and less expensive parts of an animal, but we understand the sentiment and -- for once -- aren't going to judge.) You'll notice that Feast's menu lists a plethora of other items: meatballs with tomato sauce, braised chicken, French fish stew, pan-fried snapper and even eggplant stuffed with mushrooms, tomatoes and cheese.
2. The equally wrong-headed idea that all Feast serves is meat. As just listed above, Feast serves dishes that appeal to omnivores and herbivores alike. Even if your date, friend or family member is a vegetarian (or a pescetarian), there are plenty of items on the menu for them to enjoy. Seriously. Go look for yourself.
3. The assumption that Feast is expensive. Unfortunately, Feast just discontinued its weekday lunches (that's also our fault, Houston), which were the most affordable yet most interesting and delicious in town. We even wrote a whole item about them. Yet dinner at Feast and lunches on the weekends are still entirely affordable and cost just as much as you were going to drop on dinner at Chuy's. At lunch, you can still get two courses for $13.95 or three for $17.95. And those courses? Are huge. If you're into leftovers, you'll be into Feast.
4. There's no parking. Yes, valet parking can be a pain in the ass -- specifically at places where it's totally and completely unnecessary. Yet at Feast, it's legitimately needed,
which is why the valet is free and no tips are expected. Just pull up to the door, let the valet take your car and enjoy your meal. Total cost? $3. The valet is even better when an unexpected rainshower comes through or it's dark and you don't want to walk to your car alone through Montrose.
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5. Houston's inherent fear of "new" things. And this is, perhaps, the most important reason. Why is it that abominable places like Lupe Tortilla and Collina's continue to be so popular? Because they're serving non-threatening food in familiar environments. What's so great about playing it safe and leading such a sheltered life, though? How is your life improved by never trying anything new or different? (Hint: It's not.) Fear of change is unhealthy, and it's that fear that will continue to stifle Houston's restaurant scene and leave us so far behind places like New York City and Chicago. Sure, we have hundreds of smaller places turning out "weird" items like duck tongues and beet soup. But those places are primarily patronized by the local community of expats or the intrepid food-lovers in Houston who make up a sad minority of overall diners. The second that someone takes and expands that concept to a full-fledged, chef-driven restaurant, it becomes untenable on a larger scale.
Afraid of the menu at Feast? We're sad for you. It truly has some of the best food in town. Branch out and try something you never thought you'd eat. You'll probably find something you love, and cherish the discovery for the rest of your life (and this applies to all situations, not just food). Unsure about something like Welsh rarebit? It's just really tasty cheese on toast. See? That wasn't so scary.
Even if you don't like offal, even if you don't like meat, Feast still has something for you. And we guarantee that you'll like it.
Will you step up and save Feast?