When I think of Morningside Drive in the Rice Village, casual dining and late night bar hopping come to mind. So Chef Michael Kramer's (formerly of Voice and The Tasting Room) new restaurant, Felix 55, is somewhat of an anomaly in the midst of Irish pubs and casual cafes. I've been looking forward to trying Felix 55 ever since I first heard about Chef Kramer's new venture, and I found myself there for a happy hour recently.
The restaurant's interior is trendy, but still warm and inviting, perhaps because the space is small and intimate and the large window in the front brings a lot of light into the room. The decor is decidedly masculine with leather chairs and dark wood, but the feminine light fixtures, the flowers on each table and the paintings on the wall add a soft touch. Sitting at the bar gives you a great view out of the large window looking out onto Morningside and the large patio in the front of the restaurant. Once the weather cools off the patio will be a welcoming place for a few drinks.
Happy hour runs from 4 to 7 p.m. every day. On the menu are several different small bites, such as barbecue beef sliders, ceviche and flatbread, all at $6 each. For drinks there is a selection of wine and specialty cocktails and martinis for $6, and any call mixed drink for $5.
On the bartender's recommendation I went with the pulled pork tacos and the ricotta corn fritters. The tacos came three mini-size tacos to a plate served open-faced on corn tortillas. The pulled pork was topped with pickled red cabbage, and avocado crema sprinkled with cotija cheese. The pork was tender and juicy, making each bite messier as it drizzled down my hand, and the meat itself was just slightly sweet, with a hint of vinegar. The avocado crema wasn't impressive on its own but worked well with the mildly salty cotija. The pickled cabbage gave the dish color and each bite a zing. Overall, they were very good, but there wasn't anything too exciting about them.
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The ricotta-corn fritters, on the other hand, were something I wasn't expecting to really be wowed by, but I would come back to Felix 55 for these alone. And I may not be alone on this as I noticed everyone in the bar area had a bowl of these to themselves. The fritters were fried to a deep golden brown and dusted very lightly with cumin. The crispy, deep-fried skin was crunchy, but the inside was pillowy and flaky, and there were whole kernels of corn spread throughout. Take the best cake donut you've ever had and imagine it as something savory. They were accompanied with a dip on the side, a beautiful yellow lemon-curry aioli. The curry and cumin were very subtle in this dish, but just enough to really make it something unique.
The bartender informed me that they are currently open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and will eventually serve food until that hour as well -- but they have only been open a few months and are really trying to figure out the clientele. The restaurant had filled up by the time I was making my way out, and the crowd ranged from a large party of young twenty-somethings dressed in shorts, to a table of ladies ready for a night out, but everyone looked comfortable, and isn't that what the Rice Village is all about?