Confession: Sometimes I document interesting restaurant bathrooms on Snapchat. I felt so compelled at Chapman & Kirby, with its elegant chaises, marble floors and long, antique-looking sink, that by the end of my meal, I had a list of Snapchat inquiries all asking, “Where is that?!”
If that’s what the bathroom aesthetic inspires at Chapman & Kirby, just imagine the real deal in its entirety. The new gastro lounge sprawls over more than 9,000 square feet, which includes a manicured lawn with plenty of seating and standing areas in the back. The exterior, with its panels of windows, sharp lettering and groomed greenery, is a shiny and polished contrast to the surrounding neighborhood, East Downtown (the casual 8th Wonder Brewery lies across the street). Inside, the chic renovated warehouse's exposed brick mingles with ceiling work and smudged gilded mirrors, hanging gold chains, dark blue swathes of curtains, and chandeliers interspersed with trendy vintage lighting. It’s a lot, and it’s stunning.
As the hostess guided me toward one of the mammoth circular denim-clad booths, I worried that my friend and I would have trouble conversing over the throbbing music. While I waited, I reviewed the menu: food on one side, a selection of cocktails and mostly local beers on tap on the back.
“Do you have a wine list?” I asked the waiter.
“No, but I can tell you what wines we have,” he said. Basically: house versions of the essentials — cabernet, pinot noir, malbec.
My malbec — an extremely generous pour for $6 — pretty well matched quality for price, but unfortunately was delivered in a glass that still had water stains and a few segments of lemon stuck to it.
My friend arrived and it was determined that the music was not excessively loud. Our sweetly patient waiter was the picture of chill as we kept forgetting to order in favor of catching up. Even with a sizable law school reunion happy hour gathered around the front bar, the space is expansive enough that it felt relatively empty at 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday, with plenty of space for those seated along the smaller tables lining the windows or standing around the larger bar toward the back.
The menu spans shareable bites like bourbon honey-glazed bacon, queso and ahi poke, a few flatbreads and a few entrées like burgers, rib-eye tacos or green curry mussels. In search of greens, I ordered the Asian Crunch salad without chicken. It did deliver on a generous pile of greens with plenty of carrot and cucumber slices, but the mild ginger dressing and scattering of crispy wonton noodles tasted generic.
My friend ordered the Texas beer-battered chicken tenders and fries, served with a trio of orange serrano marmalade, honey mustard and bacon pepper gravy. Upon first bite, she pointed a bite of chicken at me in shock — “this chicken is really good!” Moist and juicy, four of the large crusted chicken tenders, with a pile of crispy shoestring fries, came to just $13, a surprisingly economical meal (the Chimi Rib Eye, at $35, is currently the most expensive item on the menu).
Whether the cocktails, at $13 each, are worth it is a question that will have to wait for my next visit. Will my next signature drink become the Elderfashioned? The hibiscus-spiked Left on Westheimer, honey and prosecco-filled Air Mail or mango and passion-fruit-laced Allen Parkway? I kind of hope so.
While the food alone probably won’t make this a destination hot spot, it seems the atmosphere and drinks could. The chic, roomy space would make an excellent destination for large happy hour groups, birthdays and other large gatherings; by the time we left a couple of hours later, the room was filling up, an auspicious sign for this new EaDo landmark.