It’s never a good sign to be greeted by a grumpy-looking hostess, as was the case at Restless Palate, 2643 Commercial Center in the LaCenterra At Cinco Ranch shopping center in Katy. "How many?" she asked, looking rather coldly at the two of us. "Just us two," I replied. A better way of asking that question might have been, "Will there be anyone else joining you?" or "Just the two of you?"
We were quickly handed off to a friendlier young lady who seated us, so perhaps the first person was a harried waitress doing double duty.
One look around Restless Palate, though, and the cause for any irritation became more clear. Families with young children can be famously difficult to wait on, and that's likely the predominant clientele at Restless Palate. There’s a tall, plant-filled divider between the main dining room and a handful of two-seater tables, as if to shield any couples on a date from the families.
Out front is a large, round, grassy area (our main view, as the dining room was blocked by the divider), and in the early evening several parents were watching their little ones run around, probably hoping they’d tire themselves out before bed. The whole scene felt like dining in one of the casual restaurants near the sidewalk area of Disney World.
It seems like Restless Palate set out to be a chef-driven restaurant and ran into some unexpected snags with the expectations of the suburban clientele. In advance of the opening, there was a big announcement that award-winning chef Matt Marcus of the Eatsie Boys was consulting on the menu. That, of course, got all the foodies excited — even the ones who don’t live in Katy.
There are only a few of Marcus’s dishes on the menu now, though the restaurant is still clinging to its healthy concept. There’s a lot of sweet potatoes, black beans, quinoa and brown rice, but nothing terribly exciting to choose from. It’s mostly standards like sandwiches, salads and commonplace appetizers such as chicken tenders, nachos, ceviche and deviled eggs. Only six entrées are listed, corralled on the menu in a green box, which makes them look like an add-on, not the focus. Prices on these range from $12.99 to $19.99.
That said, the food tasted better than expected. The crab in the shrimp and crab nachos was scanty and what was there seemed lost amid the cheddar, black bean purée and crumbles of queso fresco, but the mixture of cubed sweet potatoes and black beans in the center was a flavor-packed combination. The patty on the RP burger arrived oddly misshapen, at least a quarter inch taller on one side than the other. The tomato slice and blue cheese had slid off the caramelized onion-topped patty, too.
Maybe it won’t win any beauty contests, but once it was assembled, it was pretty good. The patty is a blend of short rib and ground chuck, so there was beefy flavor to spare.
As far as drinks go, it was apparent our server knew little about beer, as we were told that Karbach Love Street was on the rotating Shiner tap. Those are two totally different brands. Beyond that, it was the same-old, same-old selection of a few ubiquitous local beers that we see everywhere else in town. What was surprising was that there were no selections from Katy’s own brewery, No Label Brewing Company.
Restless Palate is likely to be a boon to Katy families who want to dine out on food made with wholesome ingredients. There's not a thing wrong with that. It’s just not the foodie destination we’d hoped for.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.