I live in Houston and love writing reviews of the local restaurants I visit with family and friends.
Best Southern Restaurant in Houston
In 2016, the Houston Press named Lucille’s the Best Southern Restaurant in the city. That is merely one of the many accolades for this casual dining place that offers top-notch and mouthwateringly delicious food.
I was introduced to this restaurant in 2016 by a good friend of mine, Lisa, when she treated me to a birthday lunch. My husband and I shared lunch there during Houston Restaurant Weeks one year. It was his visit. In both instances, the food was delicious and artfully displayed on our plates.
Houston Museum District
Lucille's is located in the Houston Museum District. The address is 5512 La Branch Street, Houston, Texas 77004.
Numerous museums of different types are located in this area north of the Texas Medical Center and Rice University. It is also only a few blocks away from the McGovern Centennial Gardens, which is on the north side of the expansive Hermann Park. Nearby you will find the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as well as the Holocaust Museum, Contemporary Arts Museum, and others.
Located in an older Mission-style home, this restaurant has a comfortable atmosphere. It is so lovely when buildings like this one, which dates back to the 1920s, are still utilized. No amount of decorating by interior designers can quite capture the pleasantly comfortable and cozy character of the rooms in a long-established home such as this.
Like most houses in a residential neighborhood, this one has a backyard put to a useful purpose. Lights hang in the trees as well as shade awnings. There is an outdoor bar, picnic tables, and gardening areas.
Fresh produce from their gardens is utilized in cooking. It is hard to get anything better than something picked that very day for freshness, flavor, and nutrients!
Lucille Bishop Smith was quite a lady! She was a good cook. That goes without saying. What she accomplished in her 92 years leaves quite a legacy! She was named one of the "100 Women of the Century" by the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Texas.
Her great-grandsons Ben and Chris Williams, who purchased this older home, turned it into a restaurant naming it in her honor. Classically trained and well-traveled, Chris Williams is the noted owner-chef. With the assistance of Chef Khang Hoang, the Chef de Cuisine, they routinely turn out fabulous food for lunches, dinners as well as brunches. Special meals are often created, celebrating different events, and frequently benefit various charities.
Many of the items on the menu reflect the time-honored recipes from Lucille. Of course, these trained chefs also embellish and create recipes of their own. Old standards like chili and biscuits are always on the menu. I would like to try their Southern fried chicken. It is sure to be a winner!
My First Visit: A Birthday Lunch
Lisa ordered a small plate of green fried tomatoes to start the celebratory lunch. The sliced green tomatoes were coated with seasoned cornmeal and served with goat cheese and spicy aioli. They were delicious. When I make them at home, I dredge them in plain flour and fry them in oil with a little bacon fat, salt, and pepper.
Lobster Cobb salad was what Lisa chose to order that day. It was an elegant version of Cobb salad with poached lobster tail, avocado, bacon, sliced hard-boiled egg, mixed greens and the dressing which was described as grapefruit nuoc mam vin. Lisa certainly enjoyed it!
I am still drooling over the shrimp and grits that I ordered. It is without exception the best version that I have ever eaten! I raved about it so much that when my husband dined there for the first time, it is the entrée that he also chose to eat. He enjoyed it immensely. Gulf shrimp and andouille sausage are served over stone mill grits with a sherry tomato broth.
Second Visit With My Husband
The Caesar salad was delicious. Described as little gem lettuce (and a gem it is!), the plate is finished off with a soft-boiled egg, tomato, tarragon dressing, shredded cheese, and cornbread croutons. The cornbread croutons give that salad a southern spin. The tarragon dressing also makes for a flavorful difference from traditional Caesar salad dressings.
The roasted butternut squash was a vegetarian delight! It is a generous plate full of tasty caramelized butternut squash with roasted pumpkin seeds, spiced soy yogurt, cilantro purée and topped off with fennel fronds and a few pieces of Italian parsley. It is scrumptious! Roasting vegetables brings out the natural sweetness and seems to intensify flavors. Whichever chef created this masterpiece should be given an award!
My husband, per my suggestion, ordered the shrimp and grits and enjoyed it as much as I did on my first visit. Tempted as I was to order the shrimp and grits once again—it is that good!—I ordered the miso quail, which was one of the choices for entrées during Houston Restaurant Weeks. Like everything else tasted so far from their menu, it was delicious. It would not be something that we would routinely cook at home, making it an even greater treat.
Texas-farmed quails are expertly cooked and served over flavorful serrano cheddar grits with collard green kimchi and a sorghum miso drizzle. The waitress serving it said the idea was to take a bite of everything at once for maximum flavor. It was great, and I appreciated the tip.
This restaurant is one that we would certainly put on our return list of places to once again enjoy. Look for Lucille’s parking sign in a lot across the street in a hospital parking lot. Restaurant customers can park there at no cost.
You will find delectable Southern food classics and more in this part of Houston at Lucille’s.
It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.
— Lewis Grizzard
© 2020 Peggy Woods