Cherry Pie Hospitality – the new restaurant group formed by former F.E.E.D. TX personnel Lee Ellis, Jim Mills, Susan Molzan, Lisa Gochman and others – has had a busy month. Within a week of announcing the group’s formation, they also announced its first new concept – and it’s already open to the public. State Fare Kitchen & Bar has taken over the space formerly occupied by Pour Society (one of the three failed Houston restaurants from celebrity chef Bradley Ogden) and is bringing a taste of Texas cooking to Memorial Gateway.

It may seem quick, but before news of the restaurant group’s formation, the Cherry Pie team was behind the scenes at Pour Society serving un-marked menus for weeks, making changes based on customer feedback. Ellis, Mills (culinary directory) and Bill McKinley (executive chef) have done the research, they’ve printed their fourth revised menu, and they’re ready for you.

Changes to the interior haven’t been made, but blueprints have been drawn. (When we visited the restaurant still sported the Pour Society sign.) The restaurant plans to stay open during renovation – long nights and weekends are ahead for their contractor. Watch for a before-and-after look at the renovation in an upcoming SideDish. With Ellis involved in the design, you know there will be some funky flare. (Have you seen his retro-style sign over at Lee’s Fried Chicken and Donuts?)

For now, the restaurant is serving the same menu for lunch and dinner. As guests of the restaurant last week, we stopped in to sample a few dishes, and by a few, we mean 18 (yikes), and that doesn’t even include the sides. It was one of the most extensive tastings we’ve experienced in a good awhile, but service was swift, and there’s not a dish we wouldn’t recommend.


Dill pickle dip with barbecue chips

To start there’s an assortment of dips designed to share. Creamy black bean-bacon dip ($7), jalapeño-onion dip ($8), queso blanco with green chiles ($9) and dill pickle dip ($8, photo above) served with house-made barbecue potato chips are all tributes to Texas comfort food. There are plenty of other small plates, too, like the not-too-sweet chunky shrimp cocktail ($17, photo below), which is just right with a squeeze of lime and some chopped jalapeno.


Shrimp cocktail

The outdoors temperature is getting up there, but ask the restaurant management to crank the AC so you can order the gumbo ($15, photo below) and chicken tortilla soup ($9). The dark roux gumbo is filled with shrimp, andouille sausage, crab and chicken, served with a side of rice. It might be one of the best gumbos in the city.



You can also order a bowl of the beef chili ($9, photo below) made with pasilla and ancho chiles (no beans, here) or have it as a Frito pie. The chili is noteworthy on its own, packing plenty depth and richness … the layer of crunchy Fritos only makes it bigger and better.


Beef chili served as a Frito pie

By this point, you’re reaching for a drink, something to offset the salty overload. And cocktails here – created by beverage directory Laurie Harvey – are worth reaching for. If the Frito pie is calling your name, pair it with the Garden Variety (photo below), a mix of Thai chile-infused vodka, lemongrass, ginger, cucumber and citrus.


The Garden Variety cocktail

Back to the food. The Dixie burger (pimiento cheese, crispy onions, barbecue sauce, $17) and the Hicksburger (pastrami, grilled onion, gruyere, chicken-fried fries, Lee’s burger sauce, $19, photo below) are as ridiculous and messy as they sound.


The Hicksburger

A pan-seared petit filet ($28) is served old-school steakhouse-style, with a side of mashed potatoes, a small bowl of gravy and a chopped salad.

New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp ($28, photo below) served on creamy grits is another standout. Shrimp and grits are fairly common on Houston restaurant menus, and we’re often disappointed. Not here.


Shrimp and grits

And let’s not overlook the menu section devoted to mac ‘n’ cheese. We think sharing is the best way to go here – remember, you’re probably already full from those dips and starters. The Mac Daddy ($22, photo below) starts with their two-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese and then is topped with tender beef short rib and roasted shallots.


The Mac Daddy mac ‘n’ cheese

If you’ve saved room for desserts, State Fare serves a daily treat from Petite Sweets’ pastry chef Susan Molzan, whose dessert shop on West Alabama is now a Cherry Pie Hospitality concept. Unfortunately, even with the waitstaff pulling dishes away to help save room for the next round, we didn’t.

State Fare Kitchen & Bar, 947 Gessner,832-831-0950,