I’ve been waiting for what seems like forever for Nancy’s Hustle – located on Polk at Nagle – to open. Well, I’ve been waiting since late June, which is when my boyfriend and I bought a house in Eastwood and moved in, near the newly-opened East End restaurant. The area is home to several iconic burger joints, Tex-Mex halls and taquerias, but you’re hardpressed to find anything close to finer dining today unless you cross into downtown proper. While we ate dinner at Nancy’s Hustle last night, for the next few days the restaurant is taking limited reservations on Resy in order to keep an eye on early-days operations, co-owner Sean Jensen told us after our meal.
Jensen’s background includes years of working behind the bar sipping and swirling wines (and beer) at Public Services Wine and Whisky, Hay Merchant, Canopy and Shade. His business partner, chef Jason Vaughan, returned to Houston after several years in Chicago kitchens. Before leaving for the windy city, he was on the culinary team at Daily Review Cafe.
Assisting in the bar program is cocktail empress Kristine Nguyen, who we’ve long admired for her well-executed and creative recipes created at Bad News Bar. Joining the team is pastry chef Julia Doran who was creating delightful desserts at Bernadine’s before the Hunky Dory/Bernadine’s/Treadsack implosion of 2017.
The restaurant offers a smallish menu. A selection of small plates ($6-17), large plates ($15-28) and side dishes ($5-7) are divided into sections while wine by the bottle and glass, beer, cider and cocktails take up more than 50% of the single sheet. While we couldn’t capture any good food photos (dim lighting, and we ate it all as soon as it came out) we enjoyed several different plates and drinks. Our favorites? We started with the Turkish dumplings, which are tiny but flavorful and a perfect starter for two people. (If you’re dining with more than one companion, you’ll want more than a single order.) We also tried the broiled raclette with potatoes and pickles, sourdough tagliatelli with burrata, pistachios and crispy Brussels sprouts, followed by the rabbit leg confit and bacon-wrapped rabbit loin with braised beans. For extra veggies we opted for the Brussels sprouts with parmesan and tonnato sauce and sweet potatoes with maple yogurt and seeds. We finished with sesame churros, which were dynamite.
To drink we wanted to try something from every category: a corn and oil cocktail, a glass of Shaksbury Arlo cider, H&H Madeira, and from the dessert menu, the mentha flip. Our total bill? $130.
If you enjoy an intimate dining atmosphere with a no-frills approach to decor, you’ll love the vibe at Nancy’s Hustle. The kitchen is open to the dining room and the bar rides sidecar to the kitchen, so if you’re tucked away in a corner, you can see all the action of the room, and if you’re dining at the bar you can watch every plate and cocktail come together before your eyes. I noted that there were four total women working behind the bar and in kitchen, which I don’t often see but hope to see more of in the future.
As a resident of the neighborhood, I’m really excited to have Nancy’s Hustle open for my own selfish reasons. While it’s situated in a few blocks developed by luxury townhomes, deed-restricted neighborhoods like mine which were built in the 1930s and are attracting more and more new residents who want to restore the homes and enjoy them for years to come. These charming subdivisions are also gaining new residents, and ideally, these homebuyers convert into customers for Nancy’s Hustle and other forthcoming restaurants in 2018. I’d say Nancy’s Hustle is a pioneer that is a year ahead of its time, and hopefully non-East End residents make the effort to dine in the East End, even if it isn’t on their regular restaurant route.
Nancy’s Hustle, 2704 Polk 713-501-4544