Former Rainbow Lodge Chef Is Making Southern Magic At Hearsay Gastro Lounge
This past spring, Hearsay Gastro Lounge at 218 Travis landed chef Kelly Boyd—and many Houston diners are already familiar with his cooking. Boyd served as the executive chef of Rainbow Lodge for nearly two years. (Chef Mark Schmidt quickly reclaimed that position last February after the closing of his restaurant Blackbird & Henry in Austin.)
To be blunt, before Boyd arrived I’d had at least three middling-to-bad dining experiences at Hearsay within a year—enough to make me swear I’d never eat there again. However, I happened to run into Boyd downtown. When he told me where he was cooking now and invited me in, I hastily made plans to visit, driven by memories of a particularly excellent lunch when he was still at Rainbow Lodge.
Boyd’s food at Hearsay—at least what we tried—is of the hearty, comforting kind and it is exhilaratingly flavorful. We kicked off the meal with Short Rib Poutine, a big stack of crispy shoestring French fries doused in a generous ladle-full of tender meat and jus. It’s currently $7 on the happy hour menu and available only from 4 to 7 p.m. but will soon also be on the list of appetizers and available anytime.
On the lighter side is a smoked salmon bruschetta with goat cheese spread—accented with dill and other herbs—and topped with fluffy queso fresco that Boyd builds on ciabatta. “It’s a little quirky but we do it with garlic roasted tomatoes,” explained Boyd. “Those are what really sets this off the chain.” Indeed, the garlic roasted tomatoes add saucy tang that make the other flavors spring to life.
The fried chicken is something Boyd takes special pride in. “We do a hand-battered chicken—an entire half-bird. I’m a firm believer in that if we say “fried chicken” then we’re going to give you a real chicken,” he said. Along with the bird are braised collard greens cooked with cane vinegar and bacon.
Fresh Gulf fish is featured each week. The week of our visit it was crab-stuffed flounder over lobster coulis (sauce) with heirloom tomato-infused risotto and charred broccolini. “Next week, we might be doing something with grouper or with snapper,” said Boyd. “It’s all dependent on what season and what’s available.”
On a side note, it was also delightful to find that the cocktails at Hearsay Gastro Lounge are finally back in balance. In the past, these tended to lean too far to the sweet side. Instead, old favorites like Smoke & Mirrors with Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Tamarind Syrup, Lemon, Luxardo Bitters and Combier Kummel, garnished with an orange twist, were back to their original glory.
So, if you haven’t dined at Hearsay in a long time, it’s well worth the time to see what Boyd has done with the place. He is currently serving some of the best Southern comfort food to be found in downtown Houston.