First Bite: New Houston Restaurant Dishes Up Creole Flavors
After a few weeks of cocktail and happy hour service only, Acadian Coast has officially opened for dinner. Located in the East End at 2929 Navigation, the restaurant is now bringing Acadian and Creole flavors to an area long known for some of the city’s best Mexican food.
The restaurant is a partnership between John Avila of Henderson & Kane general store and Bruce Gingrich of Corky’s Barbecue. Chef Jean-Philippe Gaston assisted with early menu development but has moved on; Avila is now manning the kitchen. The concept combines Gulf Coast seafood with the flavors of Louisiana’s Creole country and Canada’s Acadia, while using the cooking traditions of the American South. To mesh with the dishes, the cocktail menu features New Orleans-inspired drinks.
The menu is currently seafood-centric, but there are plans to add hearty meat dishes in the near future. Avila said that sourcing high-quality game meat has been more challenging than expected, so some of the ambitious items that were planned, such as rack of elk ribs, are now temporarily on hold. That said, Duck Confit with Dumplings and a rabbit dish will be added soon. Avila expects that the menu will change with the seasons.
My party of three arrived on Tuesday evening for a reservation on the patio. It was below 60 degrees and the heaters that they have on order had not yet arrived, so we opted for an inside booth instead. My daughter and I ordered cocktails from the classic’s menu. I chose a seasonal gin and tonic and she ordered a Pimm’s Cup. My husband opted for an iced tea, which arrived with only sugar available as a sweetening option, which was surprising. Both cocktails were refreshing and very enjoyable, but purists could debate whether a Pimm’s Cup with Luxardo maraschino liqueur added or a gin and tonic dosed with Braulio and Vermouth count as classic renditions.
Our selection of cold seafood dishes arrived with the cocktails: raw oysters on the halfshell and red snapper crudo. The oysters tasted very fresh and were served with mignonette, cocktail sauce and crackers. The crudo seemed a bit bland even though it was well-dressed with herbs, red onions, avocado and a honey-citrus sauce. Next up was an heirloom tomato salad with burrata, crispy basil and lemon herb dressing. It was bright, lively and enjoyed by all.
Our crab cakes and the shrimp brochette were the first hot dishes to arrive. The crab cakes were the undisputed table favorite, served over a zippy lemon dill aioli and, despite being from the “Smalls” menu, were two generously sized cakes for $13. While billed on the menu as being made with jumbo lump crab, the crabmeat was well-mixed with breadcrumbs, so there were no huge chunks visible. The shrimp brochette was served on a skewer over a bed of dirty rice, with crispy bacon pieces as a garnish rather than wrapped around the shrimp as expected. That said, the dirty rice was excellent and we all really enjoyed the presentation. We had the appetizer version (5 medium-sized shrimp for $9), but there is an entrée option as well.
For the entrée, we opted for the seafood platter which comes with catfish, shrimp, oysters and a soft-shelled crab. All of the fish and seafood are fried and come with shoestring potatoes and coleslaw. We substituted extra shrimp for the oysters without a problem. The platter was generously loaded and everything tasted fresh, crispy and delicious. We enjoyed two additional cocktails with this course: a frozen ginger mule and a Fleur des Lis. Both were good, but the seasonal gin and tonic was my favorite drink of the night. Other entrée choices were seafood gumbo, shrimp & cheesy grits and a sirloin steak.
More options from the bar include a large selection of craft beer — both on draft and in bottles and cans — a small offering of French wines by the glass along with a California Cabernet, plus several other cocktails. Avila says the wine list will be expanding soon and mentioned a newly discovered Texas rosé.
Happy hour runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, featuring discounted prices on drinks with recommended small bites from the menu, along with a charcuterie and cheese board. There are also $1 oysters for Sunday happy hour. Beer prices start at $4 by-the-glass, while wine is $6 and frozen and draft cocktails are $8. Acadian Coast has a good-sized patio with bar seats both inside and out. Live music on the patio is part of the ambience, as the restaurant has a permanent stage to accommodate a slate of scheduled musicians. Two fire pits offer nominal warmth, but extra heaters have been ordered and should make the space more enjoyable during the colder months ahead. Avila shared that the frozen drinks were hugely successful during the early warmer days, with the Milk Punch’s fall flavors being a crowd favorite.
We wrapped up our meal with beignets served with two dipping sauces, pink peppercorn and chocolate chicory. This was a perfect ending to the evening and easy for three people to share. Other dessert options include a Triple-layer Chocolate Pie, Strawberries and Cream Bread Pudding, sweet potato pie and a Key Lime Sundae.
Acadian Coast is currently open Tuesday through Thursday from 3 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. until midnight and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Reservations are recommended. Lunch hours will be added soon and morning beignet and coffee service will follow.