We waited a while to try Liberty Kitchen. We don’t consider ourselves to be part of the restaurant critic world; we’re never recognized, no special treatment, no offers to comp our meals. But it was somewhat off putting (and humorous, we admit) to hear that, when this restaurant first opened, they posted a sign banning Alison Cook from the Houston Chronicle. Seemed like a strange way to make one’s entry into the Houston restaurant scene, certainly it suggested a sense of confidence, if not contempt, for what anybody else thinks.
Anyway, we made it there on a recent Saturday night. No reservations are taken, dress is very casual. Early in the evening, the place was full, and it was a diverse group. The Heights locals appeared out in force — older patrons, families (this is a very kid friendly place, with kids’ meals), young couples. We got lucky with a nearby parking spot, but we can see how parking could be challenging. For a casual place, we see no need for valet parking, which can be helpful but also appears to be veering out of control (note the new JerryBuilt Burgers on Holcombe).
There’s plenty to like about the large and varied menu. And we have to admit that we wanted to try pretty much everything. With oysters in the name of the restaurant, we couldn’t pass up a couple versions — a raw oyster, garlic butter smeared, chargrilled in the shell, topped with a fried oyster (a fabulous dish we’ll have again without question) and raw Gulf Coast oysters (nicely sized, very fresh). We moved on to one of the chalkboard fish specials — chargrilled flounder (dusted with a house special spice rub), served on top of sauteed spinach. The fish was fresh and nicely cooked (perhaps a little dry). We also tried the Rodeo Reuben (spiced brisket, which was tender and smoky, with slaw, on grilled pumpernickel). Finally, we couldn’t resist the Americana-style macaroni and cheese. We’ve had that uber-popular dish at many restaurants and this was one of the better versions we’ve tried.
A note about the service. Ours was very good, and, on a number of occasions, the manager also came by to check on us. (We do have a small gripe with having been charged almost the full price for the slaw to substitute it for the fries that came with the sandwich when the slaw was regularly priced at only 50¢ more than the fries.)
We liked the place so much that we almost went back again the next weekend, but, despite our anonymity, we take our responsibility of trying new restaurants seriously, so duty called.