Pelicans cruise in long, lazy rows above the surf line while the shrimp boats run with their nets stretched out like wings of their own. The Gulf Coast has a flare and flavor that is distinctive: a dash of salted air on a sun-kissed shoulder and a peppering of sand still on your feet. At the core of what sets this region of the Gulf apart is its food. Finding the best, the freshest, the most authentic is not unlike stumbling upon the treasures of pirate Jean Lafitte who also stalked these waters.
Levi Goode, owner and chef at Goode Company’s new Fish Camp restaurant in The Woodlands, has many treasured memories fishing with his father at the family’s fish camp on the backside of Brazoria County’s Christmas Bay. Those memories are melded with a contemporary, sharable approach to create Fish Camp’s authentically rustic feel. “As a kid, we’d wade-fish in the morning and gig for flounder at night under the moon or by the light of a Coleman lantern,” Levi recalls. “Those fish would get cooked up immediately, really fresh, and that’s the basis for what we want to present now.”
Fish camp offers a seasonal menu that rotates to feature the freshest catch, an oyster bar and a well-developed cocktail list. Because he believes not all shrimp are created equal, all of Goode Company’s seafood is locally sourced. With over 34-years in the seafood business, they still use the same shrimp and oyster supplier, according to Levi. “This guy went to high school at Brazosport with my dad. He’s in his 80’s but still doing it! We want to support our local fishermen; they’re salt-of-the-earth people. We want to keep this incredible resource that’s right here in our backyard healthy and sustainable.”
Same as Levi Goode, Abbey Hebert, chef and owner of House of Roux, developed a passion for the cultural food of her childhood from her family. Until she was well past 100-years old, Abbey’s great-grandmother passed along a love for the traditional Arcadia Parish, Louisiana cooking to several generations. With her own twist on those family recipes, Abbey and co-owner Cody Nicholson offer deeply authentic, down-home fare created daily in their scratch kitchen. Their original shrimp and chicken pot pies are wildly popular. Those who know show up early before they’re quickly sold out each day.
“Cajun culture historically is poor, so they know how to make the smallest amount of ingredients into the most delicious meal, how the simplest ingredients used the right way can have the greatest impact,” Abbey said. “We stay true to our culture.”
Since opening last July in the MoCo Food Hall in Conroe, House of Roux has drawn a fun-loving, relaxed crowd for the raw oyster bar serving the best selection from around the country, shucked while you watch; the weekly off-the-menu specials; and oyster happy hours. Those who live too far away can have gumbo, etouffee, boudin balls and gumbo pies shipped directly to their doors across the country.
Zachary Schilleci also understands that the most important ingredient in a Gulf Coast recipe is family. Because his father is a New Orleans native and many of his family are spread from here to Mississippi, understandably creole cooking flavored his childhood. Schilleci’s New Orleans Kitchen, located in the Market Street area of The Woodlands, perfectly reflects that.
“It’s a New Orleans flare to Gulf Coast cooking based on our family’s recipes,” Zachary said. “Everything is made from scratch in our kitchen, no bases. We make roux the slow, old fashion way. That’s how we did it at home.”
Schilleci’s is known for their consistency and quality. The intimate, French Quarter-styled dining room only seats 64 and reservations are always recommended. They boast one of the best wine lists around with nearly 500 labels, most of which are small productions from family-run wineries.
“Our ability to serve an outstanding menu consistently comes down to our low staff turnover,” Zachary explained. “We have six or seven members of our staff who have been with us since nearly our first day twelve years ago. We are very much a family.”
That deep sense of family, cured for generations in salt water and a unique spice blend found only along the Gulf Coast, creates a unique cuisine that draws us all home.
"We want to support our local fishermen; they’re salt-of-the-earth people. We want to keep this incredible resource that’s right here in our backyard healthy and sustainable.”