Houston’s Eclectic Comfort Food Restaurant || Eat Seeker: Nancy’s Hustle

Houston’s Eclectic Comfort Food Restaurant || Eat Seeker: Nancy’s Hustle

August 16, 2019 21 By Stanley Isaacs


– We try to make food that you have some sort of connection to. We take inspiration from all over, and we try to allow all
kinds of influences in, so that we’re not eating the same old boring stuff all the time. We want everything to have some sort of soulful connection to people, whether they grew up eating that or not. The food at Nancy’s Hustle, to me, is ultimately comfort food. Sean and I decided a long time ago that we should do a restaurant together. We talked about it for many years, and about three or four years ago, we decided that it was time
to actually work for ourselves and do our own thing. At that point, we both
had enough experience, we felt good about it. In my experience of opening a
lot of different restaurants and being able to travel quite a bit, we’ve just incorporated
pieces of food from all over, just little things here and there. We didn’t wanna have to cook Italian food or stick to strictly French. I would say our food today is inspired by many, many other cultures. And, especially in a city like Houston, there are so many different people here, cooking all kinds of different foods, that we just don’t want to
be in a box about our food. The Nancy Cakes, definitely
inspired by a oyster bar in Boston called Neptune Oyster. I had a dish there many years ago, that was somewhat similar in style, and I’ve dreamt about it ever since. I do think the Nancy
Cakes are a good example of that comfort food that
is familiar in some way. You’ve maybe never really had anything that you can directly connect to that, but you know that it connects
with you in some way. A warm griddle cake with butter,
a little bit of sweetener, and some smoked fish, is not an uncommon combination of flavors. So, I think for some people
it might connect them to having smoked salmon and bagels. To other people pancakes at
the, you know, at a diner. I think any time you can
have pancakes for dinner and someone tells you that’s OK, that’s something great. We very much wanted Nancy’s Hustle to be a neighborhood restaurant. We have a very, kind of, rustic feel here, like you’re in our house. Definitely having items on the menu that are comforting to people. And in other places, we can
push the boundaries a little bit with some dishes that
might not be so familiar. For the chicken liver mousse, we blend chicken livers with some cream, a little bit of egg, nutmeg,
and some other spices. When peaches were in season,
we were getting tons of them, so we did a classic
preparation of mostarda, where it kinda candies
them, but leaves them whole. Then we finish that with a
mustard oil and mustard seeds and some vinegar. Separately from that, we
a whole wheat paratha. That is a whole wheat dough that we make. We smear that with whole
butter, twist it up. It gets re-rolled and griddled. So it’s kind of a flaky flatbread that goes on the side of
the chicken liver mousse. We love dumplings in all forms. So, I definitely wanted to
do some sort of dumpling for the menu. I was researching a lot of
food from the Silk Roads, and one of the dishes that
stood out was a lamb manti. It seemed like a great dish. With the yogurt for
acid, the spicy tomato, the lamb brings the savoriness. We start with a Australian lamb shoulder, because we like the gaminess
of the Australian lamb. That gets roasted and braised
with some preserved lemon, coriander, bay leaf, and cumin. From there we make a dough, just basic flour, water, dough. The lamb gets stuffed inside,
they get shaped from there. They’re boiled after that. Underneath, there’s some
labneh that’s been seasoned with sumac and honey. And then we put some fried garlic on top, a little tomato vinaigrette,
some chili oil, and dried mint. I just fell in love with
the atmosphere of kitchens in general. It wasn’t necessarily about
the food in the early days. It was more about the people, the energy. It seemed like a lot more fun kind of job than looking forward to
a desk job somewhere. So, I started dish washing, and slowly worked my way up
to the kitchen from there. I grew up in Houston. I always really loved this town. And so I just wanted to come back and be a part of the growth
of the culinary scene here. I saw a lot of opportunity, so I wanted to come back
here where I’m from, and start my own place. We just wanted to open a
neighborhood restaurant without all the BS behind it.