At Stock & Barrel in Bishop Arts, chef John Stevens has succeeded since the restaurant opened in 2014 with a relaxed steakhouse menu focused on lesser cuts of Wagyu, meatloaf, and white truffle frites. But with his new Design District restaurant, named for his “foxy” wife and business partner, MG, he has created something more artful and complex.
The former Bridge Bistro space was redesigned by Hatsumi Kuzuu (Local Traveler, Nazca Kitchen) to resemble a midcentury-modern lounge, with tufted vinyl bar stools, wishbone dining chairs, and a 12-foot tall, 65-foot long Jackson Pollock-esque splatter mural that spans the width of the space. There is a small lounge area just to the right of the entrance, which was packed on a recent Saturday night. But the wall of windows facing a still mostly industrial Riverfront Boulevard belies the intended clubby vibe.
The inventive, gin-heavy cocktail menu was developed by Lauren Festa, the master mixologist from FT33 and Flora Street Cafe. The eponymous Foxy is a sweet and spicy mix of Aviation American Gin (Ryan Reynolds’ side hustle), red Fresno chili marmalade, ginger, and lemon. But the Sitka, presumably named for a town in Alaska and featuring Rogue Pink Spruce Gin from Oregon (the gin is aged in pinot noir barrels, giving the spirit a hint of a blush), steals the show. Instead of being overpowering, the addition of Tempus Fugit Liqueur de Violettes, fig, lemon verbena, lavender, and honey added that je ne sais quoi that kept me reaching for my wife’s glass.
Appetizers shine. Grilled Texas peaches are ripe but firm, with a salty pop of shaved coppa and a creamy pool of whipped goat cheese. Fresh burrata, served with baguette slices fire-charred in a Grillworks wood-fired grill, surprises with the complexity of a roasted red pepper harissa studded with bits of sweet honeycomb. A soppresatta flatbread is forgettable, surpassed by tender Wagyu meatballs served with a tangy tomato mostarda.
Mains include squid ink spaghetti topped with jumbo lump crab and an egg yolk, and a Wagyu short rib whose richness is cut by a vibrant salsa verde and pickled red onions, all served over a polenta-like cauliflower puree. A whole branzino, given a smoky bath, is worth the bone-picking effort.
The sense of gratification is maintained through desserts. Butterscotch pots de crème and a toasted Italian meringue with lemon curd and fresh strawberries keep us at the table longer than necessary. We scrape the dishes with our spoons, happily silent in the now-raucous room.