La Lucha, Yesterday’s Tomorrow

by Gabi De la Rosa on March 22, 2019 in Food+Drink,
La Lucha roasted oysters e1553117040190

Chef and restauranteur Ford Fry made a name for himself in Atlanta, but returned to his Texas roots and put his mark on the Houston restaurant scene when he opened State of Grace in 2015.

He has now expanded his Houston portfolio with La Lucha and Superica, both located in Houston’s Heights neighborhood. La Lucha might have a vintage feel reminiscent of Ford Fry’s days at the San Jacinto Inn, but this isn’t your grandma’s stompin’ grounds. The low-lit restaurant is vintage, but modern; comfortable, yet elegant.

Chef Bobby Matos runs the kitchen at both State of Grace and La Lucha. He executes Fry’s vision, but puts his own stamp on everything he does. “We really spend a lot of time pulling our food inspiration from Texas, Louisiana, Mexico, and essentially everything from the Gulf,” said Matos. “We want to showcase the best possible product we can and make it really relatable to our guests.”

Executive Chef Bobby Matos is at the helm of both State of Grace and La Lucha. Courtesy photo

The key to a good menu is variety centered around a theme and in the case of La Lucha, the theme is Gulf Coast comfort food. The fried chicken will transport you back to childhood Sunday dinners, but the green harissa dipping sauce elevates the flavor profile of the dish to keep you on your toes. The same goes for all the condiments on the menu – all made in house and all with flavor combinations that zing. Oysters are a big part of the La Lucha menu and whether you order three or three dozen, you’ll appreciate their oyster setup, which provides all the makings of a great experience.

One bite of The Pharmacy Burger and you’ll see why it is one of the most famous items on the menu at La Lucha. Photo Ralph Smith

A rotating list of specials is labeled “Opportunities.” Take note and take advantage, because they won’t last longer than two weeks. Snapper Ceviche was one such opportunity and unlike most ceviche, which is served with crackers or tostadas, this one is served with crudité. Cucumber and radish slices, as well as small hearts of romaine made the fresh ceviche light and refreshing.

Although they are served as a side, the House Baked Yeast Rolls should be part of every guest’s order. They have the perfectly cooked crust of a good dinner roll while maintaining a soft center; but what makes them standout even more is the whipped honey butter. When the dish was presented, and I saw the amount of butter that was served with the rolls, I thought to myself they went a bit overboard in the kitchen. Then I tasted it. I quickly realized that the serving size is not about how much you need, but about how much you will want – all diets are void in the presence of whipped honey butter.

The interiors of La Lucha have an elegant and vintage feel. Photo Ralph Smith

There are two things that particularly stand out from the rest on the La Lucha menu, because they are the only items that have a black box around them. Maybe this was intentional or maybe it is just coincidence, but both black box items are what La Lucha gets the most buzz about: The Pollo Especial Fried Chicken and the Pharmacy Burger.

As mentioned, the fried chicken is a throw back to family dinners and showcases a perfectly cooked bird – crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. The Pharmacy Burger, however, is what burger dreams are made of. Served in yellow tissue paper, it is a delicious mix of toasted buns, melted cheese and two thin beef patties. Toss one down with some fries and a side of oyster mayo and forget any other burger you’ve ever had.

La Lucha means the fight; but the only thing you will be fighting for is what to order next.

Cover photo Ralph Smith

Gabi De la Rosa lives in Houston with her husband and three children. You can usually find her at a great local restaurant or out exploring HTX with her family. Visit her on Instagram @gabioftheroses_htx