WITH NEW LITTLE’S Oyster Bar, Bari Ristorante, and forthcoming Dune Road, there’s never been a better time for seafood in Houston. Newcomer Josephine’s specializes in Gulf Coast cuisine that celebrates the Southern family traditions of executive chef Lucas McKinney and general manager Joseph Ramirez.
Named after Lucas’s great grandmother with a nod to a steamship with the same name that shipwrecked in the Gulf of Mexico, Josephine’s serves eclectic Gulf Coast fare. “We’re serving what we know,” said McKinney in a press release. “We’re proud to be stewards of Gulf Coast ingredients and traditions honoring generations past while creating new traditions for the future. We love telling stories of the people we learned from, the people we source from, and the people who inspire us.” He will primarily tell those stories through his menu.
Chef McKinney, a Mississippi native, started cooking in Mississippi and worked for chefs such as James Beard winner Vishwesh Bhatt at Snackbar in Oxford. After moving to Houston, he had multiple roles for Houston’s Underbelly Hospitality, including sous chef at Hay Merchant and chef de cuisine at GJ Tavern, which incidentally just closed.
The menu features seafood sourced predominantly from the Gulf with half-shell oysters, amberjack crudo and a variety of boiled seafood on offer (crawfish boils can be expected during the season). Hearty snacks like homemade biscuits and hushpuppies share menus space with a selection of small shareable plates such as BBQ shrimp and etouffee cornbread. In addition to classic po’boys and a burger, chef McKinney is particularly excited about the crabmeat melt po’boy, inspired by the Vancleave Special, a sandwich that originated in the late 1940s at Rosetti’s Café in Biloxi. In a nod to McKinney’s days cooking in Oxford, Miss., the chicken on a stick, an Ole Miss tradition, is a deep-fried chicken tender on a stick (a.ka. party food) served with buttermilk ranch for dipping.
Mississippi Mud Jar
Potato salad with charred corn and crispy andouille
For something lighter with down home flair, the Southern Pea Salad stars peas, diced vegetables, egg, and cheddar with Bibb lettuce for wrapping. Boiler potato salad gets an upgrade with charred corn and crispy andouille, while roast chicken, shrimp and grits, and grilled redfish headline the main plates selections. Pastry chef Emily Rivas has designed a nostalgic dessert menu showcasing Southern favorites like her take on Mississippi mud pie and the oatmeal moon pie – a hybrid of Lucas’s two childhood favorites, the oatmeal cream pie and the moon pie. The corn flan topped with cornflake clusters is a highlight when corn is in season.
General manager Joseph Ramirez is a Louisiana native who previously worked at Kata Robata. “Our goal is for Josephine’s to be a place to decompress, recharge, and let the gratitude of Southern hospitality take over,” said Ramirez. Nest Interiors renovated the former Japanese pub space into an approachable Southern-inspired restaurant. Most notably, the long dumpling bar has been converted into an oyster bar, which will have a focus on Gulf oysters served both raw and roasted.
Nest has replaced the dark reds and colorful wall murals with rustic wood touches, painted tin ceilings, vintage Southern-style light fixtures and old-fashioned hex mosaic flooring. Comfortable banquette seating runs throughout the indoor and outdoor areas. A gallery wall filled with art collected from both Lucas’s and Joseph’s families is the focal point of the back room. A patio renovation is in the works and will be open in time for patio weather. Josephine’s is open daily for dinner at 5pm and will open for lunch this week.