“It’s a little fancy.” You can say this phrase with a tug at the collar and a bit of apprehension or with a smirk on your face and a playful twang. Or, when talking about the premiere restaurant of the recently announced Hotel Lucine, The Fancy, you can say it with a bit of both.
The Fancy will offer “American Fine-ish Dining” to both Galveston locals and visitors alike when it opens in late summer 2022. Guests can expect familiar lavish hotel restaurant hospitality, but with the warm, “bless your heart” attitude you get from your favorite quirky aunt. Leading the restaurant and bar programming at The Fancy are food and beverage operating partners Justin Yu and Bobby Heugel. Yu and Heugel launched their hospitality management venture Thorough Fare in 2021, and together, they will operate The Fancy, their most ambitious, personally driven enterprise to date. The Fancy will be the first restaurant and bar concept within a hotel for Yu and Heugel.
Yu is the James Beard Award–winning chef-owner of Houston’s Theodore Rex, Better Luck Tomorrow and Squable. On the latter two, he collaborated with co-owner Heugel, who is one of the country’s most celebrated young restaurateurs and is credited with changing cocktail culture in Houston with his classic cocktail bar Anvil, and most recently opened bar, Refuge.
As native Houstonians with a rich history of visiting the island, Yu and Heugel know that Galveston dresses down just as well as it dresses up. That ethos is the model for The Fancy — a place with the high standards that have defined Yu and Heugel’s careers as well as a welcoming charm for all guests. The 55-seat restaurant, designed by Kartwheel Studio, is inspired by the spirit of Hotel Lucine, which is helmed by partners Dave and Keath Jacoby and Robert Marcus. Keath Jacoby is “B.O.I.,” or “born on the island,” and her strict requirement for this restaurant is that it appeals to locals as much as it does to hotel visitors — especially her social maven mother, Momma Vic.
What is American Fine-ish Dining? It is food inspired by local ingredients and French technique, with a dash of artistic liberty that eschews some of traditional French cuisine’s stricter qualities. It’s the type of French cuisine you’d see at a dinner party hosted by your aunt who summers in Provence but says Paris like “Pear-REE” and also drinks beer only from a can with a koozie. American Fine-ish Dining is serious about its European flavors and techniques, but is also conscious of the very real need to chill out when 30 yards from the beach. Guests can expect progressive American-by-way-of-France cuisine that feels distinctly like the regional cuisine Texans have traditionally flocked to Galveston for.
“The Fancy is definitely not a seafood restaurant, but it would be ridiculous to not use the amazing Gulf of Mexico products that are literally staring us straight in the face,” says chef Justin Yu of The Fancy. “The food at The Fancy will feel driven by the best local produce and Texas meats available, almost always seasoned with the salt from the Gulf air.”
Yu expects a balanced European menu, and at least half of which will incorporate seafood in unexpected ways. The food will have a lot of personality, almost like The Fancy is throwing a dinner party every night. The menu starts with a cold plates section that won’t serve a single oyster on the half shell, but will have flourishing salads, a shrimp cocktail with too many sauces, and creative raw dishes like a chilled half lobster with the flavors of classic Ravigote sauce. Small, warm plates include a house recipe of pork and Texas beef meatballs with a warm mussel salad with chilies and olives, before moving onto big, shareable main plates like a pot roast of pork belly with roasted oysters in mignonette, whole roasted gulf flounder crowned with a braised oxtail and mustard green sauce, or a deluxe French dip sandwich that Yu is especially jazzed about. Guests will finish, as mandated by Keath Jacoby’s sweet tooth, with small but rich desserts, and Theodore Rex’s warm butter cake might even make the move down to Galveston.
“I hope it’s food that is as craveable as it is creative, grounded in my European kitchen upbringing, but with a lot of character. There’s going to be much to celebrate at the hotel, and I think the menu is really going to help people let loose,” says chef Justin Yu.
THE SERVICE & BOOZE
Bobby Heugel is known for establishing some of Houston’s most celebrated restaurants and bars, all with reputations for serving progressive cuisine and cocktails (Underbelly, Squable, Anvil). Having experienced Galveston hospitality throughout his entire life, Heugel knows the best restaurants build lasting relationships with those who live on the island, while also magically making visitors feel like they’ve found a second home. “Most of our work to this point has occurred outside of Galveston, so grounding our service approach in humility and hoping to earn our place alongside restaurants who have been here for decades is our top priority,” said Heugel.
And with Heugel having opened Houston’s most lauded cocktail bars (Anvil, The Pastry War), you can bet the cocktails at The Fancy will be outstanding. The Fancy is the first time Heugel and Yu have developed cocktails and food together in a restaurant space where they will be personally working daily. As a result, guests can expect classics they both love, including an extension of the fanciest martini on the Gulf Coast, Bobby’s Martini, and originals inspired by local produce.
“Frankly, Justin and I spend too much time drinking and eating together. We both feel that cocktails are a great start to the dining experience, but they must be deferential to a great wine list,” says Heugel. “We want our guests to count on a wine list of close to 100 selections that we both feel compliment The Fancy’s food well, with an above-average number of options by the glass. We think there’s a real opportunity in Galveston for a wine list that highlights smaller producers — both classical and natural in their approaches — in addition to selfishly stocking some of our personal favorites.”
The personal part of this restaurant is important to both Heugel and Yu. The duo plan to primarily live together on the island during the hotel’s first year. The two became close friends nearly 15 years ago, and have since invested in each other’s businesses, partnered with their employees on new ventures, and built their burgeoning hospitality group, Thorough Fare, slowly and thoughtfully. The Fancy and Hotel Lucine are different — they are about celebrating Galveston. This isn’t just another restaurant; this is the start of a new step in their careers.
The Fancy is a small, but mighty, part of Hotel Lucine, which will also feature a rooftop bar, a three-meal hangout space and lobby bar affectionately referred to as The Den, and a pool — all of which will be run by Thorough Fare. The Fancy will offer lunch and dinner seven nights a week and both Saturday and Sunday brunch.
“We’ve known for a while that our next project would need to reassert our intention to challenge our professional accomplishments to this point. We weren’t sure entirely how those challenges would emerge, but we passed on multiple opportunities until we met with Dave, Keath and Robert about Hotel Lucine. Everyone on this project has a lot on the line, and we are going to make sure our contributions are just as special as what our partners are bringing to the table,” says Heugel.
Hotel Lucine and The Fancy will open in late summer 2022.
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