Culinary Delight Unleashed at Josephine's: A Fusion of Southern and Gulf Coast Flavors in Midtown

  • Dec. 12, 2023
Culinary Delight Unleashed at Josephine's: A Fusion of Southern and Gulf Coast Flavors in Midtown

In my lexicon, "delicious" is a term sparingly employed, much like its counterpart "tasty" - both being somewhat lackluster descriptors I tend to avoid. However, during my inaugural visit to Josephine's, the recently established Midtown eatery situated on the bustling corner once occupied by Izakaya, I found myself repeatedly exclaiming, "This is delicious!"

From the chicken and andouille gumbo with its rich mahogany roux leaning towards a brothy consistency to the remarkable fried okra, delicately sliced lengthwise to showcase a crispy batter that allowed the pod's natural flavors to shine, Josephine's presented an array of dishes that left me thoroughly impressed. The red beans and rice, boasting a well-calculated porky twang and a hint of red-peppery heat, were no exception. The smoked redfish dip, a standout in its category, featured succulent chunks of Texas farm-raised fish elevated by a zesty lemon remoulade, setting it apart from other renditions in the city.

Chef Lucas McKinney, hailing from Mississippi and formerly of Underbelly Hospitality, infuses a bold and audacious spirit into Josephine's culinary offerings. The restaurant, a charming addition to Midtown courtesy of the Azuma group, exudes a vibe reminiscent of the French Quarter's more secluded corners, characterized by tiny black and white floor tiles, booth seating along the perimeter, and a lengthy pale granite counter.

While McKinney's inventive ideas often hit the mark, as exemplified by the flash-fried crackers adorned with "ranch powder," occasionally, they may miss the mark, such as the watermelon salad bedecked with gummy bears, now out of season. The Ham Toast, a combination of two dishes that didn't quite mesh, left me questioning its purpose.

However, for every culinary experiment that falls short, there's another that astonishes. The fried oyster salad, with its fine-dining finesse, perfectly balanced sweet-mustard dressing, and creative touches, stands out as one of the city's current culinary highlights.

Josephine's menu is a rollercoaster of hits and misses, with po-boys that may disappoint and barbecued shrimp that could use more flavor. Yet, amidst these, there are gems like shrimp cocktail served with a classic sauce ravigote and inventive twists paying homage to local favorites.

The restaurant distinguishes itself not only through its culinary offerings but also with notably friendly service and a meticulously curated wine list. For half-shell oyster enthusiasts, Josephine's inviting counter beckons with trays of farmed Gulf oysters, each labeled for comparative purposes. McKinney insists on including one wild oyster from San Leon's Prestige Oyster Company in the daily mix.

As the season for Gulf oysters unfolds, Josephine's proves that Texas and Gulf Coast oysters can indeed be exceptional.