"Stingy" star-hander-outer Nancy Miller hands out four more stars to Gary's on Spring, but not before gently chiding the restaurant for failing to understand that English words can have more than one meaning:
The owners and chef … describe the restaurant as Contemporary American Cuisine, Casual Fine Dining. They're right, but they're being much too modest. The food and the menu are decidedly contemporary, and formality never rears its head. But Gary's goes way beyond fine."Way beyond fine" starts with a server who seems "professional and friendly" without straying into "best buddy" territory. Miller's evening goes from "good to better to outstanding," starting with Oysters Rockefeller, a dish that hasn't been "modern" since it was invented in the 1890s. Miller notes the anachronism of its inclusion "on a contemporary menu," yet insists chef Harold Baker be given a chance to "strut his stuff." She then describes oysters broiled under "spinach, crispy bacon and Hollandaise sauce" without a hint as to how it might be "contemporary" in a world where Kinetoscopes and phrenology are no longer the new, hip thing.
Miller then proceeds to wax rhapsodic over several dishes that would have felt more comfortable being called "contemporary" in 1994 than in 2014. She finds her balsamic-drizzled slices of tomato and buffalo mozzarella "divinely simple," and applauds Baker for a "somewhat curiously named" beef, chicken and lobster roll called Earth-Wind & Sea, along with its garnish of grilled asparagus she somewhat curiously says taste "like green goddesses." Miller calls her lamb chops "a gem of a dish," citing Baker's tomato-mint beurre blanc as "a winning spin" on mint sauce. She adores her shrimp and grits, seeming to think no one has ever seen the dish outside of Dixie. The shrimp and grits
filled a plate with Southern pride. Country ham wrapped around shrimp added just the right trace of saltiness to the little sea creatures. Grits, perfectly spiced collard greens and lick-the-plate-good red-eye gravy made me feel sorry for those Northerners who know not what they're missing.
On another visit Miller appreciates the "firm and fleshy" nature of her smoked salmon on pumpernickel and ahi tuna guacamole. But she finds that "even with yuzu juice and sesame seeds," the guacamole "needed a boost."
While "not a big fan of alfresco dining," Miller seems to be a big fan of Gary's covered porches, seeing them "as colorful and comfy as an outdoor spread in a home living magazine." Somehow the "summerfied" outdoor spaces also call to Miller for a "crisp autumn dinner," and she thinks the second floor bar would be a nice "wintry haven." Miller writes that while she's "sure Gary's has its share" of "glitches," she did not encounter any (boost-needing guacamole possibly a feature, not a bug). She ends her review with a rousing endorsement of Chef Baker and Manager Greg Fearing, naming them "an impressive duo."