At the Table with The Folgers
Words by Melissa McGavock
Photography by Ellen Ashton
Christina’s on the Square is a cozy, seasonally inspired restaurant converted from tearoom boutique to an all out culinary experience.
The bread and butter of Christina’s had always been the boutique, but the Folgers were ready for change and, it’s evident, Granbury was ready to eat. The new owners cleared the floor and exchanged the clothes and handbags for tables and chairs. However, the long-standing boutique element has not been left behind, it’s mostly been moved upstairs to make room for dining. So when you pay a visit, enjoy the quirky and transformative atmosphere. What’s happening here is too good to be ignored, so let’s begin.
Take a coast to coast pop-up tour when you dine at Christina’s. This husband and wife brainchild is heavily influenced by the couple’s respective home states. Katy is a Southern California girl and met New Hampshire-born husband, Gary, while waiting tables at Marie Callender’s restaurant years ago on the west coast.
Keep in mind, as the restaurant transformation is taking place, Katy and Gary do not yet have a walk-in cooler. This is actually a happy circumstance for the diner, as it ensures all perishable ingredients are gathered fresh daily. While some staple items are easily stocked, much of your cheeses, meats, and produce are subject to the season and availability – which means fresh, local and good.
The baked stuffed lobster, prime rib sandwich and shrimp and grits are among some menu favorites. Pictured is a simple and traditional cheese plate with romano, smoked cheddar, and dill jack cheese accompanied by housemade mango chutney and local honey.
At the table was the caprese crostini, a dish that has boundless versions. The Folgers keep this bite uncomplicated, yet refreshing. Served over a grilled crostini and dressed in balsamic vinegar with pesto, plum tomato slices are sandwiched between fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. The generous portions are a perfect plate for sharing, or for your next catering event.
The cheddar, swiss and braised beef short rib quesadillas are perfectly enjoyable for lunch or even for the kids. This recipe is a sincere introduction to the educated palate without being overly stuffy.
Goers of Christina’s past, do not fret. The tea sandwiches, delightful soups and salads have not been left off the menu. Featured is the housemade tomato basil soup flanked by a chilled shrimp salad and on other side, candied pecans with strawberries on a bed of mixed greens.
Now let’s talk about steak. My mouth began to water as Gary presented the pre-cut prime rib to the table, camera ready. As lighting was adjusted and staging executed, this absolutely succulent, house-made treat was the only thing holding my attention. The smell of the indulgent and thoughtfully prepared, premium piece of beef filled my airway so fully I could taste it. It’s meaty and herbaceous juices leaked onto the large natural cutting board monogrammed with the Folger name, an impressive steak to claim for sure.
Beyond the modest introduction to the biz serving at Marie Callender’s, Gary moved on to manage front of the house duties at upscale wine bars and restaurants in Southern California. With years of extensive wine knowledge, Gary is both particular and adventurous with his wine menu.
He keeps the wine list competitive with varietals that are both modern and vintage. You’ll find wines from Australia, South America, California, and old world wines from Europe. Gary is also familiarizing himself with what Texas has to offer.
The Folgers enjoy educating their guests with worldly flavors, both in the kitchen and from the bar. Not a wine lover? There’s always fresh kegs on tap, just ask knowledgeable bartender Ty Roberts what he has available.
Put simply, this is well made food. It’s formal dining in a casual atmosphere. During our interview, the natural pitter patter and wild callings of the Folger children filled the background as the proud parents carried on, eager to share their ideas. “Daddy, Daddy..”, his youngest cries, and Gary smiles, “This is going to be the one that runs it someday…”
The Folger family has found a way to harmonize work and family and it started as most success stories do, with ups and downs, obstacles and perseverance.
Briefly exiting the restaurant industry for something more stable, Gary accepted a position for an air freight company that brought the couple to Granbury. Despite never visiting Texas, family of five gladly made the move and settled down in 2010.
Working half a dozen years at a desk, Gary was ready to lose the suit and tie and put the apron back on. The kitchen was calling him and Gary always knew he’d make his way back. In the meantime, Gary’s wife, Katy, picked up a waitressing job at local favorite boutique and bistro, Christina’s.
The big moment came when Christina’s previous owner let Katy know she was looking to sell. The couple jumped at the opportunity to take over ownership and work together again in a restaurant.
Dedication inspired by love for family and community has guided them to build a work and life balance that is proving to be fruitful. Three children, ages 10, 6 and 3, also 16 employees on staff, and open for lunch and dinner daily six days a week keeps the Folgers very busy. Like many small business owners, Gary and Katy wear many hats from chef, shopper, busser, manager, waiter, host and bartender – and don’t forget partner and parent. However, the commitment of their talented staff keeps all the moving parts of this tasty venture working.
The staff is more like family, as they spend most of their time together – working doubles most days. Still, in the time I’ve spent there, it seemed every employee that walked in for the day’s work was happy to see the others. So, maybe they’re actually more functional than most families.
Stellar service is imperative to a restaurant’s success, no matter how good the food is and the Folgers are bound to succeed. First, they are selective. Second, they train and educate effectively. Local talent is motivated to work for them. Lifers, in-betweeners, and amateurs alike, if they have a solid work ethic and good personality, the Folgers can teach them the rest.
In an attempt to stay competitive in the service industry and also in keeping with the Folgers brand of cooking, Gary will soon open a chef’s table. Adjacent to the kitchen, the diners will have a perfect view of Gary and Katy creating that night’s dinner. All lovers of the kitchen, get ready for an experience that’s educational and entertaining.
In an industry that is ever evolving, where food masters always take it up a notch, Gary and Katy are no exception. This quality is the only known secret to success for restaurateurs and top chefs around the globe. The endless path of tinkering and discovery brings satisfaction to the Folgers and their staff, as well as the patrons and will (hopefully) ensure this restaurant’s success. Katy explained, “We’re ever evolving, I don’t think we’ll ever stop doing that.”
This adorable location on the Historic Square brings diners from all over. However, the couple’s love for community inspires the mission to cater to locals. They listen to their patrons, both the new ones and the regulars. They stay open late and they’ve trademarked events like Two Steppin’ Tuesdays – a live music, food, shopping, and dancing experience.
They look for feedback, for the exchange of ideas, to learn and to educate. Their theory is not a bad one: the more familiar the community becomes with their method, the greater their chances are of long-term success. Look forward to the rebrand of this establishment coming summer 2017 as “August One”. In the meantime, enjoy the wonderful food and watch them build their dream.