It’s called “KFC,” but it has nothing to do with fried chicken. The Knox Fish & Chips drops at lunchtime on a patio sun-dappled like it’s a impressionistic painting, and for a moment, the idea that this Knox-Henderson space used to house a Chili’s feels laughable. Despite its former life, the new Up on Knox feels more like one of the fancy, sunlit boutiques that surround it.
The KFC is not fast-food chicken, of course; it’s tempura-brittle fingers of Atlantic haddock, sparkling with hot oil and served with french fries and a toasted lobster roll. It’s listed as “Po’boy-style,” but it’s something more like a fried haddock roll for $15.
“We just like to cook food that we would eat every day,” chef Melody Bishop says. She and co-chef Dennis Kelly are in a sort of soft-open mode at Up on Knox. It’s nestled into the corner of Knox and Travis streets, sign reaching tall into the sky, across from the 100-year-old Highland Park soda fountain. Adelmo’s is nearby, too — Up on Knox completes a block that’s filled with ageless restaurants serving old-world dishes.
Chefs Bishop and Kelly spike their dishes with California sunshine — there's a caviar menu and a raw bar where you’ll find king crab legs and oysters flown in from Cape Cod that morning. In one corner of the menu, you’ll find the Big 5 of sustainably minded food terms: organic, locally sourced, grass fed, wild caught and free range. You'll also find a Seafood Tower (not a Stephen King creation) of a half lobster, six mussels, six clams, six poached shrimp and a dozen oysters for $75.
You're definitely not in Chili's anymore.
Big, formal seafood is going around in the city. This year’s Hudson House is playing with the white tablecloth seafood, and last year’s Montlake Cut is, similarly, like eating in a clunking yacht that’s parked off the Puget Sound.
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At Up on Knox, there is a $23 lobster club at lunch and brandade at night. The lobster club devolved into a mess of soggy bread upon first bite, and although there was a decent amount of lobster, it proved far too busy to allow the lobster's delicate flavor to come through. There’s a dinner burger (we’re in Dallas, after all) and squid ink tagliatelle. You can devour it at lunch while admiring a caviar trough and the massive flower mural on the bar wall.
Overall, you have to admire the straightforward drive of Bishop and Kelly. They're pushing bright flavors. The remoulade sauce sits on the side of the KFC, loaded with chopped cornichons and capers. I'd prefer a barrel, to go. The burger ($17) is an early contender for a treat-yourself option on Knox. It’s an 8-ounce patty of ground-in-house 44 Farms beef with slow-simmered onions and bacon and a flag of white cheddar.
“We have no secret ingredients anywhere,” Bishop says. “We like fresh, clean food.”
Up on Knox, 3230 Knox St. (Knox-Henderson)