There’s nothing conventional about the hip, new restaurant called Houndstooth, located in the Benton Harbor Arts District. From its urban eclectic décor and mouth-watering menu to the brother/sister team who boldly chose Friday the 13th as opening night, Houndstooth is a stimulating dining experience designed to feed all five senses.
Siblings, owners, and head chefs James and Cheyenne Galbraith dreamed of creating a unique restaurant for years while working for other industry frontrunners. Houndstooth celebrates the unexpected.
“We serve humble, approachable dishes with unique spices and herbs …,” said James, a quiet man who lights up when discussing his passion for food and the decision to have a new menu every two weeks. “Our cooking style is inspired by the seasons and in order to capture the best, freshest produce, the menu has to change.”
“This allows us to bring artistry back into the kitchen,” said Cheyenne, who grew up skipping college parties to study cookbooks. “This isn’t just a service industry; we need to be creative and always open to learning because you can never know everything there is to know about food.”
That dedication to creative freedom inspired Houndstooth line cook Kayley Bergestrom to support the Galbraiths’ vision. “I started working with them in 2015 when they were both at the Bistro at the Boulevard Hotel, and they’re such good teachers and mentors,” Bergestrom said. “I average 14-hour days, but I learn something new every day, which is rare.”
On a mission to “show southwest Michigan how to eat,” the Galbraiths are enjoying the response of their patrons who they see “sharing plates, serving each other and not asking to modify dishes.”
One such dish is James’ spin on chicken and waffles, the Black Bean Chicken, made with a Chinese doughnut, gochujang aioli and shishito peppers. Another shareable is the Wagyu (beef) Tartare with cured egg yolk, black truffles and shoestring potatoes. But if you ask the duo for their favorite, they look at one another, laugh and divulge that it’s not on the menu. “It’s a secret you have to ask for,” Cheyenne said. “It’s our own cheesy gordita crunch that’s so delicious; we eat one almost every night.”
The bar program at Houndstooth (eathoundstooth.com) reflects the team’s stance on inventive liberty. One concoction is the Whoopsy Daisy, made with vodka, Amaro Nonino, poblano, lemon and dry cider. Bar director Chloe Lindstum also created a cocktail that toasts the building’s heritage as a pharmacy, aptly named Dr. Sheffield, mixed with rye whiskey, old fashioned syrup, fresh orange and bitters.
Originally the location for Sheffield’s Drug Store, the perfectly weathered building has had several past lives, including that of a jazz club and tattoo parlor. Today, the smartly modern space features an airy, expansive seating area with exposed brick, restored tin ceiling, an assortment of warm, personal touches and a gorgeous terrazzo bar custom made with tiny hidden surprises like keys and the Houndstooth logo. The pair also recruited their father, a talented wood craftsman, to complete the careful rehab with handmade white oak tables and shelving.
“My dad promised me a treehouse when I was a kid,” James said laughing, “so it was time he delivered.”
The late chef Anthony Bourdain said, “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” Houndstooth is one of those rare restaurants that not only follows Bourdain’s take on aspiring to greatness but also executes on it five nights a week. ≈
Dawn Williams lives in St. Joseph with her family in a house overlooking Lake Michigan.