The Stone Cellar Brings a Humble Celebrity Chef to Round Top: Why Grady Spears Fits Right In
Stone Cellar owners Steven and Cathy Frietsch keep making their haven better.
Round Top is no stranger to celebrities. Locals and visitors dine, shop and sift through inspiring designs and coveted antiques alongside noted interior designers and from time to time even famous musicians and actors. With all in search of that uniquely collected Round Top aesthetic.
Famous chefs come to town regularly as well to impress at fabulous special meals like the annual Butcher’s Ball. They typically drop by for a quick visit and then hurry back to their big city restaurant ventures.
Now The Stone Cellar is bringing a celebrity chef to Round Top permanently. The Cowboy Cook is going country.
Fort Worth favorite chef Grady Spears has taken over the culinary offerings at The Stone Cellar, its Jon Perez Lounge and The 550 Market in Round Top, with plans to update the menus slowly.
“We just started offering breakfast on Sunday,” Grady Spears tells RoundTop.com exclusively. “We should add Saturday breakfast as well around September.”
At breakfast, you can expect old fashioned country-style offerings like bacon and eggs and housemade biscuits and gravy.
“Now you’ll find my chicken fried steak with ancho cheese enchiladas and the Horseshoe Hill salad on the menu, as well as a chicken pot pie,” Spears says. “It’ll be really good and really simple.”
Stone Cellar owners Steven and Cathy Frietsch purchased The Stone Cellar as a longterm investment, but had no plans of running the day-to-day operations of the food and beverage on-site, according to Steven Frietsch. Not that he’s a stranger to the restaurant business. Frietsch formerly partnered on both the River Oaks Grill and Armando’s restaurants, both in Houston.
“I own five acres in the heart of Round Top,” Steven Frietsch tells RoundTop.com. “It’s one of the largest properties in the city. And we do need an attraction to draw people to Round Top on a regular basis.”
That’s why Frietsch has been busily updating the property ― sinking around $3 million in upgrades so far. Frietsch says he wants to let Spears run the restaurant side of things, allowing him to become “more of a landlord.”
“I envisioned a multi-use venue and think that’s what we’ve accomplished,” Frietsch says. “The thing we were missing was the ability to host events. Grady gives us that ability. And based on the feedback I’m getting from locals so far, people are very excited. I couldn’t be happier.
“I really like Grady. I’m impressed by his personality and what he does. I’ve always conceptualized farm-to-table here. I felt the upside of helping him build his brand here in Round Top, would help us build our own. So we worked out a deal to see how it would work for both of us.”
Grady Spears has plenty of big-time restaurant credentials, not to mention a couple of cookbooks under his belt. But his aw-shucks, unassuming demeanor makes him a natural for the laid-back vibe in Round Top.
Like the town itself, Spears doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s less celebrity, more chef. He even calls himself a cook.
Spears is a recent transplant to the area, having launched many ventures in and around Fort Worth during his 30-plus-year career. He was the founding chef at Reata Restaurant in both Alpine and Fort Worth and he was one of the originators of the style that became known as “cowboy cuisine.” His most recent restaurant was Horseshoe Hill in the Fort Worth Stockyards, but he is no stranger to small towns either.
Spears opened The Burning Pear in Sugar Land, The Nutt House in Granbury and Grady’s Line Camp, which had a brief run in Tolar, Texas.
Spears now lives at Texas Ranch Life in nearby Chappell Hill where he currently serves as the venue’s events chef. This Cowboy Cook plans to launch a new restaurant in Bellville as well, in the space formerly known as the Silver Saddle Smokehouse. The restaurant will be open Fridays and Saturdays beginning this summer under its new moniker The Pitched Fork.
Cowboy staples like chicken fried steak, roast cabrito, ribs, steaks, pork chops, fresh biscuits and beans will be featured on that menu.
As for his new Round Top gig?
“We’ll post the Stone Cellar menu on Thursdays,” Spears says. “Everything is done from scratch. So we can utilize whatever is freshest.”
In fact, Spears is probably most excited by the acres of fresh produce that he is harvesting at Texas Ranch Life. He plans to transport that bounty directly to Round Top. He’ll also plant gardens right on the Stone Cellar grounds. When I spoke to him this week, Spears had just returned from picking bushels of grapes and was trying to decide whether they should become wine or jam.
These are the tough decisions a country chef faces.
“Steven is real food-oriented,” Spears says of his new business partner. “He really cares about people. Plus, I have the greatest staff over there.”
Round Top has been in the news a lot lately. In recent months, top design and lifestyle magazines such as Veranda, House Beautiful and Southern Living have all published articles about the tiny Texas town. And just a few weeks ago Travel + Leisure weighed in on Round Top as a destination, featuring its own travel guide.
Unfortunately, the mag took the word of the New York Times which once deemed Round Top “the Cotswolds of Texas”. Perhaps. . . but only in that, it’s still quaint and surrounded by plenty of unspoiled pasturelands. Don’t come to Round Top anticipating Tudor architecture, Shakespearean antiquity, or thatched roof cottages. You’ll be greatly disappointed.
Round Top has a personality all its own. Equal parts authentically Texas blended with some big-city artistic vision. It’s the perfect cocktail. And Cowboy Chef Grady Spears plans to give visitors what they came for in the first place ― a true taste of the countryside.
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