Photo courtesy of
Jane M. Longmire
713 High St., Comfort, TX
Dinner: Wed-Sat. 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Sunday Brunch - 11:30am - 2:00pm
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Edmund Tijerina - Express-News
For the past three years, Millard
Kuykendall has garnered fans who drive into downtown
Comfort for his modern Texas cuisine served in a
historic Hill Country building.
It's a recent success that has been some 30 years in
With no formal training, he produces thoughtfully
conceived and well executed dishes at 814 A Texas
Bistro, which he owns and where he serves as its
chef. His learning came throughout his career,
starting when he was 25.
“When I decided that this was what I wanted to do, I
was smart enough to start at the bottom,” he said.
“I kept my eyes and ears open at all times.”
The Oklahoma native who grew up in Kansas City and
Ohio worked in a variety of country clubs and
restaurants in Texas and spent seven years working
with a company that operated a restaurant at a
Disney resort in Orlando, Fla. He grew up in a
“I spent time learning not everything can be
perfect. The best thing you can do is make sure
everybody is happy,” he said. “You need to work in a
big place to get your perspective right. You learn a
His hand, steadied and confident from his years in
the culinary industry, shows in the cuisine. His
menu changes weekly, based on what he procures. It
doesn't get much more chef-driven than that. “The
concept has always been to keep the food simple,” he
said. “Our philosophy is to take good quality
product and consistently put it on the table at a
On a recent visit, a grilled filet mignon on top of
a sweet potato mash and topped with a roasted
poblano cream sauce demonstrated his approach. This
filet offered plenty of beefy flavor, instead of
just a yielding texture. When Kuykendall came by the
table to ask how we enjoyed everything, we asked if
he used any kind of spice rub. He just used salt and
pepper, because “when you start with good
ingredients, you don't need to do much to them,” he
The sweet potato didn't need any of its typical
holiday spices and spoke for itself without
competing with the filet. The poblano cream on top
of the meat looked at first like crumbled Roquefort
cheese. It subverted the bistro expectations by
bringing a completely different flavor and sensation
to the dish.
Truly, it's a cuisine with classic technique that
deftly celebrates Texas.
“You gotta cook what you know,” he said. “I'm an
American and I grew up in the Southwest, so how can
I match these flavors with what we have?”
The building complements the cuisine. Even from the
outside, the place gives a welcoming and comforting
feeling. With hardwood floors and wall decorations
that include several handmade quilts, the interior
gives a strong sense of place and authenticity.
At one time, the building housed the town's post
office, and now holds 10 tables in an intimate but
not crowded dining room. There's enough space for
diners to hold conversations and a small kitchen for
Kuykendall to work.
Written by The
Express-News Dining Editor John Griffin
COMFORT — The e-mail writer was insistent without
offering too many details. Come on up here and have
dinner at 814 — A Texas Bistro, she wrote, it's a Hill
I have heard similar declarations about restaurants
before, and not all of them have proven to be true, so
I was a little cautious. The first menu I saw looked
fine, but its array of burgers, sandwiches, salads and
soups was not exactly food that made me want to drive
50 miles each way.
Still, I was antsy to get out of town recently, so a
few friends and I, armed with reservations and a
couple of bottles of wine, headed west.
I needn't have worried. From the moment we saw the
restaurant, in a converted post office, we knew we
were going to like the place.
The space, which housed several restaurants before,
exudes country charm, with its gleaming hardwood
floors, rustic tables and chairs, and simple,
effective wall hangings that include a couple of
handmade quilts. You feel welcome almost instantly.
We noticed that every other occupied table had at
least one bottle of wine at it, as the regulars have
learned that you can bring in your own. The restaurant
has applied for a liquor license and that practice
will stop once it has been received, so ask when you
are making your reservations.
And do make those reservations if you're visiting in
the evening. We noticed that even though not all of
the tables were full, potential customers were being
turned away. The restaurant had been hit that evening
— a large party was supposedly on the patio out back —
and the kitchen was in danger of running out of food.
The menu was also different. The one I had seen before
the trip was for lunch. Dinner is a different matter.
It features three appetizers and three main courses,
which vary each week, according to what chef-owner
Millard Kuykendall finds in season. For that first
visit, options included a fresh cut of Arctic char
sautéed and served over spinach orzo; mahi mahi, a
substitute for the quail the kitchen had run out of;
and strip steak, which turned into beef tenderloin
after the kitchen ran out of that, too.
Appetizers included escargots in a red wine-thyme
sauce; a goat cheese and tomato salad (a substitute
for shrimp and avocado salad); and best of all, an
iceberg wedge salad with a Crab Louis-style dressing
on top. The latter was so good one friend wanted a
second order instead of dessert.
Most everything had been prepared with a deft hand,
with flavors carefully layered for great effect and
with the freshness of well-chosen ingredients taking
There were a few minor problems: The escargot sauce
had a pinch too much thyme, the mahi mahi was cooked a
couple of minutes too long while the green beans on
the side were a little too raw, and a too-liberal hand
applied the balsamic vinaigrette on the goat
But these were minor complaints that didn't mar what
proved to be an evening of good food, good friends and
That wave of contentment carried over into a lunch
visit where I happily stuffed myself on a juicy
half-pound Angus burger served on a sturdy Kaiser roll
while a friend enjoyed the daily seafood special,
salmon with a parsley-garlic butter sauce. Also good
were the simple, well-seasoned chicken salad and the
lush Bacon, Tomato and Guacamole sandwich.
I wish I could be just as kind about the desserts, but
this is the one area that demands attention. Each one
we sampled — bourbon pecan pie, brownie, chocolate
chip cookies and chocolate mousse pie — tasted like
wasted calories, not good enough to justify a third
bite. Even the vanilla ice cream was a bit too powdery
Any of the desserts could have been made any time of
the year, and that's not what the rest of 814 seems to
be about. What worked best was Kuykendall's flair with
fresh, savory ingredients — and the chance to dine on
those dishes in a comfortable setting.
Hit: Look for an iceberg wedge salad with crab
Miss: Desserts across the board were adequate, but
nowhere as good as the savory items.
Noteworthy: The restaurant does not have a beer/wine
license yet, so guests can bring their own for no
corkage fee. This will likely change once the license
Price range: The menu changes weekly, but lunch items
cost $6-$12, dinner appetizers cost $7-$11 and dinner
entrées cost $20-$25.
Lunch: Wed.-Sun. Dinner: Thu.-Sat.
Rating key: Excellent **** Very Good *** Average **
Express-News dining critics pay for all meals and
strive for anonymity.