With its tall white-washed walls, expansive indoor space, and minimalist displays, Relish Fine Foods seems to resemble a high-end boutique more than an eatery. However, this style of design is appropriate when you understand their concept is create, curate, and purvey hand-crafted foodstuffs to a discerning River Oaks clientele who don’t mistake copia for quality.
To that end, the shelves are far from over-crowded, stocked only with a few jars or containers of each product such as house made vinaigrettes and hummus and locally produced jams, candies, and cheeses. This arrangement successfully conveys the reality that Relish values vending customers only very fresh, recently prepared food. This is not to imply there is a lack of diversity in their offerings, for the deli case showcases an entire array of appetizing salads (try the kale with beets, and pumpkin seeds or the roasted cauliflower with grapes and green onions), beef tenderloin, crab cakes, and tempting baked goods such as scones in seasonal flavors, buttery chocolate chip cookies, and fleur de sel caramel brownies. Particularly noteworthy is Relish’s sweet potato and leek quiche, which boasts an amazing lighter-than-air texture that is the perfect contrast to the denser, richer crust. Although that large slice make look intimidating, you may find yourself finishing the entire wedge with ease and without feeling as if a large brick now sits in your stomach.
Relish Fine Foods is clearly pushing their catering business, for the message “we’re more than just lunch” printed on most of its marketing materials; however, there is a reason the shop is most crowded between 11am and 3pm: the sandwiches. Comprising classics with a slight twist, the sandwich selection ranges from the traditional BLT made extra flavorful via the use of pesto aioli rather than plain mayo to a rotisserie chicken panini in which the drippings pleasantly co-mingle with a generous smear of tangy goat cheese. For the younger set, or perhaps those who are young at heart, there’s also peanut butter and jelly made with strawberry preserves and a white cheddar grilled cheese on ciabatta.
One odd thing about Relish you will quickly notice is multiple signs posted prominently throughout the space announcing that “due to the terms of the lease, food cannot be consumed on the premises.” Um, what? When I inquired with the counter clerk as to the veracity of this decree, she smiled awkwardly and said, “Yeah, um, we just have to have them up.” Obviously, this rule is not enforced at Relish as the entire right half of the shop contains benches and window-side seating where, at least during my visits, were occupied by many patrons.
I should note that the signs also say that the owners are seeking to move soon to an alternate location nearby to address this issue. Well, no rush, Relish, since I’m more than happy to have your delicious wares to go, or stick it to the man and eat inside anyways. Just please keep the butternut squash and leek quiche on the menu.