Growing up in Texas, Tex-Mex cuisine became an integral part of Ford Fry’s childhood. But he stepped away from those Tex-Mex roots as he launched his chef career. “You don’t go to school to learn Tex-Mex [cooking],” he says.
Soon, the James Beard–nominated chef started earning critical acclaim for his cooking. He built a catalog of restaurants that ran the gamut of cuisines—from Southern to his own take on the upscaled steakhouse. As Fry continued opening his fleet of eateries, he felt that he was being pulled toward something different. “I wanted to do something more fun,” he says.
Thanks to a bit of serendipity, Fry encountered an opportunity to tap into his Tex-Mex roots by opening Superica. Although he had his doubts that a Tex-Mex restaurant would catch on, his first Superica, located inside of Atlanta’s Krog Street Market, became wildly popular. He realized the Southeast did not have a lot of restaurants like Superica, and decided expanding his take on Tex-Mex to other Southern cities might be that fun opportunity he was looking for.
A Southeastern Spread
Until recently, the Superica franchise stretched from Texas to Tennessee. As these locations may suggest, Fry is at home in the Southeast. His exploration of North Carolina was brought forth thanks to his youngest son, who plays tennis for Auburn University. When the Auburn tennis team traveled to North Carolina universities for matches, Fry followed to watch his son play—and he became more and more acquainted with the Tar Heel state.
Fry’s Superica expansion into North Carolina started with Charlotte. It didn’t take long for him to see the potential for growing his brand across the state, so he looked next to the Triangle. Fry had heard of renowned Triangle chefs like Ashley Christensen and Scott Crawford, but admittedly wasn’t familiar with the region’s suburbs. When Cary’s highly anticipated mixed-used Fenton development approached him with the opportunity to open Superica there, he knew it was the perfect fit.
A native Texan, Fry is deeply moved by the history of Tex-Mex cuisine. He has a profound respect for the Mexican immigrants who migrated to the Lone Star State, then were able to adapt their cooking to newfound ingredients—so much so, that he wrote a book on the subject. Dishes like enchiladas covered in chili gravy speaks to the rich history Fry retells via Superica’s menu.
His restaurant does not pull any punches when it comes to honoring the recipes and ingredients that have established proper Tex-Mex cuisine. A case in point is Superica’s chile con queso, which features American cheese. Though the iconic processed cheese—sometimes referred to as “government-issued”—is often dismissed by other chefs, early Mexican immigrants frequently used it to recreate their traditional queso recipe. The homemade flour tortilla is another pillar of pride for Superica, since Fry believes it is a crucial ingredient of proper Tex-Mex cuisine. One of his favorite Superica flour tortilla dishes, which he also loved as a child, is the queso fundido with camarones (boiled white cheese with shrimp).
Tex-Mex for Brunch
Although not a Tex-Mex tradition, brunch has become one of Superica’s most popular meals. The restaurant’s brunch menu has captured fanfare with Tex-Mex breakfast dishes like tamales and eggs, and chilaquiles divorciados (pieces of fried corn tortillas sautéed with green or red salsa, and topped with cheese, crema and onion), served alongside a spicy bloody mary. Hot cakes might seem out of place on a Tex-Mex menu, but Superica’s rendition—complete with buttermilk syrup drizzled on top—has earned acclaim.
Fry says Cary’s reception of Superica has been exciting. He hopes to open more Superica locations across the Triangle in the near future, and is even considering expanding his Atlanta-based, wood-fired concept, Little Rey, to the region.
Despite multiple locations across the South, Superica goes beyond chain restaurant stereotypes. Fry wants patrons to understand—and taste—the passion that goes into cooking real Tex-Mex. “I want people to understand this is something real,” he says.
Superica is located at 25 Fenton Main Street, and is open for lunch and dinner during the week, and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Learn more at superica.com/cary.
Chef Fry’s Hot Cakes With Buttermilk Syrup
Makes 11/3 cups of syrup | Makes 10–12 pancakes
Ingredients for the Syrup
1½ cups of sugar
¾ cup of unsalted butter
¾ cup of buttermilk
1½ tablespoons of corn syrup
1½ teaspoons of baking soda
1½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon of kosher salt
Directions for the Syrup
In a medium saucepan set over high heat, combine the sugar, butter, buttermilk and corn syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring continuously, until it has thickened slightly (about 3 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble up. Add the vanilla and salt, and stir to combine. Cover and set the syrup aside until you are ready to use it, or let it cool completely and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Just before serving, set the syrup over high heat and bring it to a boil.
Ingredients for the Pancakes
8 ounces of all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons of sugar
1¾ teaspoons of baking powder
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled
1 cup of whole milk
Directions for the Pancakes
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. In a second mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until they lighten to yellow in color. Add the milk and cooled butter, then whisk to combine the mixture. Add the dry ingredients and whisk everything together until just combined. The batter should still have lumps.
Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Drop or pour the pancake batter by spoonfuls onto the griddle. Cook each pancake until bubbles begin to form around the edges and the pancake begins to look dry (about 3–4 minutes). Flip the pancake and cook it on the other side for 2–3 minutes, or until the pancake is golden brown. Remove the pancake to a plate and cover it to keep it warm. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve the pancakes with warm syrup.