Cafe Express began what has become a welcome trend of high-end restaurateurs (Café Annie in this case) opening informal, inexpensive counter-service restaurants that serve high quality, interesting, and freshly prepared food. These still do it better than most. The concept is excellent and portable; there are currently a number of Cafe Expresses in Houston, plus a handful of locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The casual yet evidently substantial style of the ever-evolving offerings seems to aptly match the decor. There are plenty of salads, sandwiches, burgers, soups, healthy sides, pastas and chicken dishes to match most cravings. The food is artfully prepared to order with very good, and very fresh ingredients, a big part of Cafe Express’ long-standing popularity. There are about ten different, imaginative entree-size salads, each with a multitude of components.
Sandwiches are generally quite good. These are basic sandwiches tweaked to be more interesting. The Roast Beef sandwich with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and roasted tomato pesto on garlic bread, is one of their best. The Club Sandwich is a proper triple decker, made with roasted turkey, Monterey Jack cheese, bacon, tomato and mayonnaise and a creamy Parmesan dressing. There are also Café Express’ versions of the BLT, grilled chicken sandwich, roasted turkey sandwich. The burgers are generally good, and can also be ordered with turkey or vegetable patties.
The soups can work as complements to a salad or sandwich. The sides are much more than chips and fries. The American-style pasta dishes featuring linguini or penne are decent, and seemingly popular. There should be one that satisfies your current taste.
The heartiest dishes feature grilled chicken made with a boneless chicken breast, and the roasted half of chicken. For around $10, these make hearty meals when combined with side salads, mashed potatoes, vegetables or pastas. To put the finishing touch on any order, Cafe Express thoughtfully provides a plentiful number of sauces, olive oil, mustards, vinegars, pickles, pepperoncini, capers, cornichons, sun-dried tomatoes and the like to help enliven any dish. This is far from the typical “fixin’s” station that you will find at many other counter-service establishments. Cafe Express aptly describes it as an “Oasis table.”Cafe Express has several beers and wine by the glass.
Copyright Mike Riccetti. Adapted from Houston Dining on the Cheap, and used with permission.
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