Café Express

Dan here today. Welcome to our very own edition of The Best Thing I Ever Ate, or, as I like to call it, Blatant Commercial for a Restaurant Which May or May Not Have Paid to be Featured. In this case, the restaurant in question did not pay to be featured, unless you count the many delicious meals it has provided me the past several years (which I paid for, of course).
So what restaurant am I talking about today? Is it a Denver institution featuring locally grown ingredients and classically trained French chefs? Or perhaps some sort of molecular gastronomy science lab where expectations of what food should be are turned upside down? No, actually it’s a Houston-area chain restaurant with 18 locations called Café Express. Some of you may question my foodie street cred since I am about to rave about a chain restaurant. However, I maintain that good food can sometimes be found in mass-produced form. For instance, there’s a certain Italian-themed chain restaurant, much maligned by the foodie community, that offers unlimited breadsticks, salad that may or may not be dressed with liquid crack, and a delightful grilled shrimp caprese. But before I get sidetracked professing my love for said Italian restaurant chain, which would probably take up a whole post, let me get back to the matter at hand.
Look at all those olives. I wonder if they came from someone’s…oh…what do you call it… you know.. that thing in the backyard… where you grow stuff…oh yes, vegetable patch!
In 2008 and 2009, I probably visited the Houston area 10 or 15 times to participate in mission simulations at the Johnson Space Center and various flight operations and safety reviews. On my last trip, I was there for two weeks working in Mission Control while the Shuttle was in the air. Needless to say, I became well acquainted with the local food options, and Café Express was one of my favorites. It was located in one of those strip malls that looks to have been built relatively recently in a style of architecture I can only describe as “Panera-chic”. Every time I went there, I would get the same thing: a mushroom and spinach turkey burger with sweet potato fries. If I were a food critic, I would come up with some flowery description of how the earthiness of the mushrooms was a brilliant counterpoint to the smokiness of the burger and the fries were a perfect blend of salty and sweet with just the right amount of crunch. However, I’ll just illustrate with a picture.
In case you were wondering, that is a picture of the burger and fries. In real life, the bun is bun-colored. Also, in real life I am that pale. And my eye color changes from blue to grey when I’m full.

So there you have it. If you happen to live in Houston or Dallas, you should mosey on over to one of these establishments for some first-class victuals. And if you don’t live there, I guess you’ll have to get your chain restaurant fix somewhere else. Like maybe at a certain Italian-themed restaurant. I feel another blog coming on…