100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 48, Malted Waffle at City Cafe

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Photos by Troy Fields
This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

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Inside City Cafe, it's like time itself has paused for a cigarette break and a cup of black coffee. Here in the City of South Houston, a few short blocks away from Pasadena, smoking is still allowed at the long, diner-style counter (although, as a stern black sign points out, there's no cigar smoking allowed in here). Patrons take their chicken-fried steak and eggs in the morning with a red pack of Marlboro 100s, lined up in a row as they catch up with each other in the familiar rhythms that only regulars in small-town cafes possess.

On a Saturday morning this past spring, that's where I found myself along with a friend, catching up over a breakfast that was nearly too large for the funny little two-man booth we'd sat down in. Because it seemed like the thing to do, we ordered the chicken-fried steak and eggs that everyone else around us was eating, along with a standard Texas breakfast platter of two eggs over easy, bacon, hashbrowns and a biscuit with a side of grits. And, of course, waffles.

While we waited for the food to come out, I tried to explain the grits scene in My Cousin Vinny to my friend, the one in which Joe Pesci's carpetbagger of a character encounters grits for the very first time in an Alabama town. City Cafe reminds me very much of the type of cafe which the screenwriters must have had in mind while writing that scene, a soulfully no-nonsense establishment where the food is equally straightforward and blessedly simple.

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And at the end of that lovely, simple meal waited our dessert: a malted waffle, ordered before we'd realized just how much food was headed our way. Neither of us was hungry for it after the amount of food we'd just consumed, but I gamely took a bite. And then I took five more -- it ended up being the best part of the meal.

If you've never had a waffle made from Carbon's Golden Malted waffle flour, imagine it as the waffle equivalent of Ovaltine: rich, toasty, barely sweet and tasting of pure nostalgia. I'd forgotten how good a malted waffle could taste until re-encountering it at City Cafe. After all, it's a rare thing to run across them anymore. Thank God for the patches of small-town life that still exist in the big city.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac
No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's
No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets
No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito
No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery
No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar
No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch
No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito
No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F.
No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe
No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers
No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay
No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe
No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño
No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen
No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme
No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts
No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge
No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House
No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux
No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar
No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales
No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana
No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's
No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven
No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate
No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill
No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Friends Pizzeria
No. 72: Esparragos gratinados at Tintos
No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen
No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings
No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood
No. 68: Ceviche at Sirena Seafood
No. 67: Caldo de mariscos at Taqueria Arandas
No. 66: Banana pudding at Pizzitola's
No. 65: Fried catfish and gumbo at Cafe-A-La
No. 64: Soft-shell crabs at Banana Leaf
No. 63: Macaroni and cheese at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse
No. 62: Torta burger at El Gran Malo
No. 61: Black bean burger at Ziggy's
No. 60: Parillada at Pampa Grill
No. 59: Peanut butter and jalapeño jelly burger at Wicked Whisk
No. 58: Eggplant involtini at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 57: Lone Star dog at James Coney Island
No. 56: Sushi at Sushi Miyagi
No. 55: Palestinian chicken at Al Aseel
No. 54: Roast beef sandwich at Local Foods
No. 53: Mexico City plate at Molina's Cantina
No. 52: Tacos at Brothers Taco House
No. 51: Branzino at Lucio's BYOB
No. 50: Beef sweetbreads at Feast
No. 49: Golden Doomba Special at the Rice Box Truck



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City Cafe

513 College Ave., South Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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2 comments
UrbanSwank
UrbanSwank like.author.displayName 1 Like

Now I am craving waffles..thanks Katherine:-).

Matthew
Matthew

silly question as a non-smoker: why do places allow cigarette smoke but not cigar? i've got to say that i find the former more unpleasant than the latter.

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