Katharine Shilcutt's 10 Favorite Dishes in Houston
8. Ten spice chicken wings at Bismillah Cafe
Photo by Troy Fields
Bismillah Cafe is not your average chaat spot -- a casual cafe where one traditionally finds savory South Asian snacks like dahi puri and samosas. You'll find those here, but you'll also find a far broader and deeper menu than nearly any other offered in Houston's Mahatma Gandhi District.
It's a menu filled with chargrilled burgers, spicy chicken wings and homemade pizzas. Not your standard chaat dishes, by any stretch of the imagination, but ones that appeal to a wider range of customers as a result. For this reason, Bismillah is also that rare restaurant that caters to the two opposite ends of a spectrum: neophytes who need a familiar jumping-off point into South Asian cuisine and thrill seekers who are constantly in search of the next new thing.
For an extra shock to the system, I like to add a side of fries coated with Moghul's signature ten-spice blend to my bun kebab for an extra $2. Moghul -- who goes by "Inam" and breaks into a maddening Cheshire cat grin when you ask him about his special recipes -- won't reveal any of the ten spices that go into his "ten chicken" or "ten fries" or "ten chicken wings," but trying to coax out the individual flavors from the pleasant overall burn is half the fun of eating here.
The motto at Bismillah Cafe is simple: "If you can take the heat, we can dish it out." Onwner Inam Moghul will adjust the heat levels if you ask, but he won't reveal the 10 spices that go into his signature "ten spice" blend, which coats everything from his chicken sandwiches and tater tots to my favorite, the chicken wings. All you need to know is that the result is a blazingly, daringly hot blend that mashes up an American favorite with a Pakistani flare.
2243 Richmond Ave., Houston, TX