Most dictionaries define epicure as “a person who enjoys and/or seeks out fine food and drink.” That doesn’t mean, however, you won’t like Epicure Café if you don’t have a sophisticated palate. This self-proclaimed “bistro-style” restaurant is located smack dab in the middle of River Oaks, and as you might expect, attracts a primarily well-coiffed, money clientele. Its consistently friendly service and approachable as well as appetizing menu, however, means even those who consider themselves to have more pedestrian taste in food will be pleased.
Although Epicure Café is open later in the evening on Friday and Saturday, its atmosphere is most vibrant in the daytime. In the early hours, dogwalkers and eager shoppers stop by for a cappuccino and croissant, and as the morning progresses, patrons linger over more substantial breakfasts. At last count, the Café offered more than 15 different types of omelettes, most of which in name and in design reflect various ethnic metropolitan cuisines. Of particular note is the Viennese omelette, a light mixture of fluffy eggs, fresh spinach, tomatoes, and goat cheese, and the Acapulco omelette, a more stick-to-your-ribs collaboration between yolky ova, swiss cheese, sausage, and jalapeno peppers. If you like sandwiches for your matutinal meal, I suggest you order croque monsieur, grilled ham and cheese on toast topped with two sunny fried eggs. Breakfast at Epicure Café also has a sweet side in the form of French toast (available with strawberries) and a voluminous fruit plate, though I suggest you look to Epicure’s lemon tart, apricot linzer cookies, or strawberry napoleon to satisfy any sweet cravings.
Dainty but not fussy sandwiches, salads, pastas, and grilled meats comprise the remainder of the menu and all are perfectly appropriate for lunches, afternoon snacks, and early suppers. Skip the straightforward garden or Greek, or spinach for one of Epicure’s heartier, protein-heavy combination salads such as the “Epicure,” which pairs Caesar salad, fresh fruit, and chicken salad made with almonds, white meat, and a terrific light yogurt dressing, or the “River Oaks,” with chicken salad, an (entire!) sliced avocado, and tuna salad with walnuts and celery. During “cold” Houston winters, I like Epicure Café’s hot panini, especially the eggplant with goat cheese or the prosciutto with provolone (both of which are made feistier via a touch of tangy olive tapenade). Otherwise, it’s the brie and avocado on a croissant or the grilled chicken salad club sandwich that I crave.
Epicure’s dinner selections ran the gamut from chicken coconut curry to turkey lasagna and the collection overall seems incongruous with the rest of the menu. If, however, you are in the mood for something more substantial than a sandwich then go for the shrimp penne pasta as better Indian and Thai food can be found elsewhere.
These so-so entrée options and rather effete evening atmosphere are reasons to visit Epicure Café primarily between noon and five for a slice of cake or sandwich.
2005 W Gray St Houston, TX 77019