Doggone Success

The parking's horrid, the food just okay -- so why is Barnaby's so beloved?

This might not be the sort of thing you'd serve at home to dinner guests, but it's honest food, and served with a heap of fries and a delightful side dish of soft, cinnamony diced apples. The apples, pale cubes in a translucent brown slime, look like some frightening school-lunch excuse for a fruit; they are, in fact, one of the best foods at Barnaby's. I don't know if they come from a can, and I don't care; these soft-as-slow-cooked bits of tangy apple stewed in buttery-cinnamon goo have all the right amounts of tart and sweet, and one day I'll shamelessly order a whole bowlful. It is comfort food of a high order.

And that, in fact, may explain why Barnaby's has become the institution it is. To me, the apples are comfort food; to the couple sitting nearby, the comfort food may be the Doctor Gale's meat loaf; to another, it could be the garden burger; to yet another, it could be the apple pie, served in a bowl like a cobbler with melting scoops of vanilla ice cream on top (if, that is, the waiter remembers you ordered it a la mode, something that can be a hit-or-miss affair). For one generation, one group, comfort may be found in the line at Luby's, with its predictable security, or at the Black-Eyed Pea, where what you get is what you expect. For the generation and group that's settled in the area that Barnaby's calls home, comfort is to be found in the curious mixed with the predictable, all produced in a casually offhand manner. The funky diner and its Baby Barnaby's spawn may not look like much to outsiders, but a steady crowd of Montrosians would be hard-pressed to imagine life without it. The food may not be great, in a culinary masterpiece way, but that's not the point. Great food exists to inspire delight and discussion; good food exists to inspire a sense of contentment, of relaxation. And in that context, Barnaby's inspires one simple, satisfied remark: "That was good."

Barnaby's Cafe, 604 Fairview, 522-0106.

Location Info


Barnaby's Cafe

604 Fairview St.
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Restaurant > Cafe

Region: Montrose

Barnaby's Cafe:
Doctor Gale's meat loaf, $6.95;
Newport chicken, $7.50;
grilled salmon, $8.50;
lamb burger, $5.95;
meatless garden burger, $5.50

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