Cafe Express

Nice salad: The funnest thing about eating at Cafe Express (1422 West Gray, 713-522-3100; and other locations) is hitting the high-quality condiment bar, where you can customize your plate with such delicacies as roasted garlic, cornichons, grated Parmesan, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and delectable garlic croutons. There's even Italian grissini, for that Mediterranean flair. Of course, that's not to say that the cafe's niçoise salad ($8.29) necessarily needs any doctoring. It's a meal unto itself, chock-full of goodies such as finely diced new potatoes and haricots verts, cooked al dente so they remain crisp and firm under a canopy of mixed field greens. The star of the dish, however, is the albacore tuna, served in large chunks with cherry tomatoes, white cannellini beans, finely diced celery, olives and pesto pasta shells, all blended with a lemon vinaigrette. You'll savor different flavors every time you take a bite.


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