Hot Plate

Anthony Butkovich

What? No carpaccio?: Sooner or later, those upscale '90s dining trends had to trickle down to fast food. Surprisingly, almost all of them have appeared in one place: the new mega-Schlotzky's (Schlotzky's Marketplace, 2929 Kirby Drive, [713]807-9800). Besides the usual Schlotzky's sandwiches, the Marketplace offers a full line of snob coffees (espresso, cappuccino, latte, americano, macchiatoŠ you've been to Starbucks, you know the drill). The refrigerator case cradles salads made with mandarin oranges and fancy dark green lettuces. And you can order eight — eight! — wines by the glass. But cheekiest of all are the Marketplace's "artisan breads," baked in a showy wood-burning oven. Such hubris demands tough comparisons. Does the raisin pecan bread ($3.99) compare to the pricey, dense Monica Pope number sold at Whole Foods? does the olive round ($3.99) beat the soulful one at La Madeleine? or does the jalapeño-cheese ($3.99) measure up to the hallowed standard purveyed by Goode Co. Barbecue? Well, no — none of the Marketplace's loaves is the best of its kind in Houston. But each of those hard-crusted loaves is respectable enough to be mildly shocking at a fast-food emporium. Let us pray to be shocked like this more often.

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