Café Layal Midtown

This Is It, that old-time bastion of soul food in Houston, has moved close to the University of Houston, making way for the new Café Layal Midtown (207 Gray, 713-651-0939), an outpost — or should that be in-post? — of the original Café Layal on Richmond at Hillcroft. Layal El Saadi, whose father opened the first Layal, is running the new location with her husband Ali Ghandour and tells Dish that this is "the first of many franchises." "My father is still there for advice," Layal adds.

The menu at the new location is similar to the original, but there are some differences. "I'm a big fan of smoothies, so we added them, and these are my personal recipes. They're made with nonfat yogurt and soy milk. We also have other healthy options," says Layal. "In addition to the traditional Middle Eastern favorites, like hummus, gyros, falafel and tabbouleh, we're also serving freshly ground burgers and fries, as well as Philly cheese­steak sandwiches. Our fries are so good that many people come in for those alone." Dish enjoyed the Layal appetizer sampler, which consisted of a bowl of hummus, stuffed grape leaves, falafel and kibbeh. This was followed by a chicken shawarma plate and a kafta kebab.

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