Houston's Best Sandwiches: Poulet Classique at Neo Baguette

The Poulet Classique at Neo Baguette is fresh, surprising and a great reminder of where the baguette originated.
The Poulet Classique at Neo Baguette is fresh, surprising and a great reminder of where the baguette originated. Photo by Jeff Balke
We are in search of Houston's best sandwiches because we love sandwiches and we love Houston!

In Houston, the bánh mì has become so synonymous with a sandwich on a baguette, you might forget where that actually originated. Fortunately, we have Neo Baguette, 201 E. 20th, to remind us.

This adorable former auto repair shop in the Heights (about a block off Heights Boulevard) is modern and stylish but has a casual nature about it. When I stopped by just before 11 a.m. on a Monday, it was quiet with just a few folks dining at the counter service bistro.

The BYOB restaurant boasts a number of interesting sandwiches, toasts and salads — dinner after 5 p.m. includes some complex looking pastas and fish — as well as a display case of desserts. The Poulet Classique immediately caught my eye mainly because of the blend of avocado, portabella mushrooms and chipotle aioli. For a French sandwich, this certainly offered a pretty wide culinary spread of flavors, no doubt owing to the chef's Moroccan and French roots as well as his fine dining experience in New York.

The sandwich emerged warm and toasted. Some baguettes can be tough to get through, but this was light and airy, with a delicate crunch. The flattened chicken breast, which was moist and tender, appeared to have been seared on a flat top. But it was that unique blend of ingredients surrounding the chicken that set this sandwich off.

Roasted red pepper, mushroom and manchego cheese (I have got to get manchego on a sandwich more often!) had a distinctly Spanish feel, while the gently spicy aioli and avocado felt southwestern. But it fit together perfectly. I'd recommend tucking the avocado down into the bread and getting a bit of it all together.

Too often, chefs will force together ingredients that sound better in theory than they actually are in practice, but not here. Every bite offered a range of flavors that seemed familiar but new at the same time.

When I heard about Neo, I assumed it would be a good French bistro and God knows I am down for a croque madame as much as the next guy, but this was quite a happy little surprise.

If you have a sandwich you think is one of the best in town, hit us up. We're always looking for new options.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke