Chicken Fried Steak and a Cigarette at City Cafe

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Glenn Livet and I both unwittingly covered two South Houston classics this week: He in a dive bar post about Bonnie's and me in a review of City Cafe.

Both establishments are notable for several reasons: they are long-lived, they are full of character (and characters) and they both still allow smoking inside.

Normally, I'm not a fan of establishments that allow smoking. Over the weekend in Lafayette, I complained after leaving The Green Room -- downtown Lafayette's smoky craft beer bar/Saints-watching headquarters -- that I smelled like an ashtray, having forgotten what it's like to spend a few hours in a hazy, cigarette-filled room. But the cigarette smoke at City Cafe has never bothered me.

For one, there's a separate smoking section that keeps the cigarettes firmly on one side of the house. And considering how easily smoke can drift over, it's surprisingly effective -- so don't let the smoking ordinance in the City of South Houston affect your decision to eat at the diner. You'd miss out on some very fine chicken-fried steak, and even better hash browns, malted waffles and grits.

And secondly, there's something about seeing men and women draped over the diner counter with a cigarette in one hand and a black coffee in the other that's charming in its own, nostalgia-saturated way. Just by virtue of allowing smoking inside, City Cafe has unintentionally set itself back in time -- even if only a few years.

It's this comforting sense of times gone by that permeates everything at City Cafe, from the scuffed diner stools to the quaint two-man booths, from the steam table lunch to the enormous portions at breakfast. It's also the very thing that keeps the regulars coming to City Cafe day after day, since 1952.

There's a lot to be said for that sense of comfort in a quickly changing world, even more so at a rough-edged place like City Cafe, where the head chef wears a toque that reads "Kitchen Bitch" across the front. Read more about City Cafe in this week's review, or simply make the drive down I-45 to experience the classic diner for yourself.

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.