Even on a rainy day, there's a line for the car wash and oil changes at Dr. Gleem, but it's surprisingly quiet inside. For a while, I'm the only person seated at the granite counter of tiny Facundo Cafe. Every now and then I hear the whirr of a razor from the barber shop that's connected to the cafe, and from behind me comes the gentle hum of the automatic car wash, visible through a panoramic window as it glides vehicles through the swinging, foamy blue mops that hang from the ceiling. Right now, as I wait for my car to be cleaned, I cannot be anywhere but here. The best thing to do is to relax and enjoy a meal.
Like most people, I thought the notion of a cafe inside a car wash/barber shop was...um...strange to say the least. Yes, I've been bored and hungry and disappointed with vending machine options while waiting for my car to be cleaned or my oil changed. But opening a full-fledged cafe serving breakfast and lunch seemed to be taking that to a whole other level.
One meal at Facundo Cafe and one car wash later, I'm convinced: All mechanic shops should have cafes.
The whole process of getting my car cleaned is usually so daunting that I end up hauling a shop vac out to my driveway and doing it myself. I never know where to go, what is an appropriate amount to pay, what "package" I need to buy. At Dr. Gleem, they made it easy. I pulled up to the wash. I pointed to the basic exterior wash and the "Super Clean" interior scrub that was advertised on the big banner outside. I handed a man my keys and he handed me a receipt. I went inside and paid. Done and done. In retrospect, I'm not sure why I thought such things were complicated.
This is where I'd usually bust out a book or start thumbing across my phone screen looking for something to occupy my attention. Instead, I sat down at the cafe and ordered a BLT, all the while chatting with the two cooks behind the counter about the unfortunate taste of Houston tap water as of late. As we talked, I watched one cook remove bacon from the refrigerator and place it on the grill. He retrieved two slices of bread and buttered them before placing them too on the grill to toast. He tore lettuce and sliced tomatoes. He dumped a serving of spindly sweet potato fries into what looked and smelled like very fresh fry oil.
I was pleased that I could watch my meal being made behind the bar in front of me and my car being washed outside the window behind me. As my car glided through the power wash, the cook slid a plate with a beautiful BLT across the counter where it stopped right in front of me.
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It wasn't an earth shattering BLT, just as the burgers here won't change your life and the fries probably won't make it on a list of your favorites in town. But it was really good. A solid, classic BLT with peppercorn crusted bacon, fresh romaine lettuce, bright red summer tomatoes, a smear of mayo and toasty, buttery bread. The sweet potato fries are shoestring style--spindly and crisp on the outside but still soft on the inside. I attacked both with gusto.
By the time I finished my meal, my car was just about done too. The men vacuuming the inside had spritzed it with a fresh, citrusy scent, and I climbed in hardly able to recognize my previously filthy vehicle. For $50, I got a nicely cleaned car (inside and out) and a great lunch.
When Katharine Shilcutt first reviewed Facundo Cafe in February of 2012, many readers commented that they were so sick of hearing about the place. It was an anomaly when it first opened, something you had to experience just to say you'd done it. Now, business is a little slower. You rarely see coverage of the quaint cafe in the press, possibly because everyone got so oversaturated with the place when it first opened.
So take this as a friendly reminder: Dr. Gleem is still doing a fine job washing cars, and Facundo Cafe is still serving a badass BLT while you wait. Next time I'm getting a haircut too.