Grown Up, Staying Up

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Upper crust: We Americans must be getting spoiled. Our taste buds have become so used to elaborately seasoned breads and upscale foods that even Domino's is now offering a flavored, focaccia-style crust. The new Roma herb crust is available with any combination of Domino's usual toppings. (And no, I report with some relief, they haven't yet decided to offer haute fixings such as artichoke hearts, smoked duck or goat cheese.)

The crust itself is fine, being Domino's basic hand-tossed crust plus a blending of sun-dried tomatoes, baked garlic and basil. I don't especially care for the overriding taste of sun-dried tomatoes, but I do like the golden Parmesan cheese crunchies that bejewel the edges. The new crust raises the overall quality level of the pizza, lending robustness to Domino's already tasty sauce. My verdict? I'll be ordering it again.

Spice up your night: I've heard more than one Houstonian grouse about the fact that here we are in the fourth largest city in the U.S., yet it's a chore finding restaurants that serve food past 10 or 11 p.m. Haveli is trying to change that with the introduction of a midnight Indian buffet on Fridays only from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Great idea, despite the fact that I can't imagine trying to get to sleep too soon after ingesting a few spoonfuls of any one of their exuberantly hot chutneys.

They grow up so fast: A long way from its beginnings a decade ago as a favored lunch spot on Post Oak Lane, Cafe Express has now been named one of the year's hottest restaurant concepts by the food service industry bible, Nation's Restaurant News. Of course, since a business doesn't become a "concept" by staying rooted in one town, this recognition is a reflection of the fact that Cafe Express is no longer strictly a local concern, but has already opened branches in Dallas and plans to open several more in Austin, Phoenix, San Antonio and Las Vegas. I'm glad for the success of this homegrown enterprise in the same way I'd feel proud of a sibling who's growing up and going away. But at the same time, I feel sort of jealously possessive of its roots, and wistful for the days when exuding local charm meant staying close to home.

-- Kelley Blewster

Domino's Pizza, citywide delivery, 470-7000; Haveli, 9817 Bissonnet, 776-0702.

Domino's Pizza:
Roma herb crust pizza, large, one topping, $9.99 (limited time).

midnight buffet, (Fridays only), $13.95, adults; $6.95, children under ten.

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