Here, Eat This

Houston's Best Sandwiches: The Croque Monsieur at Cafe Brussels

The Croque Monsieur, upon first blush, is just a ham and cheese sandwich, but it's much more.
The Croque Monsieur, upon first blush, is just a ham and cheese sandwich, but it's much more. Photo by Jeff Balke
We are in search of Houston's best sandwiches because we love sandwiches and we love Houston!

Leave it to the French to take the concept of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and try to elevate it into something artful. It's ham and cheese. It can't be that difficult right? One would think so, but having endured many crappy ham and cheese sandwiches in my life (many of my own making), I can attest that to make a good version is harder than it looks.

In France (and Brussels, as you'll see), they refer to this as a Croque Monsiuer. Literally translated, it's something to the effect of "Mister Crunch." This is not to be confused with the Croque Madame, which is essentially the same thing, but with a fried egg on top (one of these will make an appearance on this list at some point).

The Croque Monsieur from Cafe Brussels, a charming and unassuming cafe on Houston Avenue just south of Washington Avenue, is everything you want in this form of griddled hame and cheese. Thin slices of ham with melted gruyere in between soft white bread are toasted in butter to a golden brown. It really is crunchy, mister.

Some varieties have bechamel sauce poured over the sandwich, but to me, that takes away from the ability to grab this sucker and dig in, and it removes the "croque" from the Croque Monsieur. Where's the fun in that.

This is, in essence, French bar food. Because Belgium borders France, it has adopted a number of its food traditions including this one. Thing is, this is, not surprisingly, elegant bar food. Cafe Brussels includes a salad with creamy, zippy dressing and french fries or "frites" as they are called on the other side of the pond. Pro tip: Do NOT skip out on the in-house made mayonnaise for both dipping frites and the sandwich. It's unreal good and a great alternative to ketchup.

For under ten bucks, this is one hell of a tasty lunch spot and might be one of the best ham and cheese sandwiches you ever eat.

If you have a sandwich you think is one of the best in town, hit us up. We're always looking for new options.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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