Poor Little Rich Boys at Zimm's Little Deck

The long and short of this week's cafe review of Zimm's Little Deck is that while the Cajun restaurant's small plates (items like Croque Monsieur balls and fried calamari) are great, the poor boys are wanting.

So, too, are the "rich boys" on Zimm's menu, which is divided between standard poor boys and -- as the name would indicate -- the more expensive rich boys with ingredients like beef tenderloin, lamb and special housemade aiolis. No matter which side of the menu you order off of here, the sandwich you get on all six measly inches of unfortunately soft bread will disappoint you.

Instead of piling it on further -- because, if you'll read the full review, you'll see that I actually do like Zimm's Little Deck for its inviting vibe, small plates and smart cocktail program -- I'd rather point folks to the poor boys in town that I do like.

Specifically, the ones at Calliope's.

Now I understand that it's nigh impossible to get an authentic New Orleans-style poor boy in Houston, mostly due to the bread used here. Some people claim it's New Orleans' situation below sea level and the resulting humidity that gives the bread its texture. Others claim it's the water in the Crescent City, mixed into the bread dough to give it a uniquely crunchy exterior and soft interior as it bakes.

At Calliope's, you're getting as close to authentic as you can come by in Houston.

Calliope's gets it right because of the perfectly crusty bread, bread that melts into a wonderfully soggy mess as you eat it. Calliope's also get it right because of the very stuff that makes the poor boy melt: roast beef drenched in gravy, fat oysters on a fully dressed sandwich. Owner Lisa Carnley doesn't skimp on the fillings or the toppings when she assembles her poor boys. She's from New Orleans; she knows what other Louisiana ex-pats crave.

Where Houston poor boy joints succeed is when they use the French-style baguettes obtained from local Vietnamese bakeries, similar to what's used for banh mi. I understand that Zimm's Little Deck uses bread from French Riviera, which surprises me. While Madagascan (not Vietnamese), the bakery is well known for turning out a fine French baguette. If what I understood is indeed true and Zimm's is getting their poor boy bread from French Riviera, they might need to have a talk with their supplier.

Houston, where do you go when you're craving a good, messy poor boy?

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Katharine Shilcutt