I was mildly reassured by the minestrone's appearance: at least its broth was opaque, a prerequisite for any soup with the word "hearty" in its name. But taste-wise, it did nothing for me: it needed more chunky vegetables, more pasta, but mostly, more oomph. On my next visit, however, I lucked out; I hit new potato soup day. I was not disappointed. All the proper soup elements were there -- shredded Cheddar, fresh chives, dime-sized pieces of real bacon -- and the broth, with its little specks of potato skins and enough pepper to catch your attention, managed to escape the goopy, gelatinous fate of so many potato soups. The little Caesar salad that came with it, plucky with the flavor of anchovies, also satisfied. I've decided that there's no need to wait for another cold spell to oblige my craving for this favorite. But don't risk having to wait till next year: Cafe Express only brings out this soup during the winter.
Fish Tale: If you're one of those who are still undecided about the merits (or lack thereof) of catfish, then hurry over to The Glaze, a home-style restaurant that appeared overnight on Bellaire Boulevard. After sampling their fried catfish fillets, you won't be able to resist becoming shamelessly pro-catfish. The batter is thin, delicate and doesn't succumb to sogginess anywhere; the fish flesh -- perfectly white -- really does melt in your mouth. It comes with a hot vegetable buffet where you'll find not only a plethora of respectable home-style veggies, but also salads and homemade soups and breads. By itself, the buffet is acceptable, though not exciting; adding the fried catfish, however, transforms an adequate meal into a pleasant surprise. -- Kelley Blewster
Cafe Express, 1800 Post Oak Boulevard, 963-9222, 3200 Kirby, 522-3994, and 1422 West Gray, 522-3100; The Glaze, 4060 Bellaire Boulevard, 669-0069.
Cafe Express: hearty soup and salad special, $5.95. The Glaze: catfish fillets, $7.99.