Here, Eat This

Houston's Best Sandwiches: Crispy Lobster Sandwich at Backstreet Cafe

The Crispy Lobster Sandwich at Backstreet Cafe is how you do elevated fried comfort food.
The Crispy Lobster Sandwich at Backstreet Cafe is how you do elevated fried comfort food. Photo by Jeff Balke
We are in search of Houston's best sandwiches because we love sandwiches and we love Houston!

"Armando's was a scene. I mean, I've seen that at Toulouse before, but Armando's?" Four forty-something women at a table near me in matching pink T-shirts (one in a tiara) were gabbing about pilates and gossiping about old men hitting on young women at a table adjacent to mine. It was a birthday for the tiara-wearing woman in the late morning hours at the end of a work week and they were enjoying themselves heartily with wine, Bloody Mary's and an eventual tequila tasting.

It was rather amusing to me when their entrees came out and they consisted of a small sliver of sandwich each and a side salad (did they split a burger four ways?) while my waiter dropped this massive and gorgeous sandwich on my table.

For me, Backstreet Cafe (1103 South Shepherd) had always been a favorite spot for dinner. Many forget that acclaimed Chef Hugo Ortega, who is the executive chef, started here as a dishwasher long before he became known for his innovative Mexican cuisine at places like Hugo, Caracoal and Xochi. The American fare with a southwest kick at Backstreet has long been popular among the River Oaks set given its proximity and delicious food, but I've always thought it was underrated among food lovers despite its remarkable consistency and ever-changing menu.

Plus, you can overhear great tips on where to do hot yoga when you are there.

Yet, I had never been at lunch, which is crazy considering the Crispy Lobster Sandwich on the menu. Fried lobster is not terribly common. It's such a luxury item that most won't dare to sully it with the deep fryer and it's also pretty easy to overcook. Still, fried anything done right is amazing and lobster is another level.

This bad boy has two hunks of fried lobster — perfectly rendered so it is crisp but not tough and still has that signature sweetness — on a brioche bun (hell yes!) with, check this out, arugula, tomatoes, bacon, red pepper remoulade and a pile of onion rings. In many ways, this is the kind of thing you'd expect to find in a bar or a dive seafood joint (though maybe not with lobster), but God bless Hugo for rolling it out.

As great as the lobster was, it was truly the remoulade mixed with the bacon that made it. I'm not normally a "hey, let's pile bacon all over this because bacon makes everything better" kind of guy, but wow, did that crumble of bacon mixed with the creamy-spicy sauce do the trick.

Admittedly, I had to take the onion rings off. They were delicious and worked well when taking a bite of them with the sandwich, but sitting in that lovely dining room surrounded by lawyers and a table full of very fit, quarter-sandwich-eating ladies, the thought of me cramming a fat, fried sandwich into my pie hole seemed somehow untoward. I wasn't going to slice it into fourths or anything and save three-quarters for later, but some decorum seemed in order.

The whole sandwich was rich and decadent and filling, everything you'd expect, but also really fresh and not the slightest bit greasy or cumbersome. So, sure I felt like I needed a nap, but I had enough energy to instead take my dogs for a quick walk and burn off some of those calories. I'll save those hot yoga options for another day.

If you have a sandwich you think is one of the best in town, hit us up. We're always looking for new options.
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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