RETRO DINING: HUNGRY’S CAFE & BISTRO

Hungry’s Cafe & Bistro has been in business since 1975.  I recently visited the location at 2356 Rice Blvd (there is a second location at 14714 Memorial).

The art deco exterior is colorful and just a little bit funky.  The outdoor patio is popular in nicer weather (which is a distant memory as I write this in July).

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The interior is fairly plain, although local artworks can be found around the restaurant.  Our table was annoyingly wobbly, and we spent quite a bit of time wiggling it around to find the least unstable position to set it in.  (None of us was in the mood to crawl under the table and wedge something under one of the legs.)

The menu offered a variety of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and entrees, with an emphasis on southwestern and mediterranean flavors.  I went mediterranean, and ordered the Kabob Plate, which consisted of a skewer of chicken and a skewer of beef tenderloin, served with sauteed vegetables, herbed rice, and pita.

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The portion of beef and chicken was smaller than I would have expected — just the two little skewers.  Likewise, the two little pita triangles looked lonely on the plate.  The vegetables and rice were fresh, but lacked any seasoning.  This was not a dish I would come back for.

My daughter’s boyfriend went with the Gyros Plate, served with jalapeno hummus and french fries.

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This dish was also disappointing.  This was not like the juicy gyros we have come to enjoy at some of our local Greek restaurants, but was on the dry side.  Pita bread would have been a nice (and expected) accompaniment to go with the meat and tzatziki-style “Grecian sauce” served with it.  The jalapeno hummus was a tasty twist.

My daughter got the Chipotle Club Wrap, which was accompanied by a crisp iceberg wedge with the restaurant’s signature chunky feta cheese jalapeno dressing.

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This was easily the best dish we sampled, and at $10, was a great value.  The whole wheat wrap was stuffed with ham, turkey, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and chipotle chili sauce, and was a two-fisted affair.  You could easily plan to bring half home for lunch the next day.  The wedge salad was really delicious–crunchy, creamy, spicy.

So what is the secret to Hungry’s longevity?  I had to really think about this, because it was not immediately apparent to me.  The food was uneven, but if you stick with the sandwiches and wraps and don’t overthink the food, you can have an enjoyable meal here.  The service was efficient and unfussy, and I appreciated not being rushed through my meal.  The restaurant’s close proximity to the Texas Medical Center and Rice University draws a crowd of students and young medical professionals, who appreciate the fresh ingredients, good selection of vegetarian options, and unpretentious atmosphere.  It’s the kind of casual restaurant with a decisively neighborhood feel where you can unwind and relax with friends.

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Hungry's Cafe and Bistro on Foodio54

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