A new all-day cafe is coming to the East End. Cafe Louie will open late this summer inside Giant Leap Coffee at The Plant, the redeveloped industrial site in the East End that's home to popular wine bar How To Survive on Land and Sea.
The restaurant is the latest project from chef Angelo Emiliani, whose Angie’s Pizza pop-up has been a smash hit. Emiliani will partner with his sister Lucianna — the restaurant’s namesake — on the project. She’s a pastry chef with experience working for San Francisco’s acclaimed Tartine bakery and locally at Tiny Boxwoods. Pastry chef Erica Valencia (Emiliani’s girlfriend) will also be contributing.
Initially, Tlauhuac, the Mexican the Mexican concept from chef Nicholas Vera and pastry chef Stephanie Velasquez, had been slated for the space, but the duo are focusing on Papalo Mercado, their restaurant at downtown’s Finn Hall food hall. When Giant Leap's ownership approached him about taking over the space, Emiliani says he jumped at the opportunity.
“I’ve always wanted to do a concept like this, all-day breakfast, super light and fun,” Emiliani tells CultureMap. “It just so happened it fell in my lap. It also gives me the opportunity to show my sister off a little bit, because she’s really incredible.”
The menu has been stocked with what Emiliani describes as “craveable” dishes made with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. In the morning, Cafe Louie will serve freshly made pastries such as viennoiserie (croissants and other laminated doughs), morning buns, and kolaches along with breakfast sandwiches. In the afternoon, look for dishes like preserved lemon chicken with vadouvan rice, poached egg, and cured carrot salad and white Sonora roti with honeycomb, salted butter, and roasted peach preserves, which is inspired by a dish he made while working at Emmer & Rye in Austin.
Other dishes from Emiliani’s draft menu include croissant sandwiches, fresh corn polenta with marinated tomatoes and Portugese sausage, and a spice-rubbed roast chicken with french fries that’s inspired by a dish he ate at Dino’s in Los Angeles.
“I don’t want to say it’s the best chicken out there, but it’s pretty fucking good,” Emiliani says. “As [James Beard Award-winning pizzaiolo Chris] Bianco would say, ‘as good as anyone’s best.’”
Overall, Emiliani’s time in Los Angeles shaped Cafe Louie’s direction. The chef cites restaurants such as Sqirl, the acclaimed cafe known for its jams, toasts, and salads, as a major influence on Cafe Louie. Emiliani says he hasn’t found many similar restaurants in Houston and sees an opportunity to bring the concept here.
“I’ve been editing this menu for awhile,” he says. “I can’t take things off because I want people to eat there. I haven’t been this excited about a menu in a long time.”
As for pizza, Emiliani says he’s put his oven away for the time being to focus on Cafe Louie. He’s identified a space for a pizzeria, but it likely won’t open for a year or more.
“My focus is on Cafe Louie as of now, he says. “I hope it comes quicker, but you never know.”