One of Houston's most enduring fast casual restaurants will soon sport a fresh new look. Café Express' location in River Oaks Plaza will reopen October 4 after a comprehensive series of upgrades.
Created by Cafe Annie partners chef Robert Del Grande and restaurateur Lonnie Schiller (Schiller is also a CultureMap co-founder) after a trip to Europe, this Café Express location has received a series of upgrades to bring it in line with contemporary dining trends. For example, dedicated curbside parking spots and to-go shelves expedite picking up to-go orders.
First opened in 1991, the River Oaks restaurant also has a new look inspired by European cafes. The interior features wood floors, leather banquettes, and a light fixture that spells out "River Oaks." Similar changes will roll out to Cafe Express' location in Meyerland and Town & Country.
New dishes complement the updated interior. They include a tuna nicoise salad, Romesco chicken, and bavette steak with lemon-herb sauce. They join Cafe Express favorites like chicken deli salad, basil pesto Chicken, and Mediterranean grilled salmon. Even better, the restaurant has brought back its signature condiment bar that includes olives and imported breadsticks.
Get a steak at the new Cafe Express.Photo by Michael Anthony
Dine-in service has been upgraded, too. Customers still order at a counter, but the restaurant will now deliver trays to people's tables.
“The remodel of our River Oaks restaurant marks an exciting time in the evolutionary journey of the beloved Café Express brand,” Café Express president Sarah McAloon said in a statement “Not only have we totally renovated our River Oaks location, but we have also elevated the menu and overall dining experience while maintaining prices that are in keeping with a family-friendly, craft-casual neighborhood restaurant.”
Debuting a new look represents a comeback for the restaurant, which exited the Dallas market in 2020 after operating there for more than 25 years. Plans call for opening 30 locations, 15 each in the Houston and Dallas areas, by 2030. First up will be a store in The Woodlands, according to a release.
"The beautifully remodeled River Oaks location is the first example of our expansion plan and designs,” McAloon added. “We are thrilled to breathe new energy into this pioneering restaurant concept and introduce it to a whole new generation of future Café Express lovers."