It’s 6 p.m. and in your unbridled excitement for that House of Blues show later tonight, you got to GreenStreet way too early. But a beacon of hope reveals itself with string lights opposite a faux grass (not foie gras) patch and an invitingly lit Caffé Bene sign reflecting against fountains. The Korean café franchise opened last week on January 18, so before you feel out of touch, fear not, it’s totally brand new.
Locations in The Woodlands and Sugar Land are anticipated soon, but Caffé Bene marks its first Texan turf in Houston, courtesy of franchisee James Son. “We’ve been getting a steady flow of people coming since our first day to check the place out,” says Son.
In Caffé Bene’s case, the book should be judged by its cover. Its modern interior and bookshelves filled with hardbound collections and classics lends itself to the decadent and expansive café menu. “I have visited Caffé Bene locations in South Korea and New York City and really enjoyed their great coffees, waffles and lights," says Son. "I’m excited to introduce them locally at GreenStreet, with their reputation of bringing in premier retailers to serve the growing downtown community.”
Under Son’s care, the menu shines with local ingredients filling gourmet sandwiches, waffle desserts, honey bread sweets, gelato and variations on traditional Korean items with European sensibilities. I felt like I lived a summer in Europe vicariously through a Belgian waffle, with scoops of rich chocolate gelato and whipped cream on each side and toppings of fresh raspberries and Oreos that left me in a blissful daze of sugar.
If you can resist starting with dessert, let the cheese-and-garlic honey bread into your life to fulfill an unconscious craving for a subtle blend of sweet honey and savory cheese. Alongside the satisfying sandwich menu, any lunch items are paired well with a flavorful medium-blend iced coffee, often served to perfection. But there's no question, I'll personally conquer Caffé Bene's menu with glee in this lifetime.
And I'm sure I'll have time. With the soul of a progressive restaurant in the body of a European-style café, I expect a bright future ahead for Caffé Bene’s reputation in the Bayou City.