Unless you live in the neighborhood, you probably don't know about the new Wal-Mart on Kuykendahl Road in Tomball. It's the second in a pilot program of more modern, health-conscious stores for the chain. But if you're not actively looking for the rack filled with Burt's Bees products or the cell-phone-enabled check-out, you likely won't notice the difference. Yet you can't miss the Chobani Café, worlds away from the McDonald's you're more likely to find feeding the People of Wal-Mart. It may sound like an exercise on the "Celebrity Apprentice," but it doesn't taste like one.
In fact, the café, which opens this weekend, is more than just the area's first yogurt-centric restaurant. It's also the only place we've found in greater Houston that offers Turkish bagels, known as simits, seven days a week. At Chobani Café, they're served as sandwiches spread with labneh, the Middle Eastern cream cheese equivalent made from strained yogurt.
But the biggest surprise is that nothing at Chobani Café tastes like fast food. "Hamdi tastes everything," Chobani's senior manager of communications, Blair Aires, told us over simits. Sweet dishes are not cloying like most grocery store yogurt. And Aires says that flavor balance makes sense. She sees the everything-yogurt eatery as "the physical manifestation of our brand. It's a good introduction to yogurt, too." And a good education in looking beyond the Wal-Mart sign and enjoying good food for what it is.