I love venturing out of the suburbs and into Houston to eat when time allows! Houston is fortunate to have a grand choice of restaurants in so many areas of town to visit. Meme, my Grandmother, made a special request to try this “Sorrel Urban Bistro“ I have buzzed about, however lunch is not served on Mondays (they take a well-deserved rest)! After a little research for an alternative, we chose Empire Cafe based on Culture Map’s Houston City Guide and Yelp’s Search and Reviews. Although most of the time these are helpful tools, along with UrbanSpoon, lunch was less than stellar, not the dining experience I had imagined. Thankfully though- I always enjoy being with my family no matter where we are…
Empire Cafe, Houston – Photo by Chris Conyers for Culture Map
#1 We were not greeted or acknowledged when coming in, and the menus seemed dirty.
#2 It was 10:45ish and they were not willing to take the order at first for lunch, only breakfast. They ended up taking the order, but said they wouldn’t start cooking until 11:00. We ordered and waited.
#3 I ordered a cappuccino, tipped $2 plus the change, the asked them if I needed the number to take the table. He said, “No she is making it now.” I returned to the table outside (which was in view from the counter), and waited about 5-10 minutes before I decided to walk back up to the counter to check on the cappuccino. Their response when I walked up to the counter, as they were chatting, “Oh we were wondering if you had left.”
#4 The patio was so loud my Aunt and Meme had a hard time hearing. Perhaps the more secluded patio on the side was quieter, but this probably wasn’t the best place for someone who is hard of hearing.
Food was very good though and lunch was $48 for four of us, so the price was nice….
What can Empire Cafe do to get the buzz back?
I get the eclectic, good food vibe, but I would have expected better service from a Houston Relic- a simple SMILE can make a big difference! I wouldn’t give Empire Cafe top ratings due to quality of service, road noise and ambiance. Possibly a neutral music of sorts- guitar maybe, to drown out the road noise?!? I can see stopping into this buzzing Houston landmark for a good quick bite, but not a relaxing conversational lunch. So I will keep searching for more good lunch spots… I am loving Sorrel Urban Bistro, Tiny Boxwoods and Ousie’s Table! Check out the fabulous pictures by clicking on the link!
I would give Empire Cafe a second chance under different circumstances, with different expectations, and dine on the side patio…
Enjoy! Emily Arnim
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