Chatter’s Cafe and Bistro (**)

Posted on March 2nd, 2004 in Restaurant Reviews by mynagirl

Chatter’s Cafe and Bistro

South Heights

Houston, Tx

Located in the old Star Pizza building on South Heights, the new owners have completely revamped the interior, aiming for an inviting “olde worlde” feel. A bar area fills out the area by the hostess stand at the entrance, and the beige-walled dining rooms are separated by a look-through area with antique bicycles and sideboards.

So far our two visits have been a bit uneven; I’m not sure whether to chalk it up to a new restaurant or a restaurant that isn’t destined to be long for this world. The menu is mediterrean-ish, with hummus served with pita points, chicken kebabs and basmati rice, and a variety of sandwiches. The hummus (we’ve had it both times and, truth be told, it was the hummus that brought us back for a second trip) was top-notch: freshly prepared with a wonderful, creamy texture, layered with olive oil and fresh strips of basil, served with warm pita bread. The other dishes there have ranged from bad (a watery tomato basil soup) to okay (the chicken kebabs, but kinda underdone, which is scary for chicken) to pretty good (a walnut chicken salad sandwich and a philly cheesesteak sandwich).

The other factor that puts Chatter’s into the “maybe” pile for me is that it has the hallmarks of a family-owned establishment trying to save here and there on cost. Both times we’ve been there have been too many wait staff for how few patrons there were at the time (although we’ve driven by other times and seen a packed parking lot, so go figure). The waiters and waitresses all seem very inexperienced, not like “career” waitstaff; you can tell when someone is still learning how to balance a tray of food. When I ordered a sandwich and it arrived on a different type of bread than I had expected and I asked, “doesn’t this come on pita bread?”, I got a pretty snippy, “No it doesn’t,” in reply. I’d expect a little smoother of a response from someone who’d been a waiter for a longer period of time, or maybe it’s just that the guy was related to the owner and didn’t really fear for losing his job.

My final “maybe” factor with Chatter’s (and this is really a deciding factor for me on picking out where I’m going to eat), is that the chairs there are NOT PADDED. I guess I have a bony rear, but whenever we think about going back there I cringe because I don’t want to spend 40 minutes or more in discomfort on those murderously hard chairs. Dining out for me is about the entire experience — good food, decent wait staff, not too noisy / clattery, and a comfy, cozy, sit. There are very few restaurants where I’ll put up with uncomfortable chairs just because the food’s good. And if the food’s only mediocre and the chairs are bad? Forget it, location isn’t good enough to draw me in — there are too many good restaurants in Houston (and even near our house) for that.

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