Review: Huntsville style abounds at City Hall Café

Every college town ­– or college-prison town hybrid – needs a signature restaurant.

Sean Smith | The Houstonian

Sean Smith | The Houstonian

A place where visitors to the university or its surrounding community can go to find a conglomeration of all things Huntsville. From food to atmosphere to décor, City Hall Café and Pie Bar is that place.

Having moved from its former location on FM 1791 to just north of Sam Houston State University, City Hall Café is in the prime area for hungry college student traffic.

Patrons of City Hall Café are instantly welcomed to an atmosphere overflowing with Huntsville character upon their first steps into the restaurant. Not only Huntsville but Texas style flows throughout the café’s modern take on rustic décor.

Downhome favorites with adventurous updates proliferate throughout the menu. Ranging from steak fingers to specialty burgers to gourmet sandwiches, City Hall has options to please any pallet.

One standout item is the pickle chips. Lightly battered and thinly sliced, City Hall’s rival any challenger’s offering of a similar appetizer.

The café’s food is a clean and simple approach to comfort food favorites. One of the best burger varieties served is the “Eh-One.” Loaded with grilled onions and steak sauce, the perfectly medium-well grilled burger is an instant Huntsville classic.

Another fantastic offering are the steak fingers. These are not the typical scrawny overcooked two-and-a-half to three inch strips of beef. City Hall’s version literally looks like the standard big-as-your-face chicken fried steak was simply cut into strips instead of being served whole.

The country gravy served alongside the fingers or smothered atop the chicken fried steak or chicken is a home-style cooking staple, and the café and pie bar does not disappoint.

Fresh ingredients add to the restaurant’s appeal, especially in their specialty sandwiches. Bread and buns ranging from sourdough to jalapeño-cheddar add customizability to each order.

Classic side dishes such as mac and cheese, fried okra and potato wedges further increases its standing as a country-food staple.

Pie is essential to any country-style restaurant’s dessert, and City Hall’s pie bar does not disappoint.

Buttermilk and vinegar pecan pies authenticate City Hall’s standing as a southern classic food joint. These pies are less sweet but just as rich as other pies offered, such as the chocolate cream and coconut meringue pies.

The vinegar pecan pie is encased in a crisp and buttery pie crust that complements the candied pecan and chess pie-like filling very well.

The chocolate cream pie is served in a more neutrally flavored pie crust that lets its fillings shine. This pie is also topped with unsweetened whipped cream, which does not add unnecessary sweetness to the dessert and helps cut the richness of the chocolate filling.

Pie bar standards such as coconut cream, pecan and lemon meringue pies are also available, along with house made cobblers. Blue Bell ice cream can also be added to any pie or cobbler for just $1.50 more.

Prices at City Hall are, overall, friendly to the college student budget. Most portions can be easily stretched into two meals, and pie-by-the-slice prices peak at $4.

With Huntsville caught between college and prison town personalities, City Hall Café is the epitome of the town’s character. It has the upscale home-style food one should expect from a diverse community of ever-changing citizens and influences.

City Hall Café brings more than just pie to Huntsville. It brings a place for all students and citizens to bask in the atmosphere of Huntsville’s charm.

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