The Woodlands area is becoming a respectable culinary destination, but we're often frustrated by the lack of independent restaurants in the Woodlands proper. Bucking this trend is Caffe di Fiore, a small storefront cafe located at the far West end of Woodlands Parkway, and area that is badly in need of interesting places to eat.
We parked, and entered the establishment, and were seated promptly. Our visit was during a World Cup match, and the restaurant was filled with patrons dining while watching the match on the flat panel TVs. We're not huge fans of soccer, but we got caught up in the excitement; the enthusiasm of the crowd was infectious.
We browsed the menu, and were surprised and pleased by the eclectic offerings. Part Italian, part Mediterranean, part Mexican, and part new-age Californian, the menu was filled with the sort of light dishes that seemed well suited for a hot Texas summer afternoon.
Scanning down the list, my eyes were drawn to one of my all-time favorite Mexican dishes: Tacos al pastor. It's rare to find this dish outside of taquerias and taco trucks, so it was an easy decision for me. (It was also an easy decision to avoid ordering it "Gringo style", with cheese added.)
What arrived was a plate lined with five smallish tacos filled with lushly marinated grilled pork. The coarsely chopped onion and cilantro were very fresh and served on the side, allowing me to add just the right amount. The juicy lime slices were appreciated as always, and there was a mysterious green sauce as well. Avocado? Not even close - a quick taste revealed a muy caliente green chili sauce, which handily overpowered the more delicate flavors of the marinated pork. After sparingly applying the sauce to one taco, we concluded that the sauce was best left in its dish.
The pork was nicely marinated and moist, but not too juicy. These are some of the best tacos al pastor we've had, and certainly the best we've found in the Woodlands area. They're nearly up to our gold standard, Guero's in Austin.
The second dish we sampled was a ham and cheese wrap, served with a light summer salad. The wrap that came out looked gigantic, but it turned out that the wrap was almost entirely filled with lettuce; there was one skimpy slice of ham, and a lonely slice of unidentifiable cheese thrown into the mix. If you're on a diet or you really love lettuce, this may be a great wrap for you, but we were a bit underwhelmed.
As with most restaurants in the Woodlands proper, prices are slightly high, but not objectionably so.
All in all, we like the concept at Caffe di Fiore, and if they will be a bit less strict in rationing the non-vegetable fillings for the wraps, we think they've got a winning concept.
Caffe di Fiore - 10110 Woodlands Parkway - 281-298-1228 - caffe-di-fiore.com