The Woodlands keeps growing, expanding west from I-45. Woodlands Parkway is currently over nine miles long, running through the heart of the community. And we're finally witnessing the restaurant scene expand slowly backwards. No longer must a diner endure a prefabricated meal from a generic chain restaurant in the newer areas of the Woodlands. While the Waterway and Market Street areas are still the epicenter of dining in the Woodlands, interesting new restaurants are opening further away from the "downtown" area.
A case in point is the new Blue Mug Cafe. It's an new venture from some established pros (The Altus culinary group). It's located at Woodlands Parkway and FM 2978 - about as far away from I-45 as you can be and still be in the Woodlands proper.
The Blue Mug has been open for about a week, and locals have already flocked to check it out. We've visited three times, and each time has found the comfortable dining room nearly filled to capacity. There's a buzzing energy about the place as friends, couples, and families chow down on the upscale renditions of American comfort food.
(Since the restaurant just opened, this isn't a full review, but rather a first look. We'll follow up later with a full review of the Blue Mug Cafe.)
We've visited during the day, so we've focused our explorations on the sandwiches. First up is the Capone, an Italian cold cut sandwich featuring spicy Cajun turnkey, honey ham, hard salami, and provolone served between two gigantic grilled slices of crusty Italian bread. This is a huge sandwich; I devoured half and was fully sated.
|The Capone at the Blue Mug Cafe|
Next up is an offering that appears to be on its way to becoming a guest favorite: Jefe's Pot Roast Grilled Cheese. On two slightly more modest slices of the grilled crusty Italian loaf is piled a small mountain of Angus pot roast dressed with a subtle apricot BBQ sauce. Melty cheddar cheese is oozing atop the beef, and the result is slightly messy, rather delicious, and incredibly filling. If you order this at lunch time, you will leave very happy, but in need of a nap.
|Jefe's Pot Roast Grilled Cheese|
We've not explored other areas of the menu (yet) but are intrigued by a few of the entrees: A tequila lime chicken pasta, served with homemade tomatillo sauce and a seductive chipotle and apricot meatloaf both caught our eye. We observed a mammoth hot fudge sundae (called, logically enough "Sinatra's Mammoth Hot Fudge Sundae") roll out of the kitchen, and concluded that it was easily enough for a family of four. Blue Mug Cafe is not stingy with its portions.
We've also heard very good things about breakfast at the Blue Mug Cafe. They open at 6am, and in-the-know commuters are being drawn in to such creative offerings as sweet potato pancakes, bruléed French Toast, and other American and Latin-influenced breakfasts. We can't wait to sample them.
Service at this fast casual establishment is friendly, and the kitchen is finding its rhythm and getting food to the table in reasonable time. The dining room is comfortable and family friendly, and a glass divider separates it from the bar area, which is already becoming a happy hour hotspot for this part of the Woodlands.
An attractive patio area wraps around the front and side of the building, and a modern pergola provides plenty of shade. Ample parking makes the visits easy, too.
For a week-old restaurant, things were running incredibly smoothly. We expect small bobbles at this point (you should, too) but we were pleasantly surprised by the staff's execution. We've enjoyed our visits to this promising new restaurant. We'll be back.
Blue Mug Cafe | 30420 FM 2978, The Woodlands, Texas 77382 | 281-292-2583 | BlueMugCafe.com