Since its inception as a single grocery store on the edge of the Fourth Ward, Antone’s Import Co. was for many years, into the 1990s, the standard in Houston for cheap and tasty prepared sandwiches. A family originally from the Levant bought the first Antone’s many years ago (now the site of The Pass & Provisions) and successfully expanded the concept into a good number of branches throughout the city before retrenching. In the 1990s during the settlement of the estate of the founder’s widow, Antone’s became two separate companies, Antone’s Import Co. and Antone’s Po’Boys & Deli, now called Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys, the slicker and larger operation. Though each chain has broadly similar menus, Antone’s Import Co. more closely the original concept of a food import company specializing in items from around the Mediterranean and a deli and is clearly the one to visit.
Usually enjoyably crusty unlike the smooth, malleable bread of the other concern, the bread at Antone’s Import Co. is much better of the two. Bread is a rather significant part of a sandwich, after all. These fresh buns are distinctively a tad dry and slightly crunchy, and help to distinguish these classic Houston sandwiches. The crusty small loafs, which were similar among the local Lebanese-run po boy purveyors, might be a legacy of the French influence in Lebanon and Syria in the last century or so. All come affixed with pickle slices, and many with Antone’s popular and unique Hot Chow Chow, a fairly spicy mixture of pickled cabbage, onions, sweet green peppers and paprika. One providing a nice textural contrast and the other some pleasant piquancy.
The current po boys at Antone’s Import Co. are the Regular featuring slices of Italian cold cuts and provolone, the similar but more so, Super, Turkey, Smoked Turkey, Tuna, Roast Beef, Chicken Salad, Club, and the love-it-or-you-don’t Piggy, a salty concoction that might not be for the overly squeamish or health conscious. These po boys are made in each of the two locations while the po boys at Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys will taste like what you will find at a supermarket – all of their po boys are made at a central commissary according to a cashier during a visit last week. You can certainly tell.
Both operations also serve other sandwiches. The Antone’s Import Co. does a creditable job with a Cuban sandwich, for example. But, you might want to visit Antone’s Import Co. for a po boy. At the other one, one of the other sandwiches will likely be the wiser choice.
Antone's Import Co.
3823 Bellaire (between Buffalo Speedway and Weslayan) 77025, (713) 218-8383
8057 Kirby (between OST and La Concha), 77054 (713) 667-3400