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., the current Angelo’z and Paulie’s, and Antone’s Po’Boys & Deli, now called Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys, the slicker and larger operation.
Usually enjoyably crusty, unlike the smooth, malleable bread of the other concern, the bread at both Angelo’z and Paulie’s is much better than at Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys. 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 the 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 Angelo’z and Paulie’s are a similar array of offerings including 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 (or Porky at Paulie’s), a salty concoction that might not be for the overly squeamish or health conscious. Prices are about a dollar higher per sandwich at Paulie’s than at Angelo’z, reflecting its setting across from West University Place. These po boys are made in-house at both Angelo’z and Paulie’s 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 of these family run operations also serve other sandwiches, doing a creditable job with a Cuban sandwich, for example. But, you might want to visit Angelo’z or Paulie’s for a po boy; a still-enjoyable, and fresh-tasting taste of Houston past. At Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys, one of the other sandwiches will likely be the wiser choice than one of their po boys.
8057 Kirby (between OST and La Concha), 77054 (713) 667-3400
3823 Bellaire (between Buffalo Speedway and Weslayan) 77025, (713) 218-8383