Driving back from Reliant – once known as the Astrodomain, a name likely due to pass into history – and desiring something quick and cheap, and tasty, I ventured into an Antone’s on Kirby just north of the stadium complex, one of the two original’s Antone’s left, and another part of the story of Houston.
Reaching into the refrigerated case, I looked among the white-paper-wrapped sandwiches for an old favorite, the Piggy. The Piggy is apparently either loved or, well, not loved. It’s not really a good idea to open the bread and look into the heart of the sandwich, at least for the squeamish. Its filling is a surprising pinkish mixture of ham, hard salami, dried oregano and mayonnaise. The sandwich is finished with jalapeño jack cheese and slices of pickles, and is a favorite among many long-time customers like myself.
The Piggy, like the other po boys are cold sandwiches featuring a long, fresh hero-style bun. These fresh buns are distinctively a tad dry and slightly crunchy, and help to distinguish Antone’s sandwiches from lesser competitors. These crusty small loafs, which are similar among the local Lebanese-run po boy purveyors, might be a legacy of the French influence in Lebanon in the last century. All come 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.
The Piggy is $5, double of what I used to pay for it when I ate them frequently, but it still seems to be a fair price, especially when a typically stomach-unsettling fast food burger will cost you three-quarters of the price. And, the Piggy that day was as enjoyable as ever, and properly leaving crumbs from the sandwich loaf as I consumed it quickly.
Since its inception as a single grocery store on the edge of the Fourth Ward, Antone’s Import Co. was long the standard in Houston for cheap and tasty prepared sandwiches. A Lebanese family 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. 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, the slicker and larger operation. Though each chain has broadly similar menus and recipes, Antone’s Import Co., now down to just two stores, more closely the original concept of a food import company and deli, is clearly the one to visit. The bread on the sandwiches is much better, is one difference. And, the Piggy, too, which I was told is just offered at the two Antone Import Co. locations.
Antone’s Import Co.
2424 Dunstan (west of Morningside) 77005, (713) 521-2883
3823 Bellaire (between Buffalo Speedway and Weslayan) 77025, (713) 218-8383