Patrons get more than Texas-size comfort food at Humble City Cafe—they also receive Southern hospitality and a possible serenade from 84-year-old owner Tom Ott.
Ott, who has enjoyed singing since high school, belts out hymns and patriotic songs at the drop of a hat.
“I do a lot of happy birthdays, and people are amazed that I sing in a building this big and to an audience this big with no accompaniment,” Ott said. “The good Lord gave me the voice years ago when I was at Dayton High School, and I like to sing all the time.”
Besides Ott’s performances, the owner and his family said people frequent the restaurant for a taste of Texas cuisine and history.
Ott’s wife Marie said the home-cooked meals have been made from scratch with fresh ingredients since the restaurant opened in 1995.
“Even though the costs have gone up, he still insists on buying everything fresh—nothing frozen—and I think people can taste the difference,” she said.
The restaurant also has a reputation for large servings. Chicken-fried steak is served with country gravy and Texas toast. The serving sizes are labeled as “The Whole Thing,” which covers most of the dinner plate, and “Only Half,” which is a smaller portion.
“If you want a normal-size serving of chicken-fried steak, for example, which is really popular, you have to order the senior plate,” restaurant manager Nick Lee said. “That means I have to order a lot of to-go boxes all the time.”
Besides traditional, homestyle menu items, such as rib-eye steak, fried catfish and fried chicken, the food selections include grilled salmon and shrimp, penne pasta, Philly cheese steaks, Tex-Mex dishes and Monte Cristo sandwiches. Humble City Cafe desserts include homemade cakes, fruit cobblers and the customer favorite, banana pudding.
The restaurant also serves breakfast each morning with a variety of dishes, such as blueberry pancakes, eggs, bacon and toast.
“I want people to relax and enjoy the food and our company and leave the restaurant with a clean spirit and mind,” Tom said.
Besides the food and hospitality, patrons also take in the history of the Pangburn Building, which was built in 1914. The building previously housed oil and gas giant ExxonMobil’s precursor Humble Oil Company as well as a pharmacy, post office, Greyhound bus stop, grocery store, the original City Cafe and Tom’s former business Western Auto Dealer, he said.
Tom said he initially decided to open the restaurant since the community didn’t have another one close by.
The Humble City Cafe boasts an upstairs banquet hall that can be reserved for wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners and family reunions, and can seat more than 100 people.
Downstairs, patrons can also shop at the cafe’s store, which sells old-fashioned candy and unique novelties.
Despite the long hours, Tom said he is not even thinking about retirement.
“The restaurant opens at 7 o’clock in the morning, and people start pouring in here,” he said. “But we enjoy it because we meet a lot of people. And we’ve made friends from all over the state of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana so when they come down, they come to see me.”
Humble City Cafe
200 E. Main St., Humble
Hours: Mon. 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Tue.-Thu. 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-3 p.m.