Readers’ Pick: Houston Cafe Has Served Breakfast & Lunch for Over 40 Years
You can dine for most of your life in Houston, the land of 10,000 restaurants, and still not make it to all of them. I’d not been to The French House before, despite the fact that it opened way back in 1980. While owner David Lee and his family didn’t start the restaurant, they’ve operated it since 1988 — the vast majority of its 42-year lifetime.
I’d never been, and ended up there for the best reason: our readers told me to go. The question, posed in our Team Houston Food Finder Facebook group, was simple: nominate an underappreciated restaurant, and I’d randomly draw a place to visit from all the nominations. To make it even more fun, I also put all the nominators in a hat (online randomizer, actually) and would invite the one I drew to be my dining companion. The reader I drew, Shawn, and his wife, Mary, graciously joined me and my son, and were fun conversationalists, too.
I’ll confess: when I looked at The French House’s menus online, I didn’t get the appeal. The restaurant serves familiar breakfast and lunch fare — egg dishes, quiches, sandwiches and soups — nothing particularly creative. It turns out that, to detect the charm, you have to visit.
When I was a kid, there was a casual café that my mom would bring me to after dental or doctor visits. It would never fail that these appointments were before lunch. It would also never fail that, in the case of the dental visits, whatever procedure I’d have that day involved a shot of local anesthetic, so a restaurant with soup on the menu was an absolute must. It wasn’t the kind of meal that was going to change your life, but it was reliable, comforting food, and that’s why it became the traditional post-medical-visit stop. The French House is that kind of café.
The ordering style is casual counter service — you get a numbered receipt and go to the counter to retrieve your food.
Although the waffles sounded tempting (available Friday through Sunday only, and served with powdered sugar, whipped cream and berries), the intriguing and varied sandwich selection steered our group of four towards lunch. When the dishes were ready, it was clear who had ordered best. Shawn’s open-faced Reuben on rye with corned beef, with a velvety blanket of melted Swiss and dressed with thousand island, was the glamorous one of the group. I’d order that next time, although one reader proclaimed that the chicken salad is the “best in town.”
All that said, I had little complaint with my Egg Hammer, a classic egg salad sandwich with lettuce and tomato on toasted wheat bread, and anchored at its base with several layers of deli ham. The egg salad benefitted from a touch more salt, but that wasn’t anything that couldn’t be remedied at the table. More importantly, it was creamy, very fresh and all about the egg. I ordered mine as a half-sandwich-and-soup combo (chicken veggie was my pick). Even half was quite generous, and I certainly wasn’t hungry afterward. My son declared the well-seasoned soup as his favorite dish.
“You must order some pie,” insisted two ladies at a nearby table who’d struck up a conversation as I shot photos. We took the recommendation. Technically, these are fruit tarts, and come in apple, apricot and, the one I selected, cherry. While it was a little too sweet for my tastes (I like cherry desserts to carry a hint of tartness), my son enjoyed it.
I called Lee to ask a few questions. Despite it being about 1:45 p.m. — well after the lunch rush for most restaurants — thanks to being understaffed (a problem for many restaurant owners these days), Lee was too busy to talk. He did, however, offer the opportunity to follow up by email, so I’ll update this article if I receive more information.
You, like me, may have driven up and down Westheimer thousands of times and never seen The French House. The storefront faces away from eastbound traffic on Westheimer, so it can’t be seen from the street. Parking is plentiful; if you’re turning into the parking lot from Westheimer, The French House is on the right.
The French House is a classic, family-owned restaurant that’s endured for more than four decades, and that is something to be celebrated. It’s no wonder so many of our readers feel warmly towards it. The hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.