Readers’ Choice: Houston Cafe has been serving breakfast and lunch for over 40 years

You can dine most of your life in Houston, the land of 10,000 restaurants, and still does not happen at all. I had not gone The French house before, despite the fact that it opened in 1980. While the owner David Lee and his family didn’t start the restaurant, they’ve operated it since 1988 – the vast majority of its 42-year history.

I had never been there and I landed 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 underrated restaurant, and I’ll randomly pick one 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 table mate. The reader I drew, Shawn, and his wife, Mary, graciously joined me and my son, and were fun conversationalists as well.

I admit: when I watched The French House’s online menus, I did not receive the call. The restaurant serves familiar dishes for breakfast and lunch — egg dishes, quiches, sandwiches and soups – nothing particularly creative. It turns out that, to detect the charm, you have to visit.

inside the french house
A quiet Saturday lunch at The French House. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

When I was a kid, there was a casual cafe where my mom would take me after visits to the dentist or the doctor. It would never fail to have these appointments before lunch. It would also not fail that in the case of dental visits, whatever procedure I had that day involved an injection of local anesthetic, so a restaurant with soup on the menu was a absolute must. It wasn’t the kind of meal that was going to change your life, but it was reliable comfort food, and that’s why it became the traditional stop after the medical visit. The French House is that kind of cafe.

Ordering style is casual counter service – you get a numbered receipt and go to the counter to collect your food.

Although the waffles sounded tempting (available Friday-Sunday only and served with powdered sugar, whipped cream and berries), the intriguing and varied sandwich selection steered our party of four towards lunch. When the dishes were ready, it was clear who had ordered best. by Shawn Ruben open on rye corned beef, with a velvety blanket of melted Swiss and dressed in a thousand islands, was the most glamorous of the bunch. I would order this next time, although a reader proclaimed that the Chicken salad is the “best in town”.

Egg Hammer Sandwich at The French House
Egg Hammer Sandwich at The French House. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

That said, I’ve had few complaints with my egg hammer, a classic egg salad sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes on toasted wheat bread, and anchored at its base with several layers of deli ham. The egg salad benefited from a little more salt, but it wasn’t something that couldn’t be solved at the table. More importantly, it was creamy, very fresh and all on the egg. I ordered mine as a half-sandwich-and-soup combo (vegetarian chicken was my choice). Even half was generous enough and I certainly wasn’t hungry afterwards. My son said the well seasoned soup was his favorite dish.

veggie chicken soup at The French House
Chicken vegetable soup, one of The French House’s daily selections. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

“You Homework order a pie,” insisted two ladies at a nearby table who had struck up a conversation while I took pictures. We took the recommendation. Technically, these are fruit pies, and come in Apple, apricot and, the one I chose, Cherry. While it was a bit too sweet for my taste (I like cherry desserts with a hint of tartness), my son enjoyed it.

I called Lee to ask him a few questions. Although it’s about 1:45 p.m. – well after the lunch rush for most restaurants – thanks to the lack of staff (a problem for numerous restaurateurs these days), Lee was too busy to talk. He did offer the option to follow up via email though, so I’ll update this article if I get more information.

The French house
The French house is in a strip center on the corner of Westheimer and Fountainview. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

You, like me, may have walked through Westheimer thousands of times and never seen The French House. The storefront faces eastbound traffic on Westheimer, so it cannot be seen from the street. Parking is plentiful; if you turn into the Westheimer parking lot, The French House is on the right.

La French House is a classic family restaurant that has been around for over four decades and deserves to be celebrated. No wonder so many of our readers feel warmly towards him. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.

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