Fresh off an evening spent tasting wine at Camerata, my young, far more stylish friend and I are holed up next to the entryway’s banana-yellow claw machine filled with plush, grinning poop emojis, waiting for a table alongside a group of late-night fashionistas and other dwellers of the greasy-spoon underworld. There is much to catch the eye, but it’s the pies in the case next to the cash register that have our full, undivided attention.
There are stacks of lemon icebox, mini cherry, and apple. There are thick, toasted meringues. There are plump rotundas of chocolatey, silken Bayou Goo, vast tundras of coconut cream, shreds of coconut traversing over top like tracks across a pristine snowscape.
That’s for later, we remind ourselves. We’ve come for breakfast, or as the wobbly-kneed couple to the right of us call it: drunk food.
This is the spot. House of Pies on Kirby Drive. Or House of Guys, as regulars like to call the 53-year-old, 24-hour institution, originally founded as a franchise by the same entrepreneur who started IHOP. Today there are three Houston-area House of Pies locations, run by the Khalaf and Ganim families, and they never close, not even on Christmas.
We finally get a table, and I notice that indeed, there are plenty of guys here—in leopard print, in small striped backpacks, in dad jeans, in groups, alone, tucked into tables and booths enjoying their meals like it isn’t one in the morning.
“I’ve seen two butt cheeks already!” my companion shrieks before ordering a patty melt, taking a selfie in our booth’s mirrored paneling, and excusing himself to the bathroom.
I snap a photo of the table’s informative signage—Minimum Table Service $3.50 PER PERSON PER HOUR—and think about the many ways this place makes my heart sing. The tan, Howard Johnson–style booths and decor, the quasi-open kitchen, the friendly if a bit frazzled staff, the small boxes of cereal behind the counter that nobody ever seems to order, and, of course, the Silver King, a salad crisper that looks like a cross between an ice machine and a mid-century robot.
“Make that three butt cheeks,” my companion squeals upon his return.
I sip my hot chocolate, which rules, primarily because the mug arrives filled to the brim with whipped cream. The drink itself is served on the side, in its own little stainless-steel pitcher. As you pour the steamy concoction, the cream lifts like an iceberg from the sea.
While the spot is known for its cottage fries, chicken-fried steak, and classic breakfast plates, I like the oddball sausage scrambler. It’s composed of two sausage patties, a boatload of pepper-laced gravy, and scrambled eggs over two biscuit halves. An extra biscuit comes on the side, so you can top the monster off and eat it as two sandwiches if you so desire. And you should so desire, perhaps even adding some hash browns to the affair.
As our late-night session winds down, heavenly slices of buttermilk and coconut cream pies hit the table, as does the check. On our way to pay at the register, my friend compliments a random woman on her incredible earrings, and we pass a three-top of friends lingering over coffee, deciding which pies to order. All of the pies, one of them says. We couldn’t agree more.