A Lunch Suite at Tout Suite
It doesn't take long anymore for word to spread about recently opened restaurants in Houston. Relentless food coverage in local media, sites like Yelp, social media, and good old-fashioned word of mouth all combine to create perfect storms of intense, focused interest on whatever is newest and, therefore, hottest. This, in turn, creates situations like the one I found myself in this past Sunday morning, waiting in a 45-minute line just to order brunch at Tout Suite, which opened two weeks ago in EaDo.
2001 Commerce St.
My brunch companions were more or less content to wait in the line, having resigned themselves to what they call "new Houston," a Houston in which a steeply increasing population is constantly on the lookout for the next interesting place to spend its money while complaining about how Houston isn't San Francisco or New York City but it's where the jobs are and I don't want to live here forever but I guess it will do for now.
"I'm so glad this place opened," remarked a well-dressed girl in front of me in line. "I was getting so burned out on The Honeymoon—I was eating there, like, all the time." The Honeymoon opened at the end of July, leading me to ponder the half-life of Tout Suite as I slowly approached the register. (Side note: though the wait was 45 minutes to order, my egg sandwich with salmon came out remarkably fast and was excellent.) I've not yet personally grown tired of The Honeymoon—the morning, noon, and night cafe at the corner of Main and Congress downtown—and therefore don't see myself growing tired of Tout Suite anytime soon, as the two concepts are kissing cousins to each other.
Whereas the emphasis on The Honeymoon is on in-house roasted coffee from Boomtown by day and a wine, beer, and cocktails program by night, with clever food rounding it all out from open to close, Tout Suite is a bakery first and foremost. It's owned by the same group that runs Sweet Houston in CityCentre, which is why you'll find cases full of macarons and other pastries tempting you as you try to be good by ordering a cold-pressed juice and a salad. Like The Honeymoon, Tout Suite is a useful additon to its neighborhood, offering a place to drop in for a coffee and a reliable wi-fi connection or a place to spread out for a full meal with friends. Both offer a combination of cafe standards like salads, sandwiches, and croissants, but Tout Suite—though it's open until midnight—doesn't carry alcohol.
This just makes it easier to make healthy decisions while eating at Tout Suite, which I managed to do when I visited again for lunch today. The all-day menu offers a $10 "suite" combo that lets you pick two of three items: a half sandwich, a soup, or a salad. I went with the barista's favorite combination and ordered a cucumber sandwich and a watermelon salad, while my lunch companion mocked me by ordering a smoked chicken banh mi with a side of fries and a side of macaroni and cheese.
My sweet little cucumber sandwich on fresh-baked challah bread with the crusts so non-existent as to have been cut off, tea party-style, was immensely enjoyable. The crunch of the crinkle-cut cucumbers and pickled red onions against garlicky mayonnaise all enveloped in soft bread reminded me of afternoons grazing on finger sandwiches with my grandmother. Even the watermelon salad—though swept through with modern updates such as crumbled feta, black sesame seeds, and the tiniest wisps of basil—had a throwback quality to it.
But for as much as I enjoyed both the sandwich and the salad, I wasn't quite full, and wished I'd thrown a lemon-blueberry macaron or a pistachio croissant or a orange-chocolate spice cake into the mix. And as much as I enjoyed my icy glass of unsweetened green tea, I sat wishing too for a sturdy latte to round out my meal—and for more time to enjoy it all in the cozy, concrete-floored cafe, awash in sunlight through floor-to-ceiling windows and a view of downtown not diminished by the wide strip of 59 that bisects the scene but heightened by the immediacy of the highway's tall concrete columns, towering overhead like a monumental version of Chicago's El.
Yes, Houston—and Tout Suite—will certainly do for now.