The first time I saw that iconic Sesame Street cartoon in which a little girl whimsically repeats her mom’s shopping list (“A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter”) on the way to the store, I immediately thought, What about the eggs? I was convinced mother and daughter were planning to make French toast, and while my six-year-old self did not know how to cook, so simple was the recipe that I immediately spotted the crucial missing ingredient.
Thirty years later, my culinary skills have greatly improved, but I still use a relatively bare-bones formula when preparing French toast at home. However, when I’m hankering for some posher forms of pain perdu, I high-tail to these Houston restaurants.
For a brunch with a side of nostalgia, try Bosscat’s Fruity Pebbles French toast—egg-drenched white bread liberally coated in everyone’s favorite “fruit” (heavy emphasis on the quotes) flavored childhood cereal. The contrast between soft and crunchy textures, the condensed milk glaze, and the garnish of seasonal berries will transport you to those sweet Saturday mornings of your youth spent binging on carbohydrates and cartoons.
Here’s one reason not to turn off your alarm on the weekends: the Funky Monkey French toast at Snooze, which, along with the eatery’s other over-the-top breakfast items, can lead to long wait times for customers. The delicious dish is composed of fried slabs of banana bread dressed with caramel, candied pecans, white chocolate chips, and brûléed banana. One platter will leave you feeling fat, happy, and ready to go back to bed.
If 2013 was the year of the cronut, perhaps 2020 is that of the French toast bagel. The hybrid breakfast confection first began popping up on bakery menus along the Eastern seaboard, then went mainstream, and now Houston’s New York Deli & Coffee Shop is offering its own delightful version. Try it lightly toasted with some strawberry cream cheese to complement the richness, or go meta and use the French toast bagel as the base for (actual) French toast.
Baklava French toast is exactly what to order on those trying days that demand eating dessert first. Harry’s over on Tuam Street in Midtown puts hefty hunks of battered challah together with a honey pastry filling. The nutty notes are well balanced by a double scoop diadem of Greek-yogurt-style ice cream.
Though most Americans don’t associate French toast with Asian cuisine, in Hong Kong it’s often found at fast food shops known as cha chaan tengs. Mein’s “lava toast” is a delectable iteration that involves egg custard enveloped in sunny slices of milk-washed bread. It’s so sufficiently sweet on its own that the accompanying maple syrup is an afterthought. Of course, a first course of the Asia Town restaurant's marvelous squid ink fried rice is a must.
Debate rages among Dandelion diners as to which of its French toasts reigns supreme. My vote goes to the brioche version that's stuffed with strawberries and cream, but the French toast “twix” adorned with blueberry compote, lemon curd, candied lemon peel, and whipped cream also commands a loyal following for its unique citrus tartness.
Max’s lures patrons by boasting about its superior fried chicken and champagne, and while the restaurant certainly delivers on this promise, I would add its rotating haute French toast to its lineup of powerhouse brunch plates. The current special is a crème brûléed brioche with berry compote and confectioner’s sugar, and it pairs beautifully with a glass (or three) of bubbly.