By no means, is French toast a complicated recipe — just eggs, milk and day-old bread.
But, as a self-professed addict of the American breakfast classic, I'll tell you that there's a lot that can wrong along the way. The bread can be too dry or too eggy or too soft. The syrup or optional fruit toppings can be too cold. Maybe there's not enough butter.
Basically, French toast is all about how one carefully navigates and balances those simple, time-honored ingredients . . . which is exactly why it's time to rank Houston's five best examples.
5) EMPIRE CAFE (1732 Westheimer)
Empire's "Italian Toast" not only has a wonderfully soft and chewy texture, but it also comes topped with currants that add an interesting sour component to a typically sweet breakfast dish.
4) JAVA JAVA CAFE (911 West 11th)
Java Java takes the French in French toast very seriously, making its version with sliced croissants. The result is easily one of the most unique and delicious varietals in town. (Note to coffee-lovers: In spite of its name, Java Java's brew leaves something to be desired.)
3) PONDICHERI (2800 Kirby)
Always armed with her own take on the both American and Indian classics, chef Anita Jaisinghani uses a house-made brioche for her French toast, which is then topped with a veritable mountain of fresh fruit and jaggery — a syrup made from dates and sugar cane.
2) LANKFORD GROCERY (88 Dennis)
While most Houstonians associate Lankford with burgers, on Saturdays the mom-and-pop hideaway doles out the best "diner-style" French toast in town. No gourmet bread. No local organic butter. And no semblance of fruit whatsoever. What you do get is a French toast that holds its own with only some syrup and a healthy dose of cinnamon.
1) BEAVER'S (2310 Decatur)
Beaver's Grand Marnier-soaked variety is so light and so perfectly crisp, it's almost a pain perdu — New Orleans' own delicate style of French toast. Just to make one's breakfast complete, Beaver's tops the toast with hot maple syrup, seasonal fruit and a house-made whipped cream.
Stuffed French toast
You can't go wrong with Backstreet Cafe, Brennan's or Benjy's — all of which serve brunch-time French toast with the most decadent fillings you can imagine. With that said, sometimes those fillers can complicate French toast's aforementioned balance and simplicity. (Hence, the separate category.)
Knowing that breakfast can be a sensitive topic, feel free to chime in below if you think I've missed any essential Houston French toasts.