Around the World in Houston: Discover France

Beaujolais Nouveau Speakeasy à Paris | Photo courtesy of French American Chamber of Commerce Houston

With a labyrinth of cultures represented in every nook and cranny of town, Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in America. To celebrate this world-class melting pot, we’ll be exploring a new region of the globe through a Houston lens each week, from annual festivals and museums to restaurants and cultural experiences. Join the journey with our Around the World in Houston series.

From an annual festival and weekly wine tastings to leisurely cooking classes, brasseries and macaron boutiques, French culture is alive and well in Houston.

Annual Festivals & Cultural Events

  • French Cultures Festival Each year in March, the Cultural Service of the French Embassy in Houston organizes the French Cultures Festival, bringing people together across Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas to celebrate the diverse culture of France. Featured events include lectures, films, shows, concerts, art, and parties.
  • Macaron Festival and Competition The Texan-French Alliance for the Arts invites Texans and French chefs to participate in a macaron throwdown.

Museums & Cultural Organizations

  • Cultural Service of the French Embassy in Houston This cultural services organization supports cultural and educational projects in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas by focusing on six principal fields of action: arts, literature, cinema, the digital sphere, French language, and higher education. Follow along on Facebook for upcoming events and updates.
  • French American Chamber of Commerce The Houston chapter of this bi-national non-profit works to encourage the development of commercial, cultural, and financial relations between France and the United States. Look out for local events, from business lunches and “fun nights” meet-ups to wine dinners and pop-up shops.
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Hit this world-class museum to find French art in the European Art collection, which houses paintings and sculpture from the 13th to early 20th century. And be sure to look out for special exhibitions, film screenings, and events.
  • Texan-French Alliance for the Arts Founded in 2005, this non-profit organization is dedicated to “bridging cultures, communities, and art.” The group works to promote educational and creative arts programs.

French Food & Drink

Restaurants & Bars

  • Artisans This high-end spot has been bringing innovative French dining to Midtown since 2012. Reserve a spot at the 28-seat chef’s table in front of the open kitchen if you want dinner and a show, and indulge chef Jacques Fox’s extraordinary “Gastronomique” tasting or the regular menu featuring traditions like duck confit rillette, baked escargot, filet de boeuf au poivre, and roast halibut.
  • Bistro Provence – This Memorial standby plays with the flavors of one of France’s most beautiful regions. Hit the cozy bistro to dine on wood-roasted escargot and filet de boeuf au poivre, or visit during one of its excellent wine dinners. While you’re at it, check out Chef Cedric Vernin‘s top 5 favorite things to do in Houston.
  • Brasserie 19 You’ll feel transported to a sophisticated Parisienne brasserie when you’re dining at this trendy River Oaks haunt. See-and-be-seen while you dine one platters of seafood, seasonal cheese boards, steak frites and trout almondine. A bubbly-filled brunch is also a must.
  • Brasserie du Parc Set in Downtown on Discovery Green, this dazzling brasserie offers authentic French cuisine—think tartar de boeuf, escargots bourgogne, confit de canard, and steak frites with béarnaise. Hit the crepe window and get crepes filled with pork belly, smoked salmon, bananas and Nutella, and berry preserves and chantilly cream.
  • Café Azur  This charming Montrose café channels the Côte d’Azur, or the French Riviera. Indulge in a truly coastal dining experience with Mediterranean dishes that pay homage to the coast of southeastern France and neighboring Italy, with specialties like bouillabaisse, moules marinières, steak frites, and tarte tatin.
  • Café Rabelais Head to this quaint Rice Village spot to nosh on country ham sandwiches, quiche du jour, salad niçoise, and plates like boeuf bourguignon, cassoulet, and local seafood bouillabaisse.
  • Chez Nous In Humble, Chez Nous wows with French fare done right. Get Normandy duck mousse, tournedos with Bordeaux mushroom sauce, Gulf shrimp Provençale and cast iron steak with pommes Lyonnaise.
  • Etoile Cuisine et Bar At Etoile in Uptown Park, chef Philippe Verpiand and Monica Bui have created an inviting European vibe with an emphasis on fine French cuisine. The chef’s seasonal menu showcases French technique via dishes including foie gras au torchon, raviolis aux champignons, moules frites, coq au vin, wild boar ragout, and canard a l’lorange.
  • Flo Paris This family-owned French bakery and café offered baked goods, sweets, and light fare. Get croissant and baguette sandwiches, a variety of French omlettes, salads and quiche, and sweets like mille feuille, tarte tatin, and cream puffs.
  • L’Olivier Restaurant & Bar Helmed by French-born chef Olivier Ciesielski, this Montrose standby rocks raw bar favorites and classics like steamed mussels, roasted and whipped bone marrow, and duck leg confit.
  • La Table With an elegant dining space (Château), casual bistro (Marché), and café/bakery (Macarons), La Table is an absolute powerhouse. Visit the Galleria spot to get everything from country French breads and gougères to soufflé and rack of lamb carved tableside.
  • Le Mistral Head to the Energy Corridor for simple, elegant French fare in an upscale setting. Here, Chef David Denis impresses with fresh ingredients and classic techniques. Indulge in foie gras torchon, roasted farm-raised chicken au jus, red snapper en papillote, and desserts like crème brulee and soufflé au chocolat that make you say “oui!”
  • Maison Pucha Bistro This Heights newcomer from chef-owner Manuel Pucha is the culmination of his 25-year culinary journey (which includes French restaurants in both New York and Houston). Here, Pucha reimagines French classics, from french onion soup and foie done two ways to a tomato-saffron bouillabaisse and crispy duck leg confit. Don’t skip desserts like the Ecuadorian chocolate soufflé or seasonal fruit tart, all made fresh in-house.
  • Rise n°2 In BLVD Place, this Dallas-import brings soufflé to the forefront. Get the towering masterpieces kissed with everything from truffle mushrooms and escargot to raspberry and Grand Marnier.
  • Sweet Paris Crêperie & Café It’s all about crepes at this fan favorite, which boasts multiple Houston locations. The mini-empire offers traditional takes like the croque madame (with gruyere, smoked ham and béchamel) and bonne maman (four berry with sweet cream); plus not-so-classic riffs like the chicken enchilada (with beans, crema, and chipotle sauce), and s’mores (torched marshmallows, Nutella, and graham crackers).
  • Toulouse Café and Bar Located in the ritzy River Oaks District, this trendy café and bar features classics like escargot, onion soup gratinée, frog legs a la Provençale, ahi tuna niçoise, filet au poivre, and profiteroles with warm chocolate sauce.

Grocery, Sweet Shops, Bakeries & Wine

  • Bite MacaronThis West University sweet shop plays with beautiful and simple flavors, from sea salt caramel and Madagascar vanilla bean to earl grey and black currant.
  • Foody’s Gourmet Le Mistral’s next door bakery offers takeaway baguettes, brioche, croissants, quiche, tarts, opera cakes, French macarons and more. You can also take home classic dishes like ratatouille, French onion soup, and beef Bolognese from Le Mistral.
  • French Country Wines Experience “the magic of France without leaving home” at this small winery boutique, which houses a selection of artisan wines, handmade and estate-bottled from family-owned and operated vineyards throughout France. The shop is also known for its Saturday wine tastings and dinner collaborations with local restaurants.
  • French Gourmet Bakery Check out this family-owned bakery off Westheimer for French cakes and pastries, croissants, and freshly baked bread, quiche and more.
  • French Riviera Bakery & Café This Houston institution offers Parisian pastries, farmhouse loafs, croissants and brioche breads, and casual café eats in a chic setting.
  • Julie’s French Pastries and Coffee Shop Hit this cute Energy Corridor shop for croissants, sweet and savory crepes, excellent quiche, and an array of French pastries that will make any lazy day better.
  • Levure Bakery & Patisserie – Up in the Woodlands, this patisserie’s scratch-made pastries, bread, and tarts will have you absolutely craving baked goods. Levure does mean “yeast” in French, after all. Get buttery kougin amman and airy croissants, savory salmon tartine and croque madame, and sweetly satisfying fruit and ganache tarts.
  • Macaron by Patisse This macaron boutique has locations in River Oaks, the Galleria (stand), and The Woodlands. Find a colorful and delicious display of French macarons, with signature flavors like “The Patisse,” a heart-shaped shell with a whole lychee center, surrounded by plump raspberries in a rose buttercream. Macaron by Patisse also offers French pastries, loose leaf teas, and macaron baking classes.
  • Oui Desserts Hit the sweet spot with éclair, tarts, and macarons in flavors like pistachio, lemon, raspberry, and lavender.

Language Classes, Education Centers, Groups & Meet-Ups

  • The French Alliance – Also known as Alliance Française de Houston, this nonprofit was founded in 1923 as the center of French language and culture in Houston. In addition to comprehensive language instruction, members enjoy French art and photography exhibits, receptions and concerts, wine schools, and library access.
  • Education Française Greater HoustonFounded in 2010, this French afterschool program offers French language and education for children 4 to 18 years old.
  • The Houston French Language and Culture Meetup Group This French conversation and culture group has meetings, parties, and get-togethers all over the Houston Metro area. Events include French film screenings, tea socials, beginner lessons, wining and dining at local French restaurants and more.
  • French Club at the University of HoustonLa Table Française brings together students with interest in the French language and the cultures of France and other francophone countries. The group explores French culture through great conversation, weekly informal gatherings, food tastings, film screenings and more. Enrollment in French courses at the University is not required for participation. Proficiency in French is not required.
  • Culinary Institute LeNôtre The only culinary institute in the U.S. to be run by French natives, Culinary Institute LeNôtre invites beginners and professionals of all levels to enhance their skills through hands-on, low student-to-teacher ratio courses. Recreational baking, leisure cooking, and wine classes are hosted on Saturdays; and the institute also boasts an in-house restaurant, Le Bistro where culinary arts students can gain real-world experience.

Other Notables

  • Jardin de France This French antiques and plants shop brings French country and quaint garden design to your patio.
  • La Taste French BoutiqueThis Rice Village boutique channels the small boutiques in the towns and villages of Provence, with artisan products like French-milled soaps, bubble bath and shower gels, body and hand lotion, and the finest French fragrances from eau de toilete to perfume.
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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .