It’s in an unexpected location, but on a quiet side street in downtown Humble sits the highly rated French restaurant Chez nous. It’s been in the same spot for thirty years, quietly collecting award after award. French chef Gerard Brach bought the property, a former Pentecostal church, in 1983 and opened Chez nous in 1984. Current Executive Chef Stacy Simonson and her husband, front of house manager, Scott Simonson, took over in 2006.
Stacy began working for Brach at Chez nous as a dishwasher back in 1994 and worked her way up the chain. In 1998, Brach suggested Stacy and Scott move to France for additional hands on training in the art of French cooking. Following his advice, they spent a few years working in France, then a few more in Southern California, before eventually returning to the Houston area and to Chez nous.
The restaurant pulls diners from all over the Houston area six nights a week. “We still get about thirty-five percent first time diners,“ said Scott. The average entrée is about $27. However, the restaurant also offers a three-course, prix fixe menu, for $35 per person, which changes monthly. For October, the prix fixe menu included: spiced pumpkin bisque with pepitas, homemade ravioli of slow braised Berkshire pork, with spiced carrot puree and sage brown butter, beef bourguignonne, and chocolate custard tart with an espresso chantilly.
“We do the prix fixe menu to get people to come and try the restaurant and to remove the misconception that it’s $100 for dinner for one person to come and dine. You can definitely come and have a great meal for under $50,” said Stacy. Scott added that “it’s actually quite nice to have a quiet dinner on a weeknight. We have many solo dinners and lots of travelers coming in from airport hotels.”
The restaurant also offers a full menu beyond the prix fixe.
“People love our classics: escargot, charcutiere, rack of lamb and duckling. We actually sell a lot of soup. The simplicity of a soup, crafted well, is an incredible thing,” said Scott. “We make everything in house except for our bread, which comes from La Brea, a bakery in California,” added Stacy.
The most recent Zagat guide rates the restaurant an impressive 28 for food and a 27 for service, out of a possible 30. The restaurant has also received countless awards over the years from many different organizations. According to Scott, “there are boxes of awards up in the attic”.
The Simonsons have been married for nine years and have a five-year old daughter. They live right next store to the restaurant, in the former church pastor’s home.
Scott noted that, “It’s a small handful of Houston area restaurants that have been around for thirty years. But if you are doing it right, you’re hopefully always remembered as that was great, we can always go there and have a wonderful meal.”
Chez nous is located at 217 South Avenue G in Humble and is open Monday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Menus and information on wine, dinners and special events can be found at cheznousfrenchrestaurant.com
Photo by Susan McFarland: Chez nous Executive Chef Stacy Simonson and her husband, front of house manager, Scott Simonson.