Egg Cetera: Conroe's Organic Outpost

  Hidden away in an easily-missed, non-descript building next to Conroe High School is one of the best restaurants in town, and I don't say that lightly.  Egg Cetera is exactly the type of restaurant we need more of, but its uniqueness only makes it that much more special.

Egg Cetera's most easily identifiable mark of quality is the fact that absolutely everything they use -- everything with the exception of the milk -- is organic.  The eponymous eggs are hand-gathered yard eggs from Dustin's Farm in Weimer, west of Houston along I-10.  The seafood, whether Gulf shrimp or blue crab, is all freshly-caught.  And not only is everything fresh and organic, all the food is made from scratch, in house, every day.  The sauces, the salsa, the salad dressings -- all are homemade by the owner, Chuck Winslow.

Chuck and his wife, Cynthia, came here by way of Maui and San Francisco, where they previously operated restaurants with the same fresh, organic standards.  Moving to Conroe in order to be closer to family, they decided to try their hand at opening the same type of restaurant in Montgomery County, opening Egg Cetera in July 2008.  And it's been an unbridled success.

A recent meal there netted two of what might now be two of my favorite breakfast dishes ever.

The spinach and feta omelette came highly recommended by our adorable waitress, who was dazzling with her unironically retro beehive and cornflower blue eyeliner. The omelette was only made with two eggs but was immense nevertheless. The feta cheese tucked inside was sharp and tart, while the bright green spinach tasted of the garden in the best possible way. Balancing everything out were thick strips of bacon and fat, sauteed mushrooms hidden away inside the omelette. Served with breakfast potatoes and an English muffin, it was a steal for only $7.95.

The other standout was a Fisherman's Skillet, also shockingly priced at just under $8. An intriguing combination of potatoes, sauteed onions, tomatoes, shrimp and blue crab, all topped with mozzarella and homemade hollandaise, the skillet was big enough for two people. Chunks of fresh blue crab and plump, translucent shrimp were scattered abundantly throughout the savory onions and potatoes, the creamy, tangy hollandaise sauce bringing eveything together in harmony. It was a gift from the breakfast gods.

Lunch and dinner are also popular here, although dinner is only served on Fridays and Saturdays.  Dinner specials start at $11.95 for grilled salmon with cilantro pesto and include down-home favorites like pot roast with garlic mashed potatoes.  The restaurant is BYOB, too, so what it lacks in ambience can be made up for with a bottle of syrah.

Perhaps the thing I love most about Egg Cetera is how down-to-earth and unassuming the restaurant is about its ingredients.  This isn't the type of restaurant that touts their organic status on their menu or in advertisements.  They don't charge a premium for the extra work put into obtaining the fresh food and creating the homemade salsas or sauces.

The pricing is on par with your local IHOP or Denny's and the waitresses shyly admit when questioned that, yes, everything is organic but "really, it's no big deal."  With an interesting combintation of mindfulness and nonchalantness, Egg Cetera promotes the ideal that everything you eat should be this fresh and this good, not just fancy meals at urban restaurants.

Speaking to Cynthia after our meal, I remarked that a restaurant like Egg Cetera would go over like gangbusters in Houston.  She agreed that Houston would be their next stop, musing over opening an Egg Cetera in the Heights or Montrose.

With their neighbor, Pie in the Sky, expanding to the Heights this year, it amused me to think that Conroe will soon be teaching their city cousins a thing or two about good food.  So listen up, Houston; they're doing it right.