The French doughnuts at Houston's Chez Beignet are up there with the beignets at Café Du Monde in the French Quarter, Morning Call in Metairie or any other Louisiana donut stand. And they come with a mug of chicory coffee au lait, if you like them that way. An elderly German couple named the Jantzens have been making quality beignets in Space City for over a decade now.
For most of its history, Chez Beignet was located on Buffalo Speedway across from Buco de Beppo. When the shopping center it occupied was demolished for new construction two years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Jantzen moved their business to Bellaire Boulevard in the new Chinatown area. Their clientele is now 95 percent Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Americans. The move has brought some changes.
When Chez Beignet became very popular in the Vietnamese community, it earned the nickname "quan ong gia," which translates to "the old guy's store," a reference to Joachim Jantzen. His wife Teda Jantzen told me she was a little irked at him being called old, but Mr. Jantzen assured her that it was an honor to be given such a nickname and that it symbolized their acceptance in the new community.
The old German doughnut-maker printed up T-shirts with the Vietnamese moniker and even put it on a new sign to the front of his store.
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