Fitting breakfast into the morning rush can be tough even in a town like Houston where good restaurants are everywhere. In this occasional feature, we’ll be highlighting some of the best places to hit up for your workday or weekend first meal of the day.
Pondicheri welcomes all with a gust of warmth and spice. If you can manage to just get dressed and out the door, this Upper Kirby café will handle the rest. The staff: all smiles. Which is the first data entry into a study on whether AM front of house staff are the most pleasant in the industry. Walk-up counter service executes breakfast orders nice and easy, as a windmill of oranges is freshly squeezed and Amaya beans are freshly ground the moment either is requested.
Ceiling high window panes offer a transparent view of early morning sun beams or quarter-size rain splats, though either result in relaxing the space. Accoutrements like icy water served in metal cups, Cheri Tomato Catsup, and dining materials for both here and to go are close and convenient.
The menu covers sweet and savory, eggs and dosas and almost all items are intricately Indian in both flavor and technique.
The Egg Bun sandwich is a must for those who require bread in their life every meal of the day. The turmeric sweet potato bun from the bake lab upstairs is cushy and made with a wild starter. "Gunpowder” masala, a mixture of sesame, black pepper, chili, and cardamom seasons the house-cured, cold-smoked salmon folded below scallion cream cheese, pickled onions, and a nice portion of avocado puree enhanced with fresh serrano heat.
Dosas make an excellent morning substitute for the tortilla or the bun, and ding, ding, ding, are gluten-free. A red millet, rice and lentil batter is lightly fermented overnight resulting in a morning crepe both crisp and nutritious. Smoked salmon, eggs, and sautéed greens can all be wrapped within, each affixed to complementing ingredients.
The sweet-tooth section finds Coconut Pancakes, Cardamom Strawberry Crepes, and Nutella French Toast standing ready. And the jaggery caramel is definitely worth a try as it’s made from golden brown palm sugar.
Pondicheri Fried chicken is crisped with a spiced chickpea batter, but before that, brined in yogurt and marinated for 24 hours with spices like ajwain, amchur, garam masala, and turmeric.
Weekend breakfast specials expand with savory offerings like flat-iron steak and the famous goat brain masala while mimosas by the glass or pitcher are on call seven days a week. The Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop is located directly upstairs and is arguably one of the best bakeries in Houston in terms of technique and creativity.
Hours seem to slip away in the comfortable space whether work or pleasure be the reason for a visit. The parking garage located right behind the restaurant makes a 30-minute breakfast doable, though lingering longer is good for the soul.
Pondicheri is open every day at 8:00 a.m. and serves breakfast until 3 p.m.