Franco File

When the economy starts cooking, new French restaurants often follow suit, and these days they’re sprouting across Texas like champignons after a spring pluie. Here are sixteen places that give a whole new meaning to “stock options.”

What is it with Texans and French food? I’ve been through two economic booms here, and the same thing has happened both times: When the state’s economy is good and we have money to burn, French restaurants start opening. It’s like one day we wake up with a sudden craving for escargots and coq au vin and confit de canard. We take French cooking lessons; we buy French wines; we practice pronouncing “ haricots verts.” More French restaurants have opened in Texas in the past three years than in the previous ten, and that’s not counting hotel dining rooms or Mediterranean restaurants that slip French dishes into the mix. Houston and Dallas each have close to 10 noteworthy French restaurants. Austin and San Antonio have about half a dozen each, and the Fort Worth area has 2. Even La Madeleine, the Dallas-based chain of country-style French bakeries, is going strong—more than a quarter of its 63 locations (in four states and Washington, D.C.) are new since 1998. So what gives? Of course, French cuisine is one of the world’s greatest. That’s reason enough. But I can’t help thinking that the resurgence of French food has at least as much to do with newly prosperous Texans’ insecurity about being pegged

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