After Bon Vie moved a few blocks down Selby Ave in St. Paul, the owner of its former building set up another French-inspired spot in its place: The French Hen. Yes, it’s a little redundant. But the food is stick-to-your-bones good and the space is cheery and bright. Not to mention the restaurant is currently partnered with a newish local organization called Eatiply. Enjoying a meal at The French Hen (and many other restaurants in the Twin Cities) equals a meal donated to the hunger relief nonprofit Second Harvest Heartland in St. Paul. Not a bad way to start the morning.
The French Hen’s breakfast sandwiches are a solid bet. We loved the Croque Suzette ($10.50, above, bottom), a thick square of hot comfort. Chunky white toast bookends hefty layers of salty ham, some gruyere, and a judicious amount of creamy béchamel spiked with a little sour mustard. It was just right. Substantial, well-seasoned, and creamy without being messy. The egg that crowned the whole thing was the only disappointment. It was billed as sunny-side-up but arrived with a solid yolk. Nevertheless, this is a sandwich to wake up for.
The French Quarter ($10.50, above, top) is a sandwich made up of juicy andouille sausage tucked inside a soft, shell-like roll. A little melty cheese and caramelized onions balance the heat of the andouille. On the side, hash browns are an excellent choice. They arrive super-seared, soft on the inside, and grease-free. We appreciated the smallish portion too, because we wanted to eat them all. In lieu of potatoes, diners may choose a tender and excellent root vegetable hash that adds a little sweetness to the plate.
The French Hen features lots of omelets, including daily specials. We tried the Omelet a la Florentine ($10.50) and were happy with its large size and fluffy texture. Fresh spinach, wheels of tomato, and melted brie hid inside. The innards could have done with more seasoning, but overall we liked the fresh, full effect of it. A fruit crepe ($9.50, above, top) was also totally worth the price in terms of size. It resembles a bursting burrito, and the crepe itself is nicely chewy. Ours arrived filled with a thick stew of strawberries zapped with some welcome citrus to keep it from being cloying.
Breakfast and lunch are served until 2:30pm during the week, sometimes with a supplemental early bird menu. Afterward, The French Hen encourages peckish afternoon customers to stop by for a snack with their favorite bottle of whatever (it’s BYOB!). The staff will help you mix a cocktail if you’d like. But really, go to The French Hen for breakfast, when the air is quiet, the server is gentle and practically clairvoyant, and the large windows look clearly at the day opening up outside.
The French Hen
French breakfast and lunch fare
518 Selby Ave
St. Paul, MN 55102
OWNER: Robin Rivard
HOURS: Mon-Fri 7:30am-4pm
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No / No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Limited
ENTREE RANGE: $4-12