French Hospitality Comes Home
In the small village of Coventryville, Pennsylvania, sits a classic colonial stone house built some 300 years ago. From the outside, passersby may assume nothing more than a humble abode in a quaint historic district. Inside, however, lives a pair of self-proclaimed gastrophiles hard at work at La Maison, a French term that translates simply to “the house.”
Owners Chef Martin Gagné and his wife, Janet, opened their home-turned-restaurant to the public five years ago. The inspiration for La Maison came from Gagné’s classical French training, 50 years of restaurant experience, and a genuine plea.
“I prayed to St. Joseph,” Chef Gagné explains of his quest for a solution to bad job luck paired with dwindling cash flow. “Three days later,” he continues, “with $350, my wife and I opened up this restaurant.”
The Gagnés modeled La Maison after the auberges, or traditional French inns. “In France, every village has a tiny little auberge like this where a husband and wife cook meals for travelers,” he says. “But nobody does it here.” La Maison offers a setting that evokes imagery of the rustic French countryside, and a seasonal menu honoring traditional French cuisine.
The restaurant can accommodate 26 people in its multiple dining rooms. Guests pay $90 to dine at the BYOB establishment for the Friday or Saturday “full-on bacchanal,” as Chef Gagné describes the all-you-can-eat evening. An abbreviated supper menu is offered on Thursdays.
“There’s no rush to get people out the door, because we’re not doing a second turn,” Chef Gagné says. Throughout the intentionally slow-paced evening, guests consume locally sourced, scratch-made dishes. They also enjoy a meaningful escape from the norm.
“It’s like another world for them,” Chef Gagné says. “A lot of people live in these modern homes … and this is a totally different,” Gagne says of the house’s 22-inch-thick stone walls, old plank wood floors, and a kitchen dripping with copper cookware. Sometimes, guests even get acquainted with the house’s other residents: two dogs, a cat, and a rabbit aptly named Jacques Lapin, which is French for “Jack Rabbit.”
The Gagnés also make sure to send visitors home with leftover food—wrapped, labeled, and bagged, to boot.
“I feel very privileged to be able to do this sort of thing,” Gagné says of operating La Maison. “I feel a responsibility to make sure that it’s done the way it needs to be done and the way it should be done.”