For years, Cafe L’Autrec was a favorite lunch spot in the village. The restaurant changed hands recently, and now it has a new name - Cafe Lavande - and a very French menu that has the local crowd clamoring for more.
Chef Ted Witte and his wife Katy run the delightful cafe now, and with Ted’s blue-chip culinary training (at the world-famous Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York) and Katy’s charming ways in the dining area, Cafe Lavande is a sure thing to succeed in this highly sophisticated market.
The pleasant patio area, nestled in a narrow alley off Girard Avenue, is still the most popular place to eat. But the cozy interior rooms are bright and cheery as well. The place looks more contemporary these days, and the restaurant’s clean lines make Cafe Lavande look a lot bigger than its predecessor.
Chef Ted put together an excellent menu - well suited for relaxed lunches - and he’s planning to open for dinner very soon. In fact, by the time you read this, the dinner menu may be in place, and La Jollans will have the opportunity to see a different side of Cafe Lavande.
French soups are second to none, and this new eatery features a few classics, including the famous French onion soup with gruyere cheese ($6.95).
Some of the salads may seem familiar to local diners, but you probably haven’t had Chef Ted’s version of these mainstays. One of the most popular with Cafe Lavande customers is the tuna nicoise ($11.50). On this menu, it’s listed under the “petit” section, but the dish is as satisfying and delicious as any you’ll find in town.
The tuna is not canned (as you’ll find in so many variations of tuna nicoise). Instead, the chef uses fresh seared tuna atop his colorful mix of tomato, cucumber, artichoke, olive, caper, potato and hard-boiled eggs. The salad is dressed with a delicate lemon basil vinaigrette. What a treat!
Another wonderful salad is “La Maison” ($7.50) - a medley that includes roasted beet, fig, and goat cheese. A sherry vinaigrette completes this creation. Cobb salad shows up on the lunch menu, but this one is made with fresh spinach ($9.50). And you can add shrimp, salmon, chicken or steak to a baby greens and Waldorf salad to make a marvelous meal. The basic salad costs $5.50.
We loved the vol au vent ($8.95) - a wild mushroom ragout with asparagus and espelette oil. Quiche lovers will adore the traditional quiche Lorraine ($7.95) - made with bacon and gruyere cheese.
Another specialty is the chicken au champagne ($12.50). The flavorful chicken is enhanced by the accompaniments - spinach, mushrooms and a terrific potato galette.
The well-designed entree menu features tomato farcie ($11.50). This dish is a ratatouille with feta cheese and herbs. Pasta earned a place on the menu as well. This pasta preparation (pasta chiffons with sorrel cream, sun-dried tomato and shrimp, $11.95) should hit the spot with pasta fans who prefer a French twist to a typical Italian staple.
If sandwiches are on the menu for you at lunch time, try the turkey, bacon and lettuce and tomato club ($7.95), or the more classic chicken salad on a baguette ($8.95). Grilled ham and gruyere cheese (known as “Croque Monsieur”) is another great choice ($8.50). Even burgers get royal treatment at this cafe. The hamburger royal (with carmelized onions, and your choice of cheddar, gruyere or Roquefort cheese) sells for $10.50, and it’s a far cry from a fast-food burger.
What French restaurant would give short shrift to dessert? Certainly not Cafe Lavanade. Here, you can indulge in crepes Suzette ($5.95) or the French apple pie known as tarte tatin ($5.50). The apples are caramelized in this delicacy, which gives the tarte extra flavor. Creme brulee is served with candied lavender ($6.95), the chocolate mousse is accompanied by a Madeleine cookie ($6.50), and there’s always an assortment of ice cream and sorbets ($3.95 each).
The beer and wine menu is impressive, and most items are available by the glass as well as the bottle. You’ll also find Lorina French lemonade ($5.95) among the drinks.
With friendly service, an inviting atmosphere and cuisine worthy of a fine French restaurant, Cafe Lavande has plenty to offer.
7644 Girard Avenue