French Savoir Faire in Savannah

Posted on September 1, 2017 by

  • Croissant Rolls are petite croissants, usually filled with Nutella and coconut. Photo by Lucy Hewitt, courtesy of Le Café Gourmet.

Just off Franklin Square, next to City Market, a cozy pocket of France awaits.

Angela and Alexandre Darbousset, owners of Le Café Gourmet, call out, “Bonjour!” as warm and inviting as the baguettes fresh out of the oven. Mouthwatering pastries and breads pile up on each other, safe behind glass. After a few minutes at a bistro table, listening to soft French jazz, you’ll forget you’re still in the U.S.

“Food is history, it’s tradition in France,” Angela explained. “Our tradition is the way we make our food. It’s the artisan way—the real one.”

The artisan way starts with wholesome ingredients and in-house recipes. The mayonnaise on your Marseille sandwich? Homemade. The vinaigrette and croutons on your salad? Homemade. The béchamel sauce in your hot, cheesy Croque Monsieur? Homemade.

Photo by Lucy Hewitt, courtesy of Le Café Gourmet.

Notre face—our difference—is that everything is made from scratch,” Angela said. “It’s a lot of work, but you can taste the difference. When you can pay $3 for a frozen croissant somewhere else, it’s just 50 cents more for a real artisan croissant here.”

Patrons who have spent time in France especially appreciate this dedication to traditional techniques. Chatting with Angela in French, they bond over the familiar flavors they haven’t experienced anywhere else.

“They compare our products to their experience in France, and usually they say it’s the first time since they were in France that they have tasted a real croissant, real crispy bread,” Angela said. “They found here what they tried in France.”

Word spreads about the bakery as customers bring friends and family to the place they say makes the best croissants and crêpes in Savannah. It’s a popular stop for coffee and a quick quiche, or lunch on-the-go. Since the savory crêpe batter is gluten-free, and all sandwiches and crêpes are made to order, the menu has vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.

And patrons keep coming back. One loyal customer, Carol, lives in Statesboro, GA. It was near closing time when she found Le Café Gourmet, but Carol couldn’t resist following her nose to fresh French food.

“Almost everything was sold out,” Carol said. “Angela told me to come back in the morning for the pastries, and then she just gave me a baguette to try. That was it. I’m in Savannah only about once a week, and this is my first stop.”

Photo by Lucy Hewitt, courtesy of Le Café Gourmet.

Le Café Gourmet has only been open for a year, but they have well-established roots in the community. Their coffee comes from Cup to Cup, a Savannah-based specialty coffee roastery. The herbs baked into their breads and quiches come from a local organic supplier. In return, Le Café Gourmet provides bread and other tasty goods to local businesses—establishments familiar to Savannahians and on visitors’ must-try lists—as well as catering for small events.

The Double Tree Hotel, they serve for breakfast our croissants,” Angela said. “A lot of people stop by for lunch after their breakfast over there. We just started with Vic’s on the River, and, of course, the Paris Market. We have the Mirabelle Café in front of the St. John Cathedral.”

Le Café Gourmet’s business is growing. While the search for a second location is ongoing, Angela and Alexandre continue expanding the menu. Online ordering is in Le Café Gourmet’s future, as are picnic-ready lunchboxes and, perhaps, even authentic French wine. It’s a big undertaking, but the Darboussets are more than up to the challenge.

“We’re not scared,” Angela said. “We’re excited. I mean, we came here for that—for a great adventure.”

Le Café Gourmet is located at 53 Montgomery St. and is open Tues.-Fri., 8 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., 9 a.m.-3 p.m. For more information, call (912) 200-3258 or visit lecafegourmet.com.