C’est La Vie is a deliciously authentic French bakery and cafe restaurant in the heart of downtown that serves some really incredible breakfast and lunch. Everyone should make a trip here to experience it for themselves!
1552 Main St, Sarasota, FL 34236
Cuisine: French, Breakfast/Brunch, Bakery
Price Rating: Entrees under $10
Review Date: November 13 and December 1, 2012
Background Info on the Review
Since I worked downtown for a large part of the seven years that I’ve lived in Florida, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to visit the downtown restaurants. And C’est La Vie has been no exception — I have gone here on many occasions to grab a quick lunch bite and really loved it every time. I also have to give the background of my having lived in France for about 2 years as well, so I can spot authentic French food pretty easily.
And for someone like me, it’s nice to be able to go to a restaurant and practice some of my rusting French with a native. When I met Christophe, the owner, I was delighted to get to know this Parisian man who is not only delightful as a person, but is really funny too! There is a multicultural staff (there’s even a Hungarian waiter!) and you can expect to have some of the most delicious pastries here, so be sure to plan ahead for your diet when you come.
I like the interior of this restaurant, it feels cozy to me. The outdoor seating is typically European and I wish more places downtown had the same kind of seating; it creates a relaxed atmosphere where you can go to enjoy your newspaper or morning coffee in solace on a great area of Main Street.
During my Tasting visit, I was sitting near a couple who were obviously regulars. When I do my Tastings, I usually get asked a few questions from on-lookers as to why I’m photographing the food or who I work for. This couple made it a point to give me the perspective of someone who has been visiting the restaurant for years — they couldn’t say more nice things about C’est La Vie. I will leave that up to you to experience, but to me, I highly recommend it.
I have personally noticed a bit slower service when sitting outside, and it just reminded me of the typical service you receive in France. It’s not so much about getting you out the door here as it is letting you enjoy. But just keep that in mind if you’re in a big rush.
Typical French pastries — everything here is to die for. If you have an aversion to butter, you’ve been warned! HA!
Cheri’s Food Review
This crusty, fresh baguette bread comes with your meal, along with cold pats of butter. There are two types of baguette, traditional and more modern. And you won’t be disappointed with either, this is real, great French bread!
My Tasting started with the Salade Amandine, which was a salad of fresh, mixed greens, raisins, sliced almonds, with two mounds of rich goat cheese coated with nuts and quickly fried. The salad was exquisite, simple and fresh with perfectly emulsified vinaigrette on the side. The salad blended nutty creaminess of the goat cheese with the sweet freshness of the raisins and salad. A nice light meal with just enough bulk to keep you going but not weigh you down!
What French breakfast and lunch restaurant would be complete without the Quiche Lorraine? This was a thinner version than I am used to, but when you take a look at the closeup, you’ll know that it’s enough! Salty chunks of bacon floating in the egg and cheese mixture, served with a side salad or potatoes. The crust is buttery, rich and flaky.
The last entree I chose was the basic Paris baguette sandwich. They have a lot of choices for sandwiches here and I love this one even though it was plain — if you knew me as a kid, you’d know what I always ordered was just turkey and provolone on white, with nothing else! So this was right up my alley. It’s the perfect sandwich to grab and go. But that’s not to say they’re all just as basic as this. Every time I go there myself, I order the Monte Carlo sandwich which has proscuitto, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and olive oil and I am transported back in time to when I lived in Paris as a poor college student. I could only afford this basic sandwich, that you can buy on almost any corner and take with you when you walk. It tastes exactly like what I’d get back there and I just love that nostalgia. A big paragraph for such a regular sandwich, I know, but at C’est La Vie, they’ve really got the staples down pat. And if you want to know what food is like in France, then this is a great start.
First up for the dessert Tasting portion was the macarons – chocolate, vanilla and pistachio. Being in the food blogging world, I can appreciate a good macaron when I come across one, and these are everything you could possibly want: light, perfectly smooth, eggshell fragile, delightfully crispy outside with a light and fluffy inside. And the creamy filling is just light enough to complement the outside but give it some great body. The flavors are subtle enough to where you just want to eat more. So only buy a few, then do yourself a favor and walk away from the restaurant.
The image of the butter croissant speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Flaky, buttery, crisp, delicate, but super soft and moist on the inside. I felt like they were so rich with butter that I actually had to pace myself. Having eating at least 4-5 croissants per week when I lived across the pond, these were the real deal. Quite a decadent little breakfast! And if that isn’t decadent enough for you, they have other types as well with almond paste, chocolate, jam…you name it!
And the last one I tried was the Apricot Croissant. This is called an Abricotine for those in-the-know, and this is just as good as the croissant but with some nice apricot jam and slices inside. So you could actually pretend that this one if more healthy for you if you close your eyes or something. Right??
If you are unfamiliar with the ways of the French pastry, and the other delectable French breakfast and lunch options, make your way over to C’est La Vie — the food will make you happy!
Cloaked Restaurant Review
This is the part where I have an anonymous review done to critique the entire restaurant experience in a undercover way so that you can get a good idea of what it’s like for the typical restaurant-goer like yourself! It keeps us all honest!! Here’s what they said:
Among the hustle and bustle of Saturday morning foot traffic, around the corner from the farmer’s market, sits C’est la Vie! a popular French bistro in downtown Sarasota. In an area where there are plenty of other options, people are drawn to this unassuming establishment with a surprisingly large dining room and an outdoor patio seating area. Inside, patrons line up to shop the display case full of fresh pastries and breads available for carry-out. They seem to have tried to fit as many tables and chairs into the space as they can, and while the quarters are a little close it doesn’t feel cramped. On this cloudless, cool morning, a table on the patio opened up, and so our visit began.
The drink order was taken almost immediately, and within a few short minutes a café au lait was delivered to the table, with a glass of ice water. Café au lait may not sound noteworthy, but it was made with high quality coffee cut just right with milk, it was exactly what this meal called for. The only glitch during our meal was that our drinks were never refilled. The drinks were quickly followed by four, thick slices of a baguette, with a side of butter, and the pastries that were ordered.
The apricot croissant that arrived was flaky on the outside, accented with apricot slices baked inside, and dusted with powdered sugar. A beignet followed, but it was different than what I am used to. My only experience to date with beignets is from Café du Monde in New Orleans, and this was nothing like that. This was more of a yeast donut, sweet and airy, with a very light sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar on top. To clarify, while not what I’m used to, this was delicious! Other types of toppings were offered, apricot, raspberry, or whipped cream, and while all sounded heavenly, plain is the true test and did it ever excel.
You can hardly go to a French bistro without indulging in crepes, and I opted for Crepe Paysanne. Made with buckwheat flour, which I was told is the traditional method, and filled with cheese, bacon, potatoes, and eggs this dish was surprisingly light and satisfying. It was served with a salad made primarily of romaine lettuce, with tomato, red onions, corn, and a side of dressing that I can only describe as a creamy vinaigrette. It made for a wonderful accompaniment to the richness of the crepe and its filling. The last part of the meal was a Croq’ Monsieur with a side of potatoes.
I actually meant to order the Croq’ Madame, one of my favorite sandwiches, but had a brain lapse. Even with this minor oversight, I thoroughly enjoyed the toasted ham and cheese sandwich, topped with loads of béchamel sauce. The side dish was some of the best home style fried potatoes I have ever had, crispy and lightly salted. The combination of the two made for a savory plate that was easy to enjoy.
At no point do you ever forget you are in a French bistro, but there are times as you hear the various languages of European tourists that you forget you’re in Sarasota. Overall, I only thought the bathroom could have used some work. Other than that, the staff is friendly, courteous and helpful with suggestions when asked. Based on the small sample of the diverse menu, I can only assume there’s something for everyone here. I can say, with all certainty, I’m looking forward to returning, perhaps for lunch to sample their wine and beer selection.
Cloaked Review Ratings
|Food Quality & Menu|
Review Disclaimer: This review is part of a series of restaurant reviews that follows The Watering Mouth’s restaurant review guidelines. My Tasting photographs may not show the true portion of a meal a typical customer would receive. These reviews are based on two visits to a restaurant, one open Tasting where I taste and photograph a restaurant’s best dishes, and one full, anonymous review (like the typical restaurant-goer would experience) called the Cloaked Review. We are honest with our reviews, and assume that each restaurant is consistently performing to the standards we experienced!