First impression: I've passed by Cote France Café dozens of times over the years. I'm always on my way to what I hope will be a more-important meal than what this 18-year-old cafe has to offer. I'm glad I finally took the time for lunch here, because I've been intrigued by the pastry case as I've peered through the cafe window and marveled at the number of customers sitting on the covered patio. There's something cosmopolitan about Cote France.
Background: Claudine Hernandez opened Cote France in 1995 in a much-smaller space on Second Street. In 2008, she opened the larger Royal Palm Place location, where all the baking and production is done for both restaurants. Last December, Hernandez retired and sold the business to her cousin Nicolas Bolo and Christophe Varenne. Bolo is from Aurillac, not far from Toulouse. Until buying the business, he had only vacationed in the United States.
Ambience: There's not much to the place. The tables and chairs are aluminum. The menu board is on the wall.
The menu: The specialty is hot and cold sandwiches ($5.95-$6.15/6-inch, $8.80-$9.30/12-inch.) The choices include country pate with cornichons, ham and brie, roast beef, turkey breast and several specialty sandwiches. I'm already a fan of the Addison: chicken mozzarella, tomato, basil, pesto, peppers and olives. What all the sandwiches have in common is the perfect house-made baguettes on which they're served. There's a Nicoise salad ($9.90), of course, as well as croque monsieur ($5.95) and very good French onion soup ($5.95) served in a cheesy crock. For a great light lunch, order a combo ($6.95): soup and quiche; soup and sandwich; soup and salad; or quiche and salad.
Service: You order from the menu board on the wall, and your choices are delivered to your table. After the savory part of your meal, you have to get back in line and order sweets. It would be much easier if the restaurant offered table service.
Sweet! You really won't know where to start, but I can recommend the strawberry Napoleon ($1.60 or $4.50). The cafe also does the classic layered opera cake, strawberry passion fruit cake and Paris-Brest with flaky choux pastry and praline cream. Every French pastry you can imagine is here: palmiers and meringues (50 cents), macarons ($1.60), linzer cookies ($2.75), croissants ($1.50/mini, $2.20/regular), almond croissants ($2.90), chocolate croissants ($2.45).
I'm not much of a baker, so I know where I'll be coming next time I need a cake for a special occasion. Any pastry can be made into a cake, and I can think of nothing better than strawberry Napoleon cake or a chocolate-mousse cake. Prices start at $25 for a 6-inch and go up to $47 for a 12-inch. The cakes can also be ordered larger. Fruit tarts cost $4.50 for individual-size or $25.50 for an 8-inch cake.
Liquid assets: The restaurant features a nice selection of wine by the glass.
100 Plaza Real South, Suite K, Boca Raton, 561-955-6021
(Original location at 110 NE Second St., Boca Raton, 561-392-2907)
Cote France Café
Hours: 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7:30-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
Reservations: Not required
Credit cards: MC, V
Bar: Beer and wine
Sound level: Conversational
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs, boosters
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free lot