It was Friday, July 22. As we usually do, we were up by 6:30am having our coffee and tea. Today, as a special treat to celebrate my husband’s birthday, we decided to go to Lafayette Kitchen & Cafe in Carmel for breakfast. I think the restaurant opened about the beginning of March, 2016, but this was going to be our first visit to the quaint French restaurant. It replaced Em Le’s Restaurant, an old Carmel favorite that closed in 2015.
Lafayette Kitchen & Café opens at 7am, and we were up, so we decided to head on over at about 7:15am. It’s less than a 5 block walk from our home to Lafayette Kitchen & Café. We were there in about 10 minutes. It’s located on the east side of Dolores Street, between Fifth and Sixth. You can’t miss it, with the peaked cottage roof, robin’s egg blue arched front door and bracketed ‘Lafayette’ sign. There are actually two entrances into this little restaurant, which I wish we had realized at the time because it had an impact on our breakfast – more about that in a minute.
It was about 7:25am when we arrived and were told we could seat ourselves. We were the only people in the café. That was a big surprise. But hey, not everyone likes to be up early. We chose a table by the window because it’s always fun to look out on the quaint streets of Carmel and watch people pass by, often with their doggie friend in tow. Across the street is the charming Carmel Art Gallery, home to works by local artists.
Our waitress stopped by, gave us the menu and asked us what we wanted to drink. Since we had already had our coffee and tea, we just asked for water, which she brought in a blue glass with a lemon slice.
While we were looking over the menu we had time to look around the restaurant. Lafayette Kitchen & Café has seating for about 35-40 people. It’s one room, with a corner fireplace tucked at the back of the restaurant. On a chilly day, getting a table near the fireplace would be perfect.
The restaurant also has a large oak counter and curved glass cases along one side that serves as the focal point for their take out business, which includes pastries brought over from Lafayette Bakery in the Barnyard and coffees. This is when I realized that we chose a table that was next to that second door that I mentioned. This is the door that people use to come in to order take out. During our breakfast, the door was opened pretty often and people were coming in behind my chair to order at the counter. Note to self and to others – this is a great place to sit if you want to meet some charming people, both locals and visitors. If you want a more quiet experience you may want to choose another table.
The menus are presented on colorful clipboards. Since Lafayette Kitchen & Café serves breakfast and lunch, all the items are on the same menu. Breakfast entrees include a large variety of egg dishes, crepes, and French toast. Bill ordered Eggs Benedict and I ordered Sweet French Toast.
While we waited for our order to be prepared, a white van pulled up outside the café. Isabel Vial, a partner in the restaurant, and owner of Lafayette Bakery, got out and started bringing in boxes of ingredients to the kitchen. She chatted with our waitress in her lovely, lilting French accent. We enjoyed watching some of the work that goes into preparing the restaurant for the day.
It didn’t seem long before our waitress brought our orders. I was impressed with the presentation of the Sweet French Toast – 2 thick, homemade slices of toast strewn with strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, and a tiny glass bowl filled with syrup. It was colorful and enticing. Bill’s eggs benedict didn’t have quite the same presentation appeal. With 2 poached eggs and potatoes on a white plate and no garnish, the presentation was a little drab. I learned quickly that the presentation didn’t bother Bill a bit. He said the eggs were done just the way he likes them and the potatoes were flavorful and delicious. I enjoyed the Sweet French Toast, too. The fruit was very fresh and sweet. And the toast was done perfectly. The recipe was different than the French toast I’m used to, which is toast that is thoroughly dipped in egg batter. You’ll see from the picture that this French toast wasn’t like that. I quickly used up the dish of syrup and asked for another. OK, maybe I have a sweet tooth.
By now there were several other tables that had filled up in the restaurant. And people were starting to come through that ‘second’ door to order their espresso and latte drinks and pastries to go. We got the impression that many of these people were regulars. One gentleman had his little poodle in tow and another patron had her tiny pup stashed in her oversized black purse. They greeted each other like old friends as they stepped up to the counter to order their coffees.
As we left the restaurant we were reminded of the quaint tables nestled outside, waiting for guests who wanted to dine in the sunshine. And we asked ourselves, as we always do at ilovecarmelcalifornia.com, would we come back? Yes. I’ll probably try another menu item – maybe those eggs benedict that I criticized for their appearance, but that Bill said tasted so good! And we would definitely stop by to get a pastry to go. We have been to the Lafayette Bakery in the Barnyard many times – almost to the point of addiction – so we know how good their pastries are.
Have you been to Lafayette Kitchen and Cafe in Carmel? Did you have a meal or get take out? We’d love to learn about your experiences in the comments below. Happy dining!