Café des Beaux-Arts team.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MOLLIE KIMBERLING
If your holiday prerogative calls for a leisurely afternoon among friends over a bottle of French wine, a pot of garlicky steamed mussels, and a basket of fresh-baked bread to sop up all the sauce, you need not travel to the City of Lights to find it. Harking back to the bustling bistros of Paris past, Café des Beaux-Arts cultivates an experience that is decidedly transportive.
That joie de vivre — and a joy of authentically Parisian cuisine — has drummed up a loyal following over three decades of service. The charming café fêtes its 31st anniversary in 2024, and some of the staff members have been there almost that long. Centrally located at the heart of El Paseo, the indoor-outdoor restaurant offers prime alfresco seating and people-watching. Inside, wood paneling, antiqued mirrors, and crimson booths are illuminated by the soft glow of glass pendant lamps. Owners Didier and Christina Bloch have infused the space with touches of retro French décor and playful artwork — the paintings are Christina’s handiwork, while the quirky sculptural objets d’art are all crafted by Didier.
French onion soup gratinée.
Roasted beet salad.
Didier’s partner, Emmanuel “Manu” Boulteau, previously owned a restaurant in Italy. For the last seven years, he has taken care of the day-to-day operations at the café.
Find a seat around the circular central bar with the locals. Happy hour, available certain times of the year, includes drink specials and a variety of small bites. The restaurant has been known to host special events with prix-fixe menus and seasonally bring in live entertainment.
But you’re here for the food, bien sûr. The menu focuses on French fare, breakfast until dessert — from stuffed crêpes and duckling à l’orange to artisan cheese plates and profiteroles. One bite and your taste buds will be singing, “Oh là là!”