Rendez-Vous is certainly an upgrade from a Quiznos. The French bakery opened last October in the corner spot of a Clark Road shopping center that used to house an outpost of the toasted sub chain. Not that you could tell. My friend, Justin, whom I'm meeting for breakfast, points out that little remains of the old sub shop except the wall of glass that protects the prep space from germs.
As a bright yellow sign behind the counter points out, Rendez-Vous is both a pâtisserie and a boulangerie—meaning it bakes up pastries and desserts, as well as savory loaves of bread. Croissants, cinnamon rolls and turnovers rest in a plastic container on the counter, while cakes and bowls of panna cotta sparkle in a glass case that faces the door. Baguettes—some long and round, some with pointy ends—lean against one another in baskets hung on the wall.
Across from where the food is displayed, a clutch of tables offers seating for the hungry. Every table is taken, except for one two-top up front. The crowd is a mix of tourists, retirees and people calorie-binging after workouts. Justin and I spot at least one "Make America Great Again" hat.
My hat, meanwhile, reads "I Like Almond Croissants," because that's what I'm craving this morning. Rendez-Vous' version of this doughy wakeup classic ($3.50) puts most others to shame. First off, it's bigger—a crescent whose curve takes up almost all of the ivory plate on which it's served. And then there's the unbelievable contrast of textures. Chef Joël Garcia has built a thick, chewy mahogany exterior around the pastry, while inside everything has remained humid, buttery and delicate. Almonds are shingled on top of this masterpiece, and the nut's flavor has seeped into every nook and cranny, but the almond never obliterates the toasted flavor of the pastry, which happens when lesser hands use too much extract. Garcia's croissant isn't too sweet, either. Powdered sugar may have rained down upon the exterior, but this pastry isn't a sucrose bomb.
Justin's cinnamon roll ($2.50) is similarly well balanced—a coiled tail that delivers a mix of sugar and slightly bitter cinnamon. A brioche ($3) comes sliced in half lengthwise, with a thick shmear of cream filling the space in between. The bread is a little overpowering (it's just so thick), but that cream is absurd, a splendiferous whip scented with lemon. A baguette ($2) is among the best you'll find in Sarasota. The crust is crackling enough to tear up the roof of your mouth, while irregular tunnels of air puncture the interior's chew.
To drink, Rendez-Vous offers your typical espresso-and-milk concoctions ($2.30-$3), plus a plain drip ($2). A cup of black coffee tastes just fine, a little too one-dimensional to do much besides complement the sugary treats Justin and I are wolfing down at record pace.
In addition to breakfast and dessert, Rendez-Vous offers a variety of sandwiches constructed on its breads ($6.50-$8.50). It's too early for me, but trust I'll be back for the "fromager," bread stuffed with a mix of butter and brie. Better than a Quiznos sub? Better than a Quiznos sub. Progress is beautiful.
Rendez-Vous is located at 5336 Clark Road, Sarasota. It is open 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. For more info, call (941) 924-1234 or visit rendezvoussarasota.com.