(2007) For the adventurous diner with eclectic tastes, the restaurants, bars and cafés that line Sarasota’s Main Street between Palm and Orange avenues constitute the mother lode. Tapas or sushi or pho, Peruvian or Italian or Mexican cooking, cheap or dear, clubby or utterly unpretentious: It’s all right there in three gloriously mixed-up blocks.
On the north side of the block, midway between Orange and Lemon, you’ll find a delicious little bite of everyday neighborhood Paris called C’est la Vie. And although French is the native tongue of most of the staff and of quite a few of the bakery-and-café’s regulars, English speakers will feel right at home. (As will your well-mannered dog, at least at the shady sidewalk tables.)
C’est la Vie serves breakfast and lunch and purveys its delicious baked goods from early morning to early afternoon. Let’s begin with breakfast.
Purists will go for le Petit Paris, a fresh baguette, about two-thirds of it sliced lengthwise and the rest in rounds, and a wonderfully flaky, buttery croissant, along with more butter, just in case, and jam. Add a cafe au lait and you’re ready for a postprandial stroll along our version of the Champs Elysées.
If your morning appetite is larger, you could opt for Breakfast in America, which combines the classic eggs, sausage, bacon and potatoes, or you could choose, as I would, an omelet, plain or with a choice of one to four ingredients, or crepes in 14 tempting combinations. Either comes with choice of salad or potatoes.
The omelet here is not the big fluffy folded kind but a thinner round one, echoing the shape of the pan it was cooked in. In this version, the flavors of the extras you’ve specified (bacon and leeks for me) really pop. When it comes to crepes, the thin pancakes are folded around fillings ranging from smoked salmon in cream sauce (the Norvegienne) to good old ham and cheese.
Morning is the best time to plunder the riches under glass and stacked in baskets behind the bakery counter. The sight of so many handmade loaves in so many shapes, sizes and textures warms the soul. Under glass you might find almond, chocolate or plain croissants, a highly recommended raisin roll, brioches large and small, perfect little single-serving kiwi or mixed berry tarts, brownies, cakes and—well, this list could go on and on. Your best bet is just to show up early and see what tickles your fancy.
For lunch, the choices are even more extensive and are complemented by a nice variety of wines by the glass. Sandwiches alone take up a menu page. There are toothsome baguette sandwiches served cold (the Marseilles is for tuna lovers), toasted sandwiches on panini (the Menton blissfully combines an assertive olive tapenade with creamy goat cheese and tomatoes), or even a Croq’ Monsieur (toasted ham and cheese sandwich with a bechamel sauce, or make it a Croq’ Madame with the addition of a sunny-side-up egg). Or choose from five quiches, a couple of cheese plates or 16 luncheon salads. No matter which choice your taste dictates, you will not go wrong at this authentic little gem.
C’est La Vie
1553 Main St.
Breakfast: 7:30 a.m.-noon Monday-Saturday
Lunch: Until 3 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Bakery: Until 4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday
VISA, MC, AMEX, DISCOVER
Parking on street or in municipal lots