Thirty years in, the allure has never faded. Much like the City of Lights itself, the charming restaurant occupying the corner of Larkspur Lane is a favored destination of many.
Story by June Allan Corrigan
Can’t get to Paris right now? A table at Café des Beaux-Arts, with its wide-open views, is the next best thing. Enjoy delicious Parisian bistro fare — with some clever American twists — and watch happenings along El Paseo from a temperature-controlled vantage point.
Perhaps an intimate booth is more to your liking, or a perch at Le Bar, where more than a few inventive new cocktails have emerged over the years. No matter where you settle, the ambiance of an authentic Parisian café pervades — just as owner and proprietor Didier Bloch intended.
Swiss-born and Paris-raised, Bloch had a wealth of restaurant management experience under his belt before he found his way to Palm Desert and spied an opportunity. Of course, as with most establishments, there were some growing pains along the way — an early name change, décor upgrades, and menu tweaks. One thing this seasoned restaurateur has always recognized is the importance of listening to his patrons. “I try to put myself in the customer’s shoes,” Bloch says.
While traditional French fare such as quiche Lorraine, salade Niçoise, and French onion soup gratinée will always have a place on the menu, Café des Beaux-Arts is mindful of changing tastes and health considerations. Whereas once a croque monsieur sandwich came with a choice of fries or potato salad, now it’s fries, quinoa salad, or seasonal fruit. There are also numerous vegetarian options (the avocado toast earns rave reviews) as well as gluten-free alternatives available. There is even a gluten-free version of the classic French crêpe.
Actually, incorporating crêpes into the menu came at the suggestion of one of Bloch’s faithful employees, many of whom have been with him for years. “I think one of the main reasons for my success is consistency,” Bloch shares. “You order your favorite dish, and it’s going to taste the same each time, and there’s a very good chance a familiar face is going to serve it to you.”
While the breakfast and lunch selections at Café des Beaux-Arts never disappoint, evening meal offerings venture into fine dining territory and are definitely worth investigating. In the mood for some duckling à l’orange, shrimp Provençale or escargots bourguignonne? You’ll find them here along with many other tantalizing dishes. It’s not unusual for patrons to reminisce about the times they dined on something similar while in Paris. “Sometimes, they’ll even say it tastes better here than it did in Paris,” says Bloch. Which, of course, he perceives as the ultimate compliment.
Between the airiness of one wall open to the boulevard, the intimate lighting and soft music within, and colorful artwork almost everywhere you look, Café des Beaux-Arts is a delightful setting for any fine repast. Look for the namesake awning spanning the northeast corner of Larkspur Lane and El Paseo and step inside for a little taste of Paris. Bon Appetit!
Café des Beaux-Arts closes each summer on July 5 and reopens the Friday before Labor Day.