CINCINNATI -- French Crust Cafe at Findlay Market opened at 8 a.m. Tuesday at 202 W. Elder St.
A "chef" stands at-the-ready by the entrance with the greeting: "Breakfast and lunch? Oui!" Granted the "chef" is a two-dimensional chalkboard, but its charm sets the stage for the Parisian cafe that lies within. The new eatery is a sunny, intimate space that seats about 30, and it is outfitted with Parisian artwork and vintage chandeliers.
French Crust Cafe first opened at 915 Vine St. three years ago. It was the collaborative brainchild of Jean-Robert de Cavel and Jean-Philippe Solnom. Both chefs wanted to bring a bit of Paris to Cincinnati, with classic French pastries and elegant cafe food like croissants, éclairs, brioche and pain aux raisin (flaky raisin bread).
Solnom, the pastry chef and chocolatier who leads the French Crust Cafe operation for both locations, said the Vine Street location is closed and undergoing renovation. However, he anticipates reopening in about four weeks. According to French Crust Cafe’s Facebook page, the cafe on Vine Street has been closed since Sept. 18.
Solnom said when it reopens, the Vine Street location will lean more toward carry-out, with a small dine-in space, probably even smaller than the original 24 seats. He anticipates serving a simpler menu there, doing away with casserole dishes and instead focusing on items such as flat croissants, sandwiches, quiches and salads.
While both cafes will serve "sweets," Solnom will save the more complex and technically difficult items for the new cafe.
"Next week I will make chocolate -- chocolate bars, candy and truffles," he said.
He said he already has started making macarons and petit fours and "will try to make a lot of different pastries."
To start, the cafe at Findlay Market is offering the menu used previously at the Vine Street location. Solnom said the menu is still in transition and will likely change as early as later this week. One item he plans to offer is "Quiche of the Week," different from the staples on the menu.
De Cavel has been working with 3CDC to transform the old Globe furniture building at 1801 Elm St. to house the newly opened cafe and a bistro that has yet to open. WCPO reported in May that the chef was packing two concepts -- a cafe and bistro -- into the 3,700-square-foot space.
At that time, de Cavel was still undecided about the bistro name, but that has changed.
"I decided to call the place French Crust Cafe and Bistro. They will have the same phone number," de Cavel said. "I would have liked to call (the bistro) a different name, but this is less confusing for people."
There are still many moving parts, but de Cavel hopes to open the bistro this Friday, starting with lunch service.
"I just got a text from my assistant that we have the liquor license," he said with a smile.
The plan is to offer only lunch service at the bistro this Friday and over the weekend. De Cavel will move forward with dinner service next week if things go well.
"I'm very excited to open the first restaurant at Findlay Market," de Cavel said, adding, "I'm so excited to be a part of this area."
French Crust Cafe at Findlay Market
202 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine. (Guests also will be able to enter through the Bistro at 1801 Elm St. when it opens.)
Hours (subject to change):
Breakfast: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday-Sunday
Lunch: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday-Sunday
Coffee and pastries only: Until 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; until 3 p.m. Sunday
Closed on Monday.
Grace Yek writes about food for WCPO Digital. She is a certified chef-de-cuisine with the American Culinary Federation, and a former chemical engineer. Questions or comments? Connect with her on Twitter: @Grace_Yek.