Le Petit Café in Dania Beach is one of those cozy restaurants that slips under the radar without a good word-of-mouth network like the one that has patrons flocking to this easy-to-miss nook. On our weekend visits, we arrived as crowds of mostly older patrons, a good many French Canadian, finished their sunset dinner specials (an excellent deal at $22.95). For 17 years, Christian and Marilyse lePadellec have been serving traditional dishes like escargot, house-made pâté and beef bourguignon in their charming storefront French-American cafe with floral curtains, country cupboards and twinkly lights.
The couple grew up in the same part of Brittany in northwest France. With $50 in his pocket, Christian left in 1976 to assist a French chef at a Delray Beach restaurant. He sharpened his skills in New York City before returning to South Florida to cook and then open his own place with Marilyse. She works the front of the house with the help of an attentive server while he mans the kitchen. At $25.95 to $29.95, entrees may seem a little pricey for a small place, but they’re served with three sides and include soup du jour or salad and French bread.
- The salad – mixed greens, sliced tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers with a watercress garnish and creamy Dijon mustard dressing on the side
- A garden-fresh watercress purée with onion, celery and potatoes
- Hearty French onion with a savory but not overly salty dark stock topped with Gruyère
- Refreshing vichyssoise
- A terrific, well-executed Coquille St. Jacques with delicious scallops, shrimp, sole (or monkfish or grouper) and mushrooms in a rich béchamel sauce, served au gratin in a scallop shell
- Pâté – a combination of liver, beef and pork that arrives in two large slabs garnished with crisp, tart cornichons and plated with sliced tomatoes and onions
- Escargot – six snails in a fragrant garlic-butter sauce with a splash of Pernod
- Inexpensive crepes – square, crisp shells so light they seem to float and stuffed with a chunky ratatouille of tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini and chicken with béchamel that could have used more sauce
- Skillfully cooked rainbow trout meunière served in a lovely sauce of white wine, herbs, lemon and a touch of butter
- A homey vegetable trio of Lyonnaise potatoes, nicely steamed sliced carrots and green beans
- Frogs legs, simply and perfectly sautéed with a little garlic, lemon, herbs and white wine
- Boeuf bourguignon – a bowl of tender, flavorful beef in a red wine sauce with mushrooms
- A daily special of well-seasoned rack of lamb served with a bordelaise sauce
- Crepe Suzette filled with orange marmalade splashed with Grand Marnier and flambéed at the table