This month we decided to visit Decatur. It probably wasn’t wise to make the trek during rush hour as every Atlantan who owns a car was on Clairmont Road. We finally made it, only to circle the square looking for a parking spot, like an airliner in a holding pattern over Hartsfield-Jackson.
In a different life, I might have chosen to live in Decatur; there seems to be something within walking distance for everyone, be it an ice cream shop, a bar with live music or a café… perhaps a quaint Alsatian café at that.
Café Alsace occupies a small storefront just off the courthouse square. Its awning advertises that it’s been there since 1997, no easy feat in the restaurant business. When you walk in, you immediately feel like you’ve been transported to France. The owner greets you in French, ever poised to continue the conversation in that language if you are so inclined or capable. Unfortunately my French ends shortly after “Bonjour,” “Merci,” “Au Revoir” and the song, “Frère Jacques.”
The space is filled with white table-clothed tables, lots of bric-a-brac, artwork and things posing as artwork. You get the sense that a lot of the diners here are regulars; and if you’re not, the owner makes you feel just as welcome.
The food is distinctly French with German influences. The Alsace region of France lies on the west bank of the Rhine River and is within yodeling distance of both Germany and Switzerland.
We began our Alsatian adventure with wine and appetizers. There were several good Gewürztraminers and Rieslings for which the Alsace region is known. There were also a few nice reds including a Chateau Bouscasse, a Bordeaux-style blend. The wine list gives a brief flavor profile of most wines, making it easier to choose a glass that will suit one’s taste.
We chose the Brie a la Rhubarbe et Mirabelle, the Tarte Flambe and the French onion soup to start. The baked brie served with pretzel bread, rhubarb jam and a Mirabelle plum jam provided the perfect savory, sweet, salty bite. The Tarte Flambe was a large flatbread smothered in Crème Fraiche, bacon, onions and Emmentaler cheese. It was one of the favorite dishes of the evening and if paired with a green salad, could have easily been a meal for two on its own. The onion soup was flavorful and full of caramelized onions, but needed a cheesier topping.
Our entrées were the Bouef Wellington, the Filet de truite, the Poulet farci and the Crêpe du jour. I’m betting that more than one “Hell’s Kitchen” fan has visited to sample the Wellington. This version was quite good with the pastry light and crispy, and the beef medium rare… not an easy feat according to Chef Gordon Ramsay. The trout dish was classically French with smoked salmon, fennel and apples. It tasted good but was texturally one-note.
The chicken stuffed with pecans, brie and spinach in a fig “au jus” had a way of growing on you with each bite, even though the chicken was overdone. The crêpe of the day, a combination of chicken, goat cheese, quinoa and green beans was visually appealing, but also overdone. The goat cheese overpowered the dish. The doneness of the birds aside, both dish’s flavors were “acquired tastes.”
Each entrée came with excellent potatoes gratin and a large side salad. The fig and honey dressing was so good that we bought some to take home.
While the service was excellent, the pace of service was more suited for an evening when one didn’t have to go to work the next day.
Café Alsace made the drive to Decatur worth it. Now, if we can only remember where we parked the car.
Café Alsace is located at 121 East Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. 404-373-5622 or cafealsace.net.
Art Huckabee is one of Yelp’s Elite Reviewers, as well as a pilot, gourmet cook and food lover. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.