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Ooh La La: Find Fine French Fare in Orlando



True proponents of French dining know that just because it’s ooh-la-la doesn’t mean it has to be cha-ching. Sure, the most upscale venues are expensive, but for every $60 chateaubriand you might enjoy during a given special occasion, there are a hundred reasons to enjoy an exceptionally good cup of coffee alongside superior pastry – two things the French do very, very well. Submitted here for your perusal, a sampling of what Orlando has to offer by way of Paris, Lyon and other beautiful, well-known places in the land of luscious wine and superior cheese. From casual eateries such as Le Café de Paris in Dr. Phillips to quaint bistros where a lovely lunch or delicious dinner might be enjoyed before or after an easy stroll on the avenue (Paris Bistro or Café de France) to brasseries and fine-dining venues in what might be the most unlikely place in the world: an Orlando, Florida, theme park, this city does French quite nicely. In fact, some of its best venues have been around for decades. Whether you’re in the mood for traditional coq au vin or the rich, gooey goodness of a lunchtime croque madame, Orlando can more than adequately help you make your French connection.


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Crepes. Croissants. Creme brulee. There are a host of reasons to pop in to Lake Mary's Chez Jacqueline, and they are all very, very French. Sweets and savories abound in this owner-operated neighborhood cafe, where customer service and butter-laden goodness keep locals coming back. Open for breakfast and lunch and serving an array of crepes, quiches and other goodies. No time to sit? No problem. Chez Jacqueline isn't heavy on tables, anyway, which makes it a phenomenal option for grab-and-go gourmet or, even better, for those looking to make friends at a coffee-spun gathering. Pastries, croissants, cookies, mousse and more will be a big hit, wherever you're toting your bakery box.




Enjoy the oasis of Lake Baldwin from the Cafe 906 Patio or the one you'll find inside: a small, family-run cafe featuring French sweets and savories and baked goodies, including many you may not have had the pleasure of trying up until now. Authentic pastries and quiches and rich eggy breakfasts and lunches crowd the menu, along with a number of wonderful baguette-encased sandwich offerings, as well. The French onion soup is a crowd-pleaser; you might crave it come summer, as well. Cafe 906's hosts are French natives, and their warm hospitality makes the food taste even better â€" or perhaps helps you forget you were supposed to start that diet today. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.




Brothers Francois and Phillipe Cahagne opened Croissant Gourmet in 2008 and in the time since it has become a local favorite in the walkable window shopper's paradise of Winter Park. While lunch time brings in all manner of diners clamoring for specialties like quiche Lorraine and croque monsieur, Croissant Gourmet's bakery is a universal draw, whether you're sitting down to enjoy one of their massive buttery namesakes with a cup of coffee or stopping in for a box of baked goodies to go. Favorites here include rich vanilla- or chocolate-filled eclairs, all manner of tarts (from apple Normandy to apricot), coconut and vanilla flans, classic Napoleons, an array of delicious and photogenic macarons and of course, the stars of the show: croissants. Stay away if you're on a diet.


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On a diet? Maybe you shouldn't come. The fluffy, flaky croissants beg for consumption. Sure, you may go the French route â€" perhaps a bit of jam alongside your coffee â€" but beware the American upsell, wherein an entire three- egg omelet (with your choice of add-ins, of course) is sandwiched inside. Sweet and savory crepes, rich, cheesy quiches, baguette and panini sandwiches round out a menu that, of course, has loads of pastries and other goodies to take home, as well. This is a favorite breakfast and lunch spot for the downtown work crowd, but plenty of folks pop in for weekend brunch, as well.


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Windermere


Duck into this charming Windermere café for a quick petit déjeuner and you may well walk out with a box of colorful, creamy, flaky pastries and a belly full of croque-monsieur. Yes, yes, My French Café does offer salads as part of its extensive menu, but only the iron-willed will manage to avoid the mine field of buttery madeleines , savory, béchamel-slathered crepes, chewy macarons.... You see where this is going with this, don't you? My French Café is helmed by a French-born, French-trained pastry chef and its many fans (particularly those who have been to France) oft opine that they can see the Eiffel Tower with every sip of coffee and every bite of soufflé.


Monsieur Paul debuted at the close of 2012 in the France Pavilion space formerly held by Bistro de Paris at the park's World Showcase. Named for famed late chef Paul Bocuse, who opened Les Chefs de France at EPCOT back in 1982 (this restaurant is right downstairs), his influence figures prominently in the menu, as do his honors and achievements in its decor. Upscale, though less formal than its predecessor, the menu focuses on French classical cuisine, featuring rich delights such as roasted duck breast and grilled beef tenderloin. Be sure to save room for La Sphére, a heavenly milk chocolate sphere of chocolate almond cake, praline and chocolate cream, with a light hazelnut biscuit, chocolate with candied oranges, ice cream, warm chocolate and Armagnac sauce to finish off your visit to Lyon via Disney.


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South Orange Ave


Refreshingly unpretentious, this well-received restaurant is run by a husband-and-wife team. Concerned more with food than reputation, they've nonetheless managed to succeed at both, allowing their menu to evolve and adapt to new ideas in cuisine while remaining true to tradition. Dinners here are served in its warm, French-country dining room or, on suitable evenings, in its quaint courtyard. From beginning (perhaps you might try homespun adapted classics like country-style fried green tomatoes topped with crab meat and served with mustard buerre blanc) to end (homemade tarte aux pommes) with a break in the middle for the classic braised dish that gives the restaurant its name, Le Coq au Vin has endured as one of Orlando's French favorites since it opened in 1976.


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Doctor Phillips


Residents of the Dr. Phillips neighborhood love their little slice of France, where married proprietors and French natives Claude and Chantal have been cultivating a following since 2007. Visit for an excellent morning coffee and perhaps pair it with a croissant or another of the buttery house pastries. Lunch brings with it lighter options â€" crisp salads showcasing fresh greens and tuna â€" but some varieties boast bacon, prosciutto, cheese, sour cream, thereby warranting a pass over (if you're looking an excuse) to sample their wonderful quiches. This is not a bistro laden with classic cuisine and heavy sauces. Le Café de Paris is casual, and so is the food. Rich offerings come in the form of sandwiches like the Croque Monsieur or â€" even better â€" the Croque Madame. Topped with a glistening fried egg, this is a knife-and-fork sandwich like its masculine counterpart, but each bite of the Madame comes drenched in wonderful, warm yolk. That's Mother Nature's rich French sauce.




Winter Park residents have adored this cozy bistro and its lovely, park side location since 1982. Owned and operated by French natives from the get-go, its cuisine is top-notch, serving the freshest ingredients available with daily specials dependent on market availability. From luscious lamb, served sandwich-style at lunch and on its succulent braised shank for dinner, to savory sides such as roasted Brussels sprouts and grilled artichoke hearts, Café de France offers intimacy and a warm, locals-only sort of atmosphere in a metro that's entirely too rife with chain venues. Not surprisingly, the wine selection is excellent, as well. Bon appétit!


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Downtown


As apropos for business lunch and post-work drinks as it is for a special occasion or date night, the names behind DoveCote are among the best-known in Orlando for fine dining and superb craft cocktails. Artisanal coffees greet morning visitors, the raw bar tempts pescatarians with colorful, flavorful seafood and the kitchen? Ooh la la! You are going to want to sample the culinary comfort and richness emanating from within. Come early and partake of the venue's superb beverage program; beer, wine, champagne and cocktails await, along with what many people say is the No. 1 onion soup in the City Beautiful.


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Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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