One of the first questions people ask you in Los Angeles is “where are you from?” because most people aren’t actually from LA. I’m a rare exception, growing up a child of the beach amidst many transplants.
But these transplants are what I love most about my hometown. They create an international culture in Los Angeles, making it one of the most interesting cities to visit for travel-adicts.
So Francophiles, rejoice! The options are endless, but here are just a few of my favorite French spots in the city of anges:
You know you’re in for a real French treat when you walk in the doors and find a pastry kitchen full of bustling chefs screaming in French instead of a delicate pastry counter and cashier.
Caprice is a full functioning kitchen, delivering desserts to many of LA’s top restaurants. But if you time it right, you can get in and get a box of goodness without a white table cloth (or the high price mark-up!).
Jean-Louis Kippelen is the head Patissier-Chocolatier, and you’ll recognize him immediately by his boisterous voice and command of the sous. Despite his firm hold on the kitchen, he’s really a softie — humble, generous, and kind to customers (but shhh don’t tell anyone that, I think the French like to keep their great hospitality a secret).
I highly recommend the eclairs at Caprice, though the hazelnut cream puffs are also drool-worthy. My mom loves their crème brûlée and I’m almost certain that their cakes would be fantastic if I could only get my hands on one (HINT: pre-order).
If you’re in LA and want to bring your hosts a little house gift, I’m pretty sure a box of mini eclairs from LA’s best kept pastry secret would impress even the most jaded Los Angelinos.
Caprice Fine French Pastries
3213 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405
Amandine and Café Laurent are two of my favorite French cafés on the west side, so I put them head-to-head in a battle royale of the ultimate pastry: the croissant.
It was a tough battle and you’ll have to read the blog post to find out who won, but I’ll just say these are both worth a visit. Amandine is incredibly cute and Café Laurent feels like a real French café.
Grab some croissants to go or stick around and have café lunch – there’s just something fantastic about quiche on the patio!
4243 Overland Ave Culver City, CA 90230
12225 Wilshire Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90025
The best thing about this café is that it’s on Abbott Kinney, Venice’s famous strip of boutiques and beachy bars. The other best thing (I can never pick just one “best”) is that they really are a full on market — imported goods galore!
All my favorite goodies from France can be found packed in this tiny little market so you can really go grab an assortment and have a Venice picnic if you want.
If you’re more the sit down type, they’ve got a great patio deck and make the standard café fare in their kitchen as well. Their fish soup is awesome and if you get a little baguette to go with it, it’s a perfect beachy lunch.
French Market Café
2321 Abbot Kinney Blvd Venice, CA 90291
Blocks from the French Market Café is one of my favorite paper boutiques. Urbanic specializes in finely curated cards and paper goods and their curators seem to have a passion for French! At least, I’ve found quite a few cards here that can help you say, “merci!”
1644 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
So I’m a little biased as this is the beach I grew up on, but I love my Santa Monica beach. Sure, it’s not the cleanest or the least crowded on the coast and surfers will definitely argue with me on this, but you’ll LOVE picnicking on Santa Monica beach.
There are a few things that make it ideal:
1. there are many trash cans on the beach so you don’t have to walk across all of arabia to properly toss your disposables
2. the bike path is an awesome way to commute and work off those delicious snacks
3. there are SO many people here that I’m reasonably certain you could get away with sneaking wine on the beach (just hide the bottle)
4. the carousel is an awesome way to end a day on the sand
My last stop before I leave LA is always at an Italian Market that still has the widest selection of mustards that I have ever seen in the states.
If you’ve never had some of these crazy varieties of mustard, it’s definitely worth a spread! Blackcurrant mustard is one of my favorites (we’ve already talked about how the French love their black currant in cocktails!) and has a bright red color in the jar.
Of course, you can’t leave Bay Cities without trying one of their famous “Godmother” sandwiches. They’re quite perfect for plane rides or even beach picnics.
Bay Cities Italian Deli
1517 Lincoln Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90401
What French things do you do and eat in your hometown? Let me know in the comments!