Hearty fare, cozy environs and transporting atmosphere...that's what I dream of in a French restaurant. And that's almost exactly what I got from my first ever trip to Decatur's Cafe Alsace. Mr. AT and I have long talked of heading eastward for some German-influenced Alsatian cuisine, but it was only just this weekend that we finally tried it...and oh we're so glad we did!
The atmosphere is charmingly European at first glance with saffron walls and charming clutter, but the effect is somewhat marred if you look up. Decidedly un-French cafe exposed ducts and blah ceiling tiles detract from the coziness factor, but as long as you don't look skyward you can stay in your adorable petite french bubble.
Service is prompt and relaxed, just what you'd expect in an actual French cafe, without the eternal wait to get a check when you are ready to leave.
The menu balances fairly heavy German-style Alsatian fare with more traditional French classics, with several dishes actually being called out as "inspired by Julia Child." Some of the German influenced dishes would be quite heavy were it summer, but in the cool winter weather, they were just what we craved. We opted to split the Pate du Chef as a starter. Composed of homemade chicken liver, bacon, shallot and port pate, and served with baguette slices and cornichon's, this pate was heavenly. It looked like far too much to eat, but we were so entranced by it's creamy goodness that we ate every last bite. It's probably an ideal size for four to share, but for two gluttons like us, it was no match.
After such stick to your ribs fare, you'd think we'd slow down, and we did but we still put a pretty solid dent in our two entrees - Spaetzle a l’alsacienne and Choucroute Garnie. The former was an ooey gooey mix of soft egg pasta, ham, onions, cream and cheese. So creamy in fact that it looked like fondue more than a pasta dish. Suffice it to say, it was decadently rich and delicious but impossible to finish.
The Choucroute, a combination of three types of sausage, sauerkraut, red potatoes and mustard was somewhat less successful. It definitely evoked the region for me, but the sausages were a bit more hot dog like than I'd have preferred. That said, we finished off all the leftovers of both dishes the next morning for breakfast, so we certainly weren't turning up our noses at any of it!
Not only was the food lovely and the atmosphere relaxed, but the price was also incredibly reasonable for the experience. For $100 we split a lovely bottle of Alsatian Riesling, an appetizer and two entrees that lasted us two meals. Certainly not cheap, but in a world of $25 mediocre entrees, this place felt very reasonable for such a great night out.
The only thing that disappoints me is that I didn't go sooner. Cafe Alsace is a perfect relaxed date night kind of restaurant or a spot for quiet conversation with friends. We will most definitely back as this spot has the makings of a regular haunt. Mon Dieu, I'm in love!
Pros: delicious, hearty food; charming service and atmosphere (if you don't look up!), reasonable prices. Pate is a must try!
Cons: ugly ceilings!
121 E. Ponce De Leon
Decatur, Georgia 30030