When I think of quaint, sea-side towns — the ones not yet overrun by tourists — I imagine they are filled with tiny cafes whose owners run the kitchen and whose families take care of the front of the house, where every customer is greeted by name.
Key West is by no means a secret sea-side town. It’s not exactly overrun by tourists (yet), but the tourists are there and, although somewhat quaint, the island is most definitely a city. But those little cafes still exist there, far off of the popular Duval Street, in small houses converted into restaurants, with petite porches transformed into patios barely big enough for a few tables.
One of those cute Key West cafes is Frenchies Cafe. The French cafe, upon first look, could be mistaken for a house. On second glance, it could be passed by for a bakery or simple coffee shop. But in reality it is a wonderful French cafe serving favorites from France. Even the chef behind the open kitchen (if you want to call it that) speaks French.
Frenchies Cafe in Key West
Inside, there is seating for maybe ten. Possibly fourteen if you count the bar that also serves as a window where the one and only chef passes the dishes to the one and only server to be taken to tables. There is a case of beautiful French pastries, the menu is written by hand on a chalkboard above it, and if you ask the server her opinion on any dishes, she’ll deflect the question with a shyness that’s shocking considering she works in hospitality.
All those quirks aside — it is Key West, after all — Frenchies serves some phenomenal food. Kyle and I both opted for my favorite French dish: the Croque Monsieur ($10.75). I had mine topped with two sunny side up eggs, making it a Croque Madame ($12.75).
If we strained our necks, we could see the chef in the kitchen preparing the food: first placing brightly-colored side salads with delicately chopped red onions on two plates, then meticulously swiping slices of bread with béchemel sauce, layering the bread with thick slices of ham, topping it with another slice of bread, then generously sprinkling freshly grated gruyere until the sprigs of cheese draped over the now-ham sandwiches, and popping them in the oven. Soon, the delicious smell of melting cheese wafted throughout the tiny space and I knew our brunch was almost ready.
The Croque Monsieurs, once they were placed in front of us, were things of beauty in themselves. I am partial to the glorious sight of a perfectly cooked sunny side up egg, exactly like the pair that topped my Croque Madame. Morning light spilled in from the paned windows onto our tiny table, illuminating the masterpiece that was our food. The amazingly rich sandwiches — eaten with a knife and fork — are a bombardment of cheese, creamy sauce and, with the Croque Madame, gooey yolk.
Frenchies is too authentic to be labeled a “hidden gem.” It’s an actual hidden restaurant that we walked by several times before noticing, and only searched it out once it was recommended by several friends. (Thank you for the suggestion!) It was my favorite brunch during our week in Key West and, if you happen to be so lucky to be on the island, I highly recommend going there.
Go to Frenchies for :: a French-inspired brunch or French pastries. Notes :: Open from 7 am – 3 pm every day except Wednesday (closed all day). They don’t have a website, but check out their facebook page or, for a menu, I uploaded a picture of it on zomato.com.
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