Located in the heart of Downtown Decatur, Cafe Alsace is a casual, rustic French restaurant that offers traditional French cuisine and Germanic dishes that originate from Alsace, France.
A native of Alsace herself, Benedicte Cooper opened the restaurant in 1997. In her bio, she states she wanted to “create a friendly environment where our patrons feel like they are home” and can “enjoy a great meal in a relaxed true French atmosphere.” The design and layout of the restaurant reflects that and gives off a casual and relaxed vibe unlike many American-style restaurants.
Design and Vibes
At first glance, Cafe Alsace gives off an whimsical, yet nostalgic feel to it. The outside of Cafe Alsace is quaint and has a standard chalkboard “specials” sign. The inside is small, yet inviting. An early-1900’s styled bicycled hangs in the middle of one of the wall while pictures of various French scenery surrounds it and dark streamers lie inches below them, bordering the perimeter of the restaurant. Restaurant awards are placed far above the entrance. Tables are so close together that others’ conversations can be heard and walking space is limited. While that may seem like a detraction for some, this adds to the restaurant’s charm for me.
When I went there for dinner, I found that the conversations and chatter around me became muffled background noise as I ate. The close proximity of tables made my time there feel like a shared experience. Similarly, the variety of people that ate there reinforced the casual atmosphere. Cafe Alsace is a place where anyone can feel at home and enjoy a taste of what France has to offer.
Staying true to its roots, Cafe Alsace has its menu in French, with English subtitles and descriptions below. While that may give the average non-French speaker a little bit of anxiety trying to pronounce menu items like “Spaetzle A L’alsacienne” and “Truite En Papillote”, the owner will be more than happy to help you decide what to eat as she takes your order.
Although it boosts an extensive list of entrees, I already knew I was going to get either the Venison or Beef Wellington before I even went to the restaurant. A Beef/Veal Wellington is a tenderloin wrapped in puff pastry. After seeing so many cooking shows that touted how classic and delicious they were, I decided Cafe Alsace to be the best choice for experiencing the dish for the first time. I ultimately went with the Venison Wellington, which was more expensive than the Beef Wellington but still worth it.
When the owner brought out my meal, the Wellington looked like those I had seen on TV. The food sat in a red wine reduction with roasted brussel sprouts on the side and chives sprinkled around the plate. The puff pastry complimented the veal well as added a crunchy yet buttery taste to the veal’s hearty flavors while the red wine sauce added a sweet and tangy taste. The brussel sprouts had more of a roasted flavor, which was accentuated by the sauce.
For dessert, the owner helped me to decide on the apple tart, which consists of caramelized apples, almonds, and raisins with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The warmth and tartness of the apples along with the sweetness of the raisins and the crunch from the almonds contrasted nicely with the cold and mild taste of the vanilla ice cream. The combo provided a satisfying closure to my evening.
Prices: Reasonable; Most items on the menu are within the $10-$15 range, with the desserts being less than $10 and a few of the more expensive wines and entrees being 20+.
Design and Vibe: 4 out of 5; It’s a casual restaurant but some may feel claustrophobic because of the close proximity of the tables and the limited walking space.
Food: 4.5 out of 5; They offer a long list of food items, so there would be few problems finding something you want to try. There is also an adequate amount of vegetarian and gluten free options as well. However, such an exhaustive list could overwhelm someone if they don’t know what to eat.