It may be overkill to claim that everything Jean-Robert de Cavel touches turns to gold. Then again, try scoring a lunch-hour table at his bustling French Crust Café, housed in a pint-sized Vine Street storefront. Many diners never noticed the space before the beloved French chef and his pastry posse—marshalled by co-owner and chocolatier Jean Philippe Solnom—appeared on the block. But as you wait (and wait) for your table, you’ll suspect that de Cavel does in fact bring the party wherever he goes. The menu is stocked with standards: rich white bean soup, mile-high quiches, and béchamel-laced crepes. And the salads aren’t exactly diet fare; choose the field greens with dried cherries and radishes over the crazy-rich duck leg confit if you plan to get any work done post-lunch.
French Crust ups the ante with its casseroles. The vol au vent, a creamy stew of scallops, shrimp, and mushrooms, arrives sandwiched between two puff pastry shells (the top one stays crisp, the bottom one soaks up the silky gravy). Despite the hearty portions, you’ll want to consider the crème brûlées and pot de crèmes, or grab a selection from the yeasty viennoiserie for an afternoon snack. The croissants really are good as gold.
French Crust Café 915 Vine St., downtown, (513) 621-2013, jrtable.com/french-crust-cafe. Breakfast and lunch Mon–Sat.
Originally published in the March 2014 issue.