There's always that one restaurant that is small, tidy, tucked into a corner, and amazing. An undiscovered gem, if you will. I'm talking about a place that is cute, has great food, and is priced in such a way that a regular meal there is not a huge extravagance, yet still a treat.
Tall order, right?
St. Tropez in Encinitas is such a restaurant. Intimate and fancy enough for a date, yet casual enough for families to enjoy with children. Sit outside to enjoy that glorious California sunshine, let the littles run, or bask in a sunset for a romantic meal.
Aside from the great ambience, the food is solid. The menu is a medley of Franco-American cuisine with crepes, sandwiches, entrees, and pastries!
St. Tropez has a full menu for breakfast that would be excellent for a brunch, particularly with the delicious pastries available. We went for dinner, so the entree menu was our interest. The menu is quite extensive -- choose a sandwich, salad, crepe, entree, soups -- it's a lot! Since it was dinner, we chose two entrees, the coq au vin and the pot roast.
The pot roast was a huge helping, and delicious! The meat was tender and full of beefy flavor, with loads of rich gravy. The vegetables were crisp and fresh, sautéed in butter to tease out their sweetness.
Coq au vin is literally, rooster in red wine. However, capon isn't a favored meat in the U.S., so normally, you'll find chicken used in your coq au vin. I can't say what the "correct" method of preparation of this dish is, as each home cook seems to have a different idea of the best method. The version of this dish served at St. Tropez is a generous portion of slow braised chicken, served with a light wine sauce, topped with bacon, celery, and carrots. The chicken was incredibly tender and the sauce was perfect for dipping the bread!
The soups are all homemade with fresh ingredients, so I couldn't resist trying out the French onion soup with melted cheese on top. There is just something about the salty-sweet beef broth with onions and bread soaking in the rich soup. With melted cheese on top, even in hot weather, it's enticing. On a cold day, with the winds of the Pacific creating a bracing torrent, I'd say that this soup is heavenly.
Of course we had to try out the fresh pastries! Almond croissants are my absolute favorite, and I was excited to try out this (giant) beautiful baked good! Biting into the crispy outer shell and discovering the sweet almond paste center is pretty much perfection for me.
Our other dessert was the ubiquitous French eclair. A classic pastry dessert, this one was big enough to split, and bursting with the requisite vanilla custard.
I absolutely adored this gem of a spot in Encinitas! Such a great place to grab a quick bite or enjoy a long brunch with all the trimmings, it's a wonderful little place to visit!