For those of you who ever had the opportunity to go live in another country, chances are great that at some point, your started missing you home country’s food. A lot. As I came from France to study in the Golden State, my nightly dreams soon started to be made of baguettes, cheese and red wine. And as much as I love American food, being able to eat one of those traditional dishes I grew up with after several months without them would be a real pleasure. So when I heard of a French restaurant, Renaud’s, on State Street, I didn’t think about it twice.
Renaud’s is simultaneously a patisserie and a bistro, so you can either go to enjoy some French pastries or a breakfast or lunch on their outdoor terrace. The French pastries include croissants, chocolate croissants (the famous pain au chocolat), French meringues and other cakes. One big surprise here: since it is just a Patisserie and not a Boulangerie, that means they do not sell bread. Not being able to enjoy a fresh-baked baguette is a heart-breaker when you know how emblematic bread is of French culinary culture.
I went there during lunch time. The lunch menu enables you to choose between tartines, salads, sandwiches or specialties like the iconic Croque Monsieur or the Quiche Lorraine, two classic French dishes. I tried two meals: First, the Renaud’s Salad, composed of organic mixed greens with Dijon mustard dressing, grilled chicken, tomatoes, aged Gruyere cheese and a hard-boiled egg served with a toasted garlic baguette (at least, we can find some bread in the dishes). Then, the Raclette Cheese Tartine, composed of melted Raclette cheese served over buttery golden Yukon potatoes, caramelized onions and smoked bacon on multigrain toast. All the tartines are served with a small organic mixed-green salad.
The Renaud’s Salad, from a French point of view, is really basic, when it comes to both the plating and the taste. As Dijon Mustard, Gruyere and other toppings are very typical, there is nothing really crazy about the dish. But the whole point is that the taste is really different from what you would usually find on an American salad. Those ingredients all have pretty unique tastes that will undoubtedly positively surprise you with their rich mix of sweet and salty. The texture of the salad was soft and pleasant, with a perfect quantity of dressing.
The Raclette Cheese Tartine was the biggest surprise of the day. Raclette cheese is famous in France, especially during winter time, when you put melted raclette cheese on potatoes and charcuterie such as ham or bacon. Here, the tartine is more or less the American version of that French dish. Except from the cheese, the ingredients used are common here, but the mix of those two different cultures results in a delicious and tasty dish. You can perfectly feel the strength of the cheese and the sweetness of the potatoes and the onions in perfect harmony.
As for the price, it is pretty low and accessible to a student with a higher budget and usually falls between $8 and $12 for a single dish. If the meals are not as big and complete as a $12 lunch would be somewhere in Isla Vista, they are definitely worth the extra spending. If you want to eat something different from what you usually have the opportunity to taste, and above all, if you want to eat some quality dishes, this lovely and welcoming place will surely surprise you by the variety of flavors they have to offer. Bon appétit!
Renaud’s Patisserie and Bistro can be found at multiple locations around Santa Barbara, including its downtown shop at 1324 State St. Suite N. Lunch is served daily from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. For more information on what Renaud’s has to offer, visit www.renaudsbakery.com.