So French Cafe Gives Sarasota a Pocketful of Paris

Good Bite

Pictured: A Complete Ham Crepe with Swiss Cheese and a Sunnyside Up Egg at So French Cafe. Photo by Naty Groovin.

Nestled into a shopping center on Lockwood Ridge Road, So French Cafe provides a tranquil oasis for guests to enjoy classic French bites. But under its dim lights on select evenings, the space transforms into a dance restaurant, a popular concept across Europe.

Owners Charly and Naty Groovin are no strangers to the business, having owned and operated dance restaurants, in which patrons enjoy drinks and a meal but also have the opportunity to twirl around a dedicated dance floor, in Paris for 30 years. After relocating to Sarasota and organizing events at various local establishments, they opened So French Cafe at the start of this year, serving up tasty and healthy delights.

Proud of France’s culinary traditions, the couple follows them in their cooking. “We make our baguettes the French way,” says Charly, “and we import flour from France that doesn’t have added sugar, preservatives and food coloring so they’re super authentic.” A star ingredient in the cafe’s sandwiches, the baguettes have a crispy exterior encasing a soft and delightful bread and a warm, intoxicating smell. For diners looking to try crepes, one of France’s most iconic dishes, the cafe doesn’t disappoint. In addition to the usual roundup of sweet crepes, often made with fruit, chocolate or nuts, the menu features savory crepes. While in the United States, many restaurants use the same egg, milk and flour-based batter for the crepe shell, So French Cafe offers a buckwheat option, the go-to batter for savory crepes back in France, encouraging guests to sample this exciting flavor. The gluten-free buckwheat flour has a charcoal color and robust taste that pairs well with the fillings. Charly recommends the Complete Ham Crepe, with Swiss cheese and a sunnyside-up egg served on buckwheat flour alongside an arugula salad with cherry tomatoes. On dance nights, Naty, dubbed the Crepe DJ, closes up shop to keep the dance floor cool without heat from cooking the crepes, but other bites are still available.

The eatery’s coffee complements every dining experience, from late-night dancing to late-morning study sessions over croissants. The Nutella Latte has become a bestseller and showcases the European knack for creating rich, multi-dimensional beverages that offer a pleasant hint of sweetness. “When guests come in with a purse from a designer like Chanel, Naty tops their drink with a stencil of the brand’s logo as a special surprise,” Charly adds.

While patrons can spot some French sensibilities, like the imported macarons, with a quick glance, others are hidden in plain sight. Charly and Naty have carried the French mindset of sustainability into their business, using compostable plates to decrease waste. Guests who attend designated dance nights have the opportunity to see the cafe, and its patrons, in full swing. The couple pushes the tables and chairs to the side and offers a Latin dance class (these styles have taken over Europe), then a social dance session. Food and wine flow late into the night like the dancers themselves. With the scent of baguettes lingering in the air and the glow of a streetlamp lighting the dance floor, you’ll be transported to the streets of Paris, swaying under the moonlight along the Seine.

So French Cafe, 6280 North Lockwood Ridge Rd., Sarasota, sofrenchcafe.com.

Pictured: A Complete Ham Crepe with Swiss Cheese and a Sunnyside Up Egg at So French Cafe. Photo by Naty Groovin.

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