Cafe Gourmandises is strikingly friendly, and it seems Christophe Houy and Jennifer Allen have all the time in the world to explain what they offer and what is unique about their food. We came on Memorial Day, on a day where they were largely “cleaned out” by a previous customer. There was no bread for sale. Trays that would contain baguettes and honey bread lay empty when we arrived.
The restaurant is on the far end of a strip mall in Suwanee and it’s easy to miss. We passed it once before turning around to come back to it. Inside, the floor and tables are clean, spare and modern in style. There is a fine bakery cabinet, glass, lighting and chrome, half empty this day. Towards the back is a stand up refrigerator with soft drinks and on the walls, a nice collection of still lifes.
I wouldn’t have known about Gourmandises but for a bang up review by Chow Down Atlanta, and my wife had been collecting articles out of the newspaper talking about the fine French bakery in Suwanee. We started discussing going there early on Memorial Day. It was promising. My wife usually cannot eat in French restaurants at all, because she doesn’t like the ingredients found in many rich sauces (e.g. milk, cream, cheese, butter). But the cafe was, among other things, a bakery, with a focus on bread. Bread and my wife get along wonderfully well.
When we walked in, they had some food choices and some specials in chalk up on a blackboard. When my daughter saw that escargot was an option, she suddenly became really happy about coming here. My wife chose a turkey sandwich and I had one of the daily specials, a filet mignon crusted in peppercorns. Filet mignon was something my mother would make back in the 1960s, wrapping it in bacon. And filet mignon was a little tricky to cook, because if you didn’t give the meat enough fat, it would end up tough. So yes, I was curious. And the price was reasonable, about 15.00, if I recall correctly.
As we waited for the food, the restaurant began to fill up a bit, and I heard Jennifer explain to the others that there were “no crepes, no croques, and no lamb”. It wasn’t long though before Christophe brought out the food, warning my daughter not to touch the metal plate with the escargot. “It’s hot,” he explained. My wife’s sandwich was huge, so much food I knew she would share it. And the filet mignon was spot on, tender, juicy, and a perfect medium rare. It was crusted in peppercorns and covered in a tasty gray sauce. It came with fries, the fries mixed with a bit of herb.
My daughter loved her escargot and they were finished before I could ask for a taste. Herbs were stuffed inside the shells, and on top of the hot metal plate was a layer of salt. As I expected, my wife shared about half of her turkey sandwich with the rest of us. My daughter swallowed half of the remaining sandwich and I finished off the rest of it. The bread was great, crusty, tasty and at least as good as its fillings.
Despite being low on baked goods, they still had an ample supply of sweets. My wife got a lemon meringue tart, and my daughter their lemon dome. I got a dessert they call a “Pleasure”, which has alternating layers of chocolate and light filling. The top was caramelized, and had a stripe of chocolate bits down the middle of the top.
All the desserts we tried were top notch. The lemon tart had a subtle creamy lemon flavor, the dome was a stronger lemon flavor, with a candy crust on the outside. What I remember of the “Pleasure” were the really intense chocolate flavors that dominated.
Afterwards, we meandered into the historic district of Suwanee (beautiful houses and churches, worth the couple minutes to get there) and then slipped back to the Interstate down Suwanee Dam Road. It was a terrific early afternoon jaunt, and the fantastic food just set the tone.
Verdict: Friendly, unpretentious, exceptional food, exceptional flavor, exceptional value.
686 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard
Suwanee, GA 30024
The easiest way to get to Cafe Gourmandises from Snellville is to head west down Pleasant Hill, head north on I-85, head west on Sugarloaf Parkway until it ends, and then turn right and head down Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. If, say, you want to make this a modest detour on the way to the Mall of Georgia, just head north a bit from the Cafe and turn right at Suwanee Dam Road. It will take you back to I-85.