It didn’t take long for the space that formerly housed Babette’s Feast, a quick-service sandwich-and-pastry stop on the north end of Second Street for nearly two decades, to get scooped up. Locals were sad to see Babette’s close—but there was good news: The new tenants came bearing baked goods, too. Ô Gourmet French Café & Bakery, which opened at the end of March, is Long Beach’s latest artisanal bakery. Plus, Pandor, the other French bakery on the street, is all the way at the other end of Second, which is too far to walk to when you’re craving croissants, as well as way too close to drive to and hunt for another parking spot.
Ô Gourmet French Café & Bakery owner Eric Djomby, who hails from France (as does his business partner, Benoit Jussaume), sought to bring their traditional French bakery across OC borders after the success of their sleepy San Juan Capistrano locale. How is business different in Long Beach? For starters, “the daily traffic is more intense,” says Djomby.
Open at 7 a.m. daily, the café offers a wide range of casual French fare—that’s if you can make it past the bakery case, where dozens of mini almond croissants and perfectly spiraled, sugary palmiers greet you. Half the case is dedicated to a rainbow of macarons. And everything is prepared fresh in house.
Among the breakfast options are a fresh baguette served open-faced with jam and butter and the Morning Brioche, which comes with bacon, cheese, béchamel sauce and a fried egg. There are salads and sandwiches for lunch, but don’t overlook the menu section titled “The Frenchie’s.” That’s where you’ll find the good stuff: croques, quiches and crepes.
“The Croque Monsieur is our most popular,” says Djomby. “You can even make that sexy by adding a fried egg on the top, and that’s how the Croque Madame was born.”
That Croque Monsieur—of which a few uncooked versions wait in said display case, just begging to be thrown onto a scalding cast-iron griddle—comes as a deceivingly dainty sandwich. Under cheese-crusted bread oozes velvety béchamel sauce and tangy, funky Gruyère, and somewhere in there are a few thin shavings of ham. To cut the richness, the sandwich is accompanied by leafy greens tossed in a light, sweet vinaigrette.
Asked for his personal favorites, Djomby demurs. “Hard to say; I love all of them,” he says. “But the Croque Monsieur, the quiche Lorraine and the feta one are my favorite—c’est trop bon.”
The quiches are a good 2 inches high, their golden, buttery crusts built up and filled with soft, fluffy eggs. The Lorraine comes stacked almost like a cake, with evenly layered strips of Swiss cheese and bacon. The dish is paired with the same (and welcomed) simple green salad.
Right now, Ô Gourmet offers only breakfast and lunch, closing up shop by 6:30 p.m. most days. But expect to see some additions to the café’s menu very soon. When asked about a future dinner service, Djomby teases, “Yes, we are getting close to presenting our new menu.”
Ô Gourmet French Café & Bakery, 4621 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 987-4536; ogourmetcafe.com.