La Petite Dauphine is a great space, the black tendrils and swirls of the ceiling a perfect counterpoint to the bamboo floor, the warm white walls and wainscoting, the vases with their purple flowers marching along the wall. There’s a quaint sophistication to the café aesthetics, including the selection of pastries from Au Fournil—the almond croissant is particularly nice—as well as the newspapers and magazines up front, a smattering of local publications as well as the likes of Le Monde Diplomatique.
It’s the sort of spot that, I think, will one day be a solid neighborhood eat-in and take-out business; the kind of place where you can stop by for a nice bite to eat either there or at your desk at the office. The smoked salmon, a lovely light meal, is a good indication of what Dauphine is striving for. Fleshy, dense and pleasantly smoky, it’s also presented well, with shredded egg yolks and whites, the tangle of red onion, and flaky-crusted brioche triangles.
That said, owner David Smith tells us that he’s still essentially in coffee-shop mode; though the place has been open nearly three months, the search continues for a permanent full-time chef. I have high hopes that Dauphine will find its footing as its evolution continues; in the meanwhile, I’d suggest skipping the pricier menu items for now. Croque monsieur, for instance, is the sort of preparation that you’d assume this wonderfully francophilic spot would do flawlessly. And while the sweet ham, its edges charred and addictive, proved to be a nice foil for the brie—not traditional, but a clever twist nonetheless—the center of the pain perdu encasing it all arrived cool, undermining the comfort-food homeyness the dish should impart.
For now, I’d simply take advantage of La Petite Dauphine’s strong suits and stop by for an excellent pastry, a well-made latte or cappuccino, and perhaps a plate of that smoked salmon.
2029 Walnut St. 267.324.5244. lapetitedauphine.com
Cuisine: French cafe.
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 8am–6pm; Sun., 8am–4pm.
Price Range: $2–$18.
Atmosphere: Charming, sophisticated, French-but-not-forced.
Food: Solid ideas that need a chef to execute them better.
Service: Pleasant and competent.
PW's Taste of Philly 2014