Food & Drink

Bonjour Baltimore

Café Poupon delivers authentic French bistro fare.

Pâtisserie Poupon has been known as one of Baltimore’s best bakeries since its opening in 1986 on the outskirts of Little Italy, so we found ourselves saying, “ooh, la, la” to the news that an offshoot bistro, Café Poupon, was springing up in the heart of the downtown district. Tucked in a storefront space, the cafe recreates the charming bistros of Paris’s Left Bank with its oversized French exhibition posters, baskets of baguettes, and rows of too-pretty-to-eat petit fours on display. The menu exudes a similar culinary vérité. Whether you want a light bite or something heartier, there’s something for everyone here, though it won’t be easy to select from among the items including smoked salmon salad with capers and hard-boiled eggs ($13.95) and shrimp salad tossed in lemon mayonnaise ($13.95).

We went for the most classic offerings on hand, including a salad niçoise ($12.50), a ham sandwich ($6.95), and a petit 5-inch spinach quiche ($7). My companion, who honeymooned in Paris last year, was impressed by the salad’s authenticity with its moist albacore tuna, niçoise olives, and steamed string beans on a bed of mesclun, while several untraditional elements—including crostini with olive tapenade and fresh artichoke hearts—added a nice touch, too.

The just-out-of-the-oven spinach quiche was certainly among the best we’ve sampled in the city, with its savory shell and creamy custard. The ham sandwich—stacked with several thin slices of comte cheese and served with a nose-clearing, Dijon French mustard on a crusty baguette, was for discerning Francophiles as well.

Though we’d had our fill, we couldn’t resist taking a few desserts to go, including a macaroon—an airy almond flour cookie pressed around a passion-fruit filling—and a caramel Napoleon, or milles-feuille (a thousand leaves) as the French call it. And speaking of sweets, parting filled us with sweet sorrow, but c’est la vie—we are counting the days until we can return.