Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: Amelie's French Bakery

Have you ever seen the 2001 movie Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain, known in the United States simply as Amelie? This unique film is nothing short of, well, fabulous. It is smart and quirky and fun, though quite dark humor.

Of course, I’m not reviewing the movie (but watch it). Rather, I’m here to tell you about a place that reminds me a bit of the movie whenever I walk in (and not just because of the name): Amelie’s French Bakery. Amelie’s is truly a Charlotte institution. When my sister and niece came to visit, just after I moved to Charlotte, Amelie’s was on their must try list.

For the uninitiated, Amelie’s is a French bakery in NoDa (for the really uninitiated, NoDa is short for North Davidson). It opened in May 2008, and quickly became a favorite Charlottian hangout. Much like the movie of the same name, Amelie’s is smart, quirky and fun, and just a bit dark (well, inside anyway). It’s eclectic interior makes for a great café spot, and behind the store is a colorful indoor courtyard, complete with tables, chairs, and greenery (perfect for those of us with kids who may not sit still as readily). Amelie’s, it seems, has a place for everyone.

Speaking of a place for everyone, in 2010, they opened a location in Uptown on Tryon Street across from Mimosa Grill, for those of you who work nearby. I, personally, have a loyalty to the NoDa location - primarily because of ease of parking. I have learned, however, that lunch at Amelie’s should be just before or just after the noon rush. Otherwise, I find myself in quite a line, testament to Amelie’s popularity.

Like many cafés, you order at the front. If you have ordered anything requiring preparation, you will get a number, and can take any more immediately available food items to your chosen seat. Generally, they bring out the food quickly, and somehow manage to find me, even if I choose the most remote corner table in the courtyard. They are almost always pleasant at the front and attentive once the food has arrived. I wish I could say always, but I have admittedly had the service stumble once or twice.

The food itself really does remind me of France. When I first started going to Amelie’s, I found the food somewhat inconsistent, but it seems to have evened out (in a good way) in the past year. Their croissants have improved tremendously, and I recommend the chicken salad sandwich to those less adventurous among us. Their soups are fantastic, I haven’t had a bad one yet. The tartines – an open-faced sandwich with a selection of many different toppings – are to die for, although I have to admit, the first time I had them, I hoped for something bigger. The salads are equally delicious.

A colorful salad

But the best part of Amelie’s is dessert. Amelie’s has quite the selection of terrific desserts. I recommend the salted caramel brownies, introduced to me by the author of Charlotte Mom Favorites (check her out!). Those brownies have gained quite a following. Also good is the chocolate mouse. The chocolates are terrific and so far, I haven’t been led wrong.

No, seriously, YUM.
I’m not a coffee drinker (gasp!), so I can’t speak to their coffee, but I can tell you that my go-to drink is the lavender lemonade. In fact, I’m craving it so much that I ran to the Fresh Market to pick up some lemons and lavender to make it myself.

Be aware that the portions are not large. This is not the place to get overstuffed. Instead, this is a place for a breakfast or a smaller, lighter lunch and a splurge on dessert. Alternatively, head over in mid-afternoon for a nice tea. Be sure to order something to take home, and after dinner, break out your treat, turn on Amelie and enjoy.

Have some chocolate mousse for the road!


Amelie's French Bakery
2424 N. Davidson Street
Charlotte, NC 28205

Amélie's French Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

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