Café Coralie, the sister café to Patisserie Coralie, occupies the former police outpost at 633 Howard St. Pascal Berthoumieux opened this second location in partnership with the City of Evanston, which offered support for purchase of the building. Café Coralie follows the path of the Peckish Pig, the Café’s restaurant neighbor just two doors east, which was also established with support from the City of Evanston.
The Café’s director of operations Fiona Lazar called the cafés niche “upscale French.” “There are so many hipster coffee shops. Hipster has been done and re-done.”
The café offers a great number of high teas, Ms. Lazar said, and the Café Coralie tea has been compared to high tea offered in downtown Chicago and come out with higher marks of service, food and price point. “We offer good food and service and we don’t rush those who come in for our high tea.” She also said that they are not afraid to close the store down for special celebrations. Ms. Lazar had her own bridal shower at the café last July, just before her wedding in August.
With a master’s degree in hospitality and management, Ms. Lazar could have ended up in a large corporation, but said that she admires the work of Mr. Berthoumieux. “He’s built something intimate and personal that you don’t find in the corporate sector. And, I get to do so many things in this role; marketing, human resources, private events, wholesale, special orders, face to face services. My every day is so interesting.”
While the downtown Patisserie Coralie draws more traffic from the North Shore, the Howard Street location draws more from Rogers Park and greater Chicago. But Ms. Lazar noted that this Café Coralie is much quieter than Patisserie Coralie. Mr. Berthoumieux added that this is because there is much less foot traffic in the area.
He had known that this would likely be the case, but because of the partnership with the City of Evanston and the fact that the space houses the company’s wholesale kitchen, Mr. Berthoumieux says it works for them. Also, he said he is dedicated to being on Howard Street. “We wanted this to be a café for the neighborhood, for the Howard community, and are interested in socioeconomics. I don’t like food deserts. Our pastries are good for everyone.”
Mr. Berthoumieux also spoke of the fact that big corporations have been pushing out smaller independently owned cafes. “In the past 20 years Dunkin, Starbucks … slowly, but surely it’s become small businesses against big businesses. We have a simple recipe: small batches and love of the product.”
Solid traditional recipes are also part of the Coralie approach, but Mr. Berthoumieux said those are combined with plenty of room for things that are not part of the traditional French café repertoire. “We honor the traditional American desserts as well. We had our take on pumpkin pie and on pumpkin cheesecake. We balance between French and American taste buds.”
Asked what they are known for, Mr. Berthoumieux said people come to both locations for an experience that evokes the feel of a French café and macarons that are “the best outside of France.” But, then he paused and said, “We use the same recipe and the secret is really in using the best ingredients, which we do. We use extremely good butter. So, who can say that they are any better in France?”
Café Coralie will open a third location on the campus of Northwestern in January.