Abraham: Atmosphere sings at charming La Boheme

Molly Abraham
The Detroit News

The strength of the local restaurant scene depends as much on the offbeat little places as it does on the glamorous big budget spots.

La Boheme is a case in point. Tucked into a storefront on the corner of Kercheval and Parker, serving just light breakfast and lunch, it is serene and peaceful. The pale blue walls are done up with a pair of outsized French music hall posters and one especially nice detail, two small clocks, one showing Detroit time and the other the time in Paris. Antique teapots and cups are displayed all around the one room, and some of the antique pieces are for sale.

The Nicoise Salad has albacore tuna with anchovies, olives and a hard boiled egg over gourmet greens with cucumber, tomato and red onion.

Instead of saying breakfast and lunch, I should really characterize it as serving petit dejeuner and dejeuner. This is French to the core, a charming place with just seven tables and a few perches at a counter.

The proprietor is Jean Jeannot, a Parisian who moved here in 2015 with his partner, Eve de Castro. La Boheme, named for one of their favorite operas, opened on Valentine’s Day of this year, with a menu of simple French dishes from the croissants and baguettes of petit dejeuner to the quiches and croques of dejeuner. And, of course, there are classic French pastries, some displayed in a glass case in the room. I couldn’t resist having a chocolate éclair on one of my two visits.

While Jeannot prepares the main dishes, the pastries are from two notable local bakers, Matt Knio and Chloe Sabatier, who happens to be another transplant from France.

Vanessa Mekled and Hass Saad of Corktown share a laugh during a light snack Saturday afternoon at La Boheme.

Using local purveyors is important, Jeannot says. All of the cheeses and ham, however, are imported from France. “We want to share our French way of life,” he says.

In addition to the choice of three sandwiches, including Croque Monsieur (Gruyere and ham on grilled bread) and Croque Mademoiselle (smoked salmon, cucumber and dill creme on grilled bread), there are three salads, Nicoise, Parisienne (mixed greens with toasted walnuts, raisins, ham and cheese, and the Marseillaise which is basically a Croque Mademoiselle in salad form.

In addition to the concise menu, there is also emphasis on coffee and tea. Great Lakes Coffee in three blends comes made-to-order French press style and the cream for the coffee is in a little china pitcher, not in paper packages. The green and black teas are from Palais des Thes in nine varieties. Everything is done with a sense not of formality, but of nicety. It’s almost impossible not to relax in this setting.

Starting this month, La Boheme will begin serving crepes. If they prove popular, they will be added to the menu.

Because the building includes a spacious basement room, the couple decided to make it a place for a changing array of art exhibits, musical performances and other cultural events as an extension of the café. Currently on display through the month of June are the paintings of Alphonso Cox.


La Boheme

8100 Kercheval at Parker, Detroit

Call: (313) 398-5808

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Hours: 9 a.m-4 p.m. Tues.-Sun.

Prices: Breakfast items $2.50-$6.50, lunch $11-$13.50, pastries $2-$6.

Credit cards: No

Liquor: No

Noise level: Low

Parking: Street

Wheelchair access: No barriers

What the ratings mean

★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good

★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding