In this era of “big moods” and “vibes,” the atmosphere cultivated by a cafe is more imperative than ever. The ebb and flow of customers and noise must become part of a shop’s personality. Morning rush and lunch crowds must marry just right. At Café Montrose (recently rebranded from C’est La Vie to encompass their extra-Parisian expertise), everything feels organic and authentic — joyous to occupy any time of day.
Start your morning at Café Montrose
Personally, my basal level of happiness each day is determinant upon whether I have had coffee and a pastry. Being an offshoot of Lincoln in Pasadena, one can trust in Café Montrose to do it up right in this department. The pastry case is not quite the mecca possessed by its counterpart just east down the 210, but daily quiche, pies, croissants, cookies, scones, cakes and so on are piled impressively high in the display, nonetheless.
Cheery workers are ready to serve you anything from the selection toasted up for your enjoyment. Perhaps a pistachio cake, lusciously moist with a nutty sweetness akin to amaretto. And is that fresh apricot lurking just below the surface? You sly devils, you Café Montrose bakers. You know the way to my heart.
Next up? A veggie-packed breakfast tart and a cortado to wash it down. Oh, flaky filo dough cradle: you need no adornment and yet you are dressed to the nines! Tasty spinach, egg over hard, cheese, cherry tomatoes are a pleasure in each bite. Among the din of morning coffee-runners and a light breeze coming by the brick-and-ivy patio, I feel European.
Now, as a coffee connoisseur/artisanal barista/Alton Brown enthusiast, I was excited to see a cortado listed on the drink menu. Most places will make you one if you ask, but few advertise it, and those who do generally know their way around a portafilter. My hopes were high. Traditionally, a cortado is a one-to-one ratio of espresso to steamed milk served in a Gibraltar glass at a warm to mildly hot temperature with just the teeniest bit of foam. Let’s run Café Montrose’s technique through the wringer, shall we? Tasty espresso: check. It isn’t the best in town (that’s Constellation in La Cañada Flintridge), but it’s pretty darn good. Foam level: check. Just under a centimeter of the airy stuff on top. No milk art, but I’ll let it slide. Temperature: hmmm. No scalded milk, but certainly too hot for a traditional cortado. No bother, though; after a minute I downed that puppy with joy.
The question remains: Why come here for your morning fix instead of Berolina, just steps away, where an impressive display of baked goods occupies half the store? Calmer ambiance and better coffee. Boom. But why come here instead of Tickle Tree Café, just up the street, where the coffee is third-wave-approved and the seating is better? Superior pastries (and menu, but we’ll get to that). Boom. Once again, the balance at Café Montrose is made evident.
Hit brunch with the gals/boys at Café Montrose
The menu here is loaded with goodies for the foodie, the breakfast enthusiast and the overlap on that Venn diagram. I will admit I was taken aback by the prices at first ($13 toast for order-at-the-counter service?), but once the food arrived, there was no doubt it was money well spent.
The priciest menu item is the Smokehouse Burger, which will run you $16, but it’s a damn good burger. Ignorance is bliss … unless it’s thinking that the bacon cheeseburger cannot be improved upon. Café Montrose knew better: Garlic aoli and maple onion jam (please just give me a jar and a spoon for that stuff) creates the bacon cheeseburger’s greatest and final form. The fries on the side were — and this is not a drill — the best I have ever had. I almost attacked poor Ariel, our server, when she asked if she could clear the plate still harboring two morsels. These fries were piping hot, crispy, of the shoestring variety and evenly, lovingly coated in salt, dill and Italian parsley. I will be back for a glass of wine and plate of fries often.
Mushroom toast from the day’s specials constituted yet another highlight. Sautéed mushrooms rested on crunchy, hearty bread with a few hefty slabs of ooey-gooey, melty brie cheese and an expertly poached egg to top off this slice of umami heaven. A side salad with a simple, bright dressing and heavy-handed dandelion made a great companion. Boomers can keep ragging on the avocado toast, but I’ll be damned if they start dissing my mushroom toast.
Sample wines and do some light shopping at Café Montrose
Rosé tasting in the middle of the week? Must be summer. The shop will be doing things like this fairly regularly — at least for the next few months — so I recommend staying updated via Instagram. After sipping out on the patio, one may wander inside and ponder the many wares around the shop ranging from artsy party hats and paper straws to yerba mate to jams and dry goods. Pick up a pastry and a gift for a loved one, grab a latte for yourself, take a slice of quiche to go. Do whatever you like! Café Montrose will welcome you in your many ventures.
When C’est La Vie became Café Montrose a few months ago, no real change in identity occurred. It is still the diverse and lovely gourmet cafe a town like Montrose needs. Happily munching as I peer past the red Dutch doorway out to the street, my shadow cast against the striped wallpaper, it is apparent to me that, despite the apparent identity crisis, Café Montrose knows exactly what it’s doing. This spot is humbly, truly, precisely what it is — no more, no less. If that makes no sense to you, come see for yourself sometime.
3459 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale | (747) 255-7046 | cafemontrose.net
Major Cards/Beer and Wine