Dining » Cafe

Review: Like Home Is a Delicious Taste of France in St. Louis



By the time she was fourteen, Clemence Pereur knew she wanted to cook. The owner of Midtown's three-month-old café Like Home enrolled in a culinary program right out of high school in her native France and put her nose down, learning everything that she could about cooking. Her commitment to her studies paid off in the form of a spot in the kitchen of a restaurant. Pereur was sailing toward her dream — until it turned into a nightmare.

Not long after she reported for duty, Pereur was confronted with a horribly unpleasant workplace dynamic. Her direct superior was a chauvinistic chef who made it very clear that he believed the only kitchen a woman belongs in is the one in her home. Though she tried to suffer through and prove her worth, the chef's mistreatment proved too much to bear. Pereur left the restaurant — and cooking. She assumed it was for good.

Pereur returned to school, this time to study communications and business, but she could not shake her calling. An idea began to take shape: Why not combine her new degrees with her culinary background and learn how to open her own business? Not only would it allow her to earn a living doing what she loved, it would afford her the opportunity to do it on her own terms — misogynists be damned.

Macarons are available in flavors such as chocolate, blueberry, lemon, caramel and pistachio. - PHOTO BY MABEL SUEN
  • Macarons are available in flavors such as chocolate, blueberry, lemon, caramel and pistachio.

It's a compelling story, but the real kicker is this: Despite her French background, and her eventual graduation from Alain Ducasse's prestigious Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie, Pereur decided to open that business in St. Louis.

The catalyst for that decision was a one-year stint a few years ago as the assistant pastry chef at the Saint Louis Club. Even though Pereur had worked throughout France, from chocolate shops to Disneyland Paris, it was her time in St. Louis that made a powerful impression. After recruiting her mother — a hairdresser-turned-baker/pastry chef — to assist in her trans-Atlantic adventure, Pereur returned to Missouri, determined to make her dream a reality.

That dream is Like Home, the delightful café, bakery and chocolate shop that opened on the corner of Vandeventer and Lindell in Midtown in February. True to its name, the space evokes both the quaint charm of the sort of French patisserie you'd find in the Pereurs' hometown, as well the comfort you'd find in your own living room. Modern green couches with stylish accent pillows, a couple of cozy chairs and whimsical artwork dot the light-filled space, while a handful of bistro tables make up the remainder of the seating.

Customers order at the counter. - PHOTO BY MABEL SUEN
  • Customers order at the counter.

When you enter Like Home, you're greeted by the pastry case, a dazzling display of goodies that look like props for a gourmet magazine photo shoot. The beautiful wares might tempt you to head straight for dessert. Don't, because you'd be a fool to miss out on the café's excellent lunchtime fare.

That includes the prosciutto tartine, a crispy baquette spread with cream cheese, then sprinkled with walnuts and goat cheese. Paper-thin slices of luxurious prosciutto lay across the open-faced sandwich like flower petals.

Like Home's other sandwiches are equally worthwhile. The salmon tartine pairs pieces of the hot-smoked fish with tomatoes and artichoke hearts. For the veggie sandwich, avocado, artichoke hearts, cucumber, tomato and cream cheese are placed between slices of brioche like a beautifully amped-up tea sandwich.

The cafe's cheese plate with an assortment of French and Italian cheeses, served with housemade bread. - PHOTO BY MABEL SUEN
  • The cafe's cheese plate with an assortment of French and Italian cheeses, served with housemade bread.

Roast beef on baguette is shockingly good — the tender meat the quality you'd find on the quintessential French dip, the onions so caramelized and translucent they melt the instant they touch the tongue. Melted American cheese and au jus make this a satisfying knife-and-fork endeavor.

Though I appreciate that there are many different ideas of the perfect quiche, Like Home's version is not my preference. The luscious egg custard is the ideal setting for both the ham and gruyere and the tomato and goat cheese filling, and the crust was appropriately flaky. However, on two different occasions, the top of the quiche was blackened, leaving me to believe that this is intentional. I assume they are going for caramelization, but it ends up reading as overcooked. As such, the top becomes a toughened layer, making it difficult to navigate without sawing at it with a knife and fork.

One of Like Home's specialties is the croque madame. - PHOTO BY MABEL SUEN
  • One of Like Home's specialties is the croque madame.

The Croque Madame, however, is everything that is right in a sandwich. Gruyere is bruleed so perfectly onto white toast, it's impossible to know where the cheese ends and the bread begins. Slices of the cheese are placed inside the sandwich as well, melting into the slices of ham. An over-easy egg is placed on top, presenting its liquid yolk as a decadent sauce. It's the perfection of the form.

Lest you've forgotten about those pastry offerings, a bittersweet chocolate croissant that doubles as a butter sponge will shake you out of your savory reverie. Its glamorous sister, the chocolate and almond croissant, is a case study in how much beauty can be heaped onto layers of buttery dough. Though the pastry looks like it would be just too much, the flavor remains surprisingly understated, balancing the bittersweet chocolate with a whisper of almond sweetness.

The salmon tartine with a house salad. - PHOTO BY MABEL SUEN
  • The salmon tartine with a house salad.

The Pereurs add to their parade of delights with cinnamon croissants, blueberry muffins, pistachio brioche and a confection made from a link of open-faced macarons crowned with dollops of pastry cream and fresh berries. Every day, their offerings change, though one thing remains constant: They sell out of many items well before they close their doors.

Clearly, Pereur, with the help of her equally talented mother, has what it takes to make it in the restaurant business. Of course, she doesn't need the validation of critics saying that — she never has. Her talent speaks for itself. But the success she's experiencing in St. Louis is her best answer to that smug chef who thought women couldn't hack it. He tried to put her in her place, but the joke's on him: He didn't realize that place was in the kitchen.

Like Home is located in Grand Center. - PHOTO BY MABEL SUEN
  • Like Home is located in Grand Center.


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