First Look: Bread and Butterfly

Channeling Paris at Billy Allin's Inman Park cafe

Bread and Butterfly, the newest offering from Cakes and Ale's Billy and Kristin Allin, is a petite all-day cafe that has quietly fluttered into Inman Park in the style of its namesake creature. It's a lovely looking glass that manages to conjure visions of the sidewalk cafes of Paris, but never lets go of its footing here in Atlanta. In other words, it's perfectly charming.

Bread and Butterfly's welcoming allure is most potent in the morning. As you walk down Elizabeth Street, you can't help but notice the sunlight streaming in through wide windows, bouncing off cafe tables topped with white marble and surrounded by spiffy bistro chairs woven of bright blue and white stripes. As you walk in, the well-stocked bar draws your eye, and you'll notice the end of the counter packed with goods baked in the ovens of sister Proof Bakeshop down the street — croissants, macarons, tarts, scones. The cafe is split into two rooms, with a small main dining room adjacent to the bar that feels a bit parlor-like — more wood, less lively tile — than the attached sunroom along Elizabeth.

Bread and Butterfly's menus progress as the day goes — petit déjeuner, déjeuner, dîner (and brunch, aka midi, on the weekends). The menus immediately signal the French influence, and yes, you can order un verre de vin pétillant (a glass of sparkling wine) to go with your breakfast just as easily as you can a well-executed latte or cup of turmeric ginger tea.

Pastries are tempting in the morning, but Bread and Butterfly's atmosphere lends itself to a more leisurely meal. I was first drawn to the soft scrambled eggs with cold-smoked trout ($13), but my French-speaking waitress nudged me toward the avocado and radishes ($8), a crunchy slice of toast topped with chunks of avocado tossed with lime and chile, and a poached egg eagerly waiting to spill its yolk. Lightly dressed greens and slivers of purple radish are piled on the side. You may opt for a simple yogurt with honey and fruit ($6) or equally simple sourdough toast with butter and jam ($4). But breakfast is also your first chance to sample the omelette du jour, which is offered all day long.

Come lunchtime (ahem, déjeuner), dishes tip between local-produce-driven and clearly French. Chef Bryan Stoffelen earned his stripes at Cakes and Ale before shifting over to Bread and Butterfly, and the lineage is evident. The brief but eclectic menu changes based on what's fresh, but you'll always find an omelette, some charcuterie, a soup, a few sandwiches, even a burger "Américain." On one visit, there was a trio of pristine salads (beets, celery root, lentils, all for $12), and a flavorful kale salad ($8) with sweet carrots playing off the slightly bitter kale, tart vinaigrette, and buttery breadcrumbs.

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The omelet and the burger — both also available at dinnertime — are stellar. The simple omelet ($12, with salad) is so elegantly crafted it would likely make Jacques Pépin proud. And the burger Américain ($15, with fries) triumphantly defies its name — a blanket of Swiss cheese embracing the thick Painted Hills chuck roll and brisket patty, caramelized onions, and a smear of grain mustard are anything but American.

As the sun sets, Bread and Butterfly expands the menu to offer more substantial entrées, but it's still best to start with something intimate — a bowl of the intense tomato soup topped with a massive pouf of flakey pastry ($10), or a simple plate of sliced baguette and a thick smear of fromage whose robust aroma fills the air ($8). Recent entrées included a daily fish, moules-frites, or a half roasted chicken. The roasted chicken ($18) arrives chopped into a few large pieces, its juicy drippings coating the lightly wilted leaves of radicchio served alongside. The chicken requires 35 minutes to prepare, but that was still not enough time to get the crème fraîche- and herb-rubbed skin as crisp as it could be.

The carte des vins with 40 or so wines by the bottle will make Francophiles rejoice, sporting a map of the motherland and sections broken out by region (Loire, Burgundy, Alsace, Jura!) that beverage manager Jordan Smelt would be thrilled to discuss. Oh, and there is a small section titled 'Merica at the bottom of the menu, where hometown hero Dirty and Rowdy Family Wines makes the cut with an exquisite mourvèdre. There are also smart cocktails, a small selection of beers, and plentiful Champagne (Smelt has a thing for the stuff).

Most of the wines are $10-$12 per glass, or in the $30-$60 range by the bottle. On my last visit, wrapping up a late dinner, I sipped the last of my chenin blanc and noticed the warm glow of the word "merci" in yellow neon over the green-tiled wall. The feeling was entirely mutual.

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