It was always the way I’d dreamed it, really. Heaven. Soft music playing overhead. The aroma of robust coffee swirled with a dollop of something sweet and a dash of something spicy dancing in the air. It’s cozy and warm. Eternally inviting. Filled with kindred spirits. Endless nourishment. For the mind. The body. And soul.
De La Coeur Café et Pâtisserie. It is my heaven.
My husband and I recently moved into downtown Wilmington DE and stumbled upon this little delight almost by accident. We’d been wandering through the quaint roads which made up the small City that we loved. And there it was, nestled on the corner of Lovering Avenue and Lincoln Street. And it called to me. Instantly. The angled doorway. The name, De La Coeur, meaning of the core, of the heart. We walked passed it in the early evening after the café had closed. But the big bay windows offered a peek inside. My husband had turned to me and said, “that place looks like a Lisa place.” And he was right.
Two weeks later, we took a walk from our home to the café to enjoy our first meal there. From the moment we walked in, we were greeted with nothing but smiles. From both the employees and the patrons. It was immediately evident that everyone not only wanted to be there, but a part of them needed to be. Because this beautiful little place. It felt like home. For all of us.
The café is small and cozy. Just the way a café should be. It’s as if the owners have happily invited you into their most intimate part – their heart. And as you settle into your seat, you feel nothing but so very grateful to be there.
The décor is simple and clean, and yet it packs a powerful punch from the moment your eyes take it all in at once. Because it’s reminiscent of something familiar. Something warm and cozy. Like our own homes. As a random side note, I apologize in advance for the amount of times the word “cozy” appears in this post. I know I’m a writer and I should work a little harder at coming up with 567 unique ways of saying “cozy.” But that’s the thing with De La Coeur. It takes an ordinary word and transforms it into something extraordinary. It’s as if its existence created the word.
But I digress…
The menu is written on chalkboard paint hugged by a large gold frame. There’s something so very human about the menu being displayed like this. Because if you look hard, you can see the handwriting from the previous day’s menu. And I love that. It’s like I can see Gretchen (the Chef/Owner) holding the piece of chalk, a smile on her face and in her eyes, as she delicately scribbles the day’s offerings.
And the offerings are perfect. A few breakfast options. A few lunch options. Just enough to add variety, but not too many to make you feel overwhelmed. Even the menu, it’s cozy too.
Kenny was the first employee we encountered. And honestly, initially knowing nothing about the place, we thought perhaps he was the owner. He was so sincerely thankful for us to be there. So obviously proud of the place within which he stood and worked. But as it turns out, he wasn’t the owner. And we quickly realized that the other staff, Emily and Mercedes, were just as proud and charming and nice.
One of the billion things I love about this café is the, are you ready for it, coziness. Another example, is the how the staff dresses. They aren’t wearing boring uniforms. They are wearing whatever it is they wish to wear to work. And so from the moment you meet them, you feel as though you are catching up with old friends. Because you don’t see them as waiters or waitresses, as owners and chefs. You see them as people. Beautiful, unique, individual people.
At this point, before I’d even taken a bite or a sip, I knew I would be coming back to this café often. That I’d cherish every visit. Miss it when I wasn’t there.
And then the food came out…
Our first meal consisted of lemon and cream crepes, and cappuccinos. And honestly, as I got lost in the foamy goodness of my drink and the succulent sweetness of those crepes, I thought about asking if I could just live in the café and work there as payment for my rent and food. Or perhaps Gretchen and her fiancé and co-owner, Alex, would adopt my husband and I and feed us forever. The crepes were light and fluffy and melted in my mouth and became a part of my very existence. And the cappuccino was both strong and light and utterly perfect.
We’ve since been back to the café numerous times and sampled sandwiches and pastries and the oh my flipping god bowl (yes, bowl) of hot cocoa. And somehow each time we go it gets better and better. No matter how busy they are you never feel crowded or rushed. You feel grateful for being there and you also feel appreciated. Because the De La Coeur family makes it quite clear how grateful they are that you are there.
Speaking of being busy. Another little thing I love there is watching the other patrons when it is busy. At most other establishments, if a medium or large group of people enter and there are no large tables, they either grumpily wait for a table or leave. But that’s not the case here. Again, we’re all so darn grateful to be there that we make it work. I’ve seen a group of four people cuddle up to a table of two. And they’re not unhappy about it. They love it. They laugh. Close their eyes and savor everything that comes their way. And we all look at each other and smile. Complete strangers have scooted their chairs closer to our table and shared stories about their experience at the café and their lives. Again, this unbelievable place is like going home. Every. Single. Time. You. Go.
I’m not a food critic or long-time friends with anyone who works there. They didn’t ask me to write this either. And this post. It’s not a review. It’s a thank you. I wake up every day feeling so grateful for so many things. And even on the most stressful of days, I try to always find more things to be grateful for. And even more than that, I try to let those places and people know.
It’s hard to find unique and warm places (and people) anymore. But luckily, they do it exist. People like Gretchen and Alex. Who take big leaps of faith in life as they go after their dreams. As a creative person and passionate human, I appreciate (and support) that. De La Coeur has quickly become a wonderful part of my husband and my world. And we want nothing more than Gretchen’s and Alex’s dreams to come true. And it feels good that every purchase we make there, whether big or small, helps to keep that dream alive.
And so, I want to pay tribute to some kind souls who have given Buddy and I some wonderful times and wonderful memories. Thank you Gretchen and Alex and Emily and Mercedes (and to the new young gentlemen who’s been helping Gretchen in the kitchen) for all the smiles. The wonderful food. And the warmth that’s spilled out from each of your hearts onto the rest of our plates. I’m pretty sure that I speak on behalf of everyone who’s been there when I say how very grateful we are that you all have come along and entered all our lives.
If you live in or around the Wilmington DE area do stop by and visit. You won’t regret it. And if you don’t live in or around the area, you should relocate. Kidding. Sort of. In any event, wherever you are, don’t forget to pay tribute to local establishments that make your life better.
Until next time,