"Everything I know I learned from my Mother," boasted Marie Saltzman, talking to us at her namesake Cafe Chez Marie. "She was the best cook, the best baker." The svelte proprietor, who looks like a fashion model, confessed, "I just love food."
A hidden place, a treasure in a historical French country cottage built in 1935 on Santa Monica Boulevard, it's close by the music building complex on the east and the Mormon Temple on the west. In the former Grove Cafe space, the intimate cafe is a find for good food, good service and good ambiance at good prices. "It reminds me of Europe," Saltzman added.
Since opening a little over a year ago, it's been remodeled as a cozy retreat with the warmth of a fireplace, golden dappled walls, Provencal print draperies and gracious hospitality of the owner. Most of the guests are greeted by name, sitting at the small wooden tables or getting takeout for breakfast and lunch. "What's even more important," Saltzman emphasized, "I've upgraded the quality of the food. My new menu was created step-by-step based on customer survey."
Salads and sandwiches are popular, especially Cobb Salad where Grilled Chicken, crisp Bacon, Avocado, Tomato and Blue Cheese are attractively arranged over Romaine, at $7.25. Salad Nicoise is becoming better known where Albacore Tuna and the traditional Haricot Verts, Baby Red Potatoes, Capers and Olives (California Black, not the tiny Nicoise) are embellished with Artichokes and Red Onions, at $7.25. The Grilled Chicken Breast sandwich with roasted Red Bell Pepper looks inviting served with Salad or Fresh Fruit, at $6.25.
Another specialty is Chez Marie Salad of both lightly sauteed Sundried Tomato and diced fresh Tomato, Mushrooms and Black Olives on Romaine topped with Egg Salad, at $5.95. Pesto Pizza is unusual with a thin pastry-like crust, at $5.50. Other vegetarian items, such as the Acropolis Salad, a combination of Feta, Cucumber, Red Onion, Black Olives and Paresley, Le Delice Sandwich of Tapenade, Cheese, Lettuce and Tomato, and a Garden Burger also are offered, from $5.95.
Most of the sauces, soups and dressings are housemade. With many requests, Saltzman plans to have dressings bottled for sale soon. While the housemade soup varies daily from Split Pea to French Onion, Clam Chowder, Tomato and Butternut Squash, all start with a mirepoix of onion, carrot and celery, and are served piping hot in brown crocks, at $3.50
Cafe Chez Marie is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm, 10681 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles. (310) 475-2949.