Looking for a romantic dinner for two in the City? Cafe Jacqueline fits the bill: dim lighting; cozy, high-ceilinged dining area; chic vintage minimalist decor. This North Beach restaurant isn’t your standard Little Italy establishment for sure, but it’s also unique in the City as a whole. Which isn’t something you find too often.
What Cafe Jacqueline does is souffles. What is a souffle? It’s something that people of my parents’ and grandparents’ generation revered and feared. Like Donald Trump’s hair nowadays. People probably used to look to Julia Child for guidance on this difficult and notably finicky dish; I’d just go to Jackie*.
Since Wiki says it best, I’ll just quote that a souffle is a “lightly baked cake made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert”. Yeah, that. As a savory dinner dish, it’s like a ramekin-ed, puffy quiche. As a dessert, it’s like an airy, warm cake.
While some of the fancier restaurants around offer souffles on their menu, this is the only restaurant I know of that is dedicated exclusively to this one dish. Dinner? Savory souffle with cheese and veggies. Dessert? Chocolate or fruity souffle. Each is made for two people to share, making it a great place for a romantic date.
So, naturally, I went with my mom. We shared the spinach souffle for dinner and the chocolate souffle for dessert. You order both at the same time because it takes FOREVER for Jacqueline (I believe she’s the actual person back there, the one with the wooden spoon and all the magic) to queue these things up. A few tips:
- This is not Applebee’s. You will not be in and out of here in an hour. This is a three-hour minimum ordeal. Prepare adequately.
- The service is slow (addendum to above). Again, not Applebee’s. They will not come to your table every 45 seconds to make sure you don’t need yet another side of ranch dressing. I found the staff to be courteous and friendly, but they aren’t in a rush and they don’t expect you to be either.
- Reservations are a good idea. There are a limited number of tables, this place is popular, and there appears to be usually just the one seating. If you’re serious about going, call ahead.
- The souffles are hot. I know you’re hungry, but you’re going to burn the shit out of yourself if you’re not patient. I learned the hard way; I advise that you do not.
- You can have groups bigger than two people, but the souffles are meant for two people. As Alicia would say, sharing is caring.
The food was good. The salads were not the best (spinach was mom’s and she said it was good; butter lettuce was mine and was really just butter lettuce with a light spritzing of something slightly more flavorful than water… could have done without it). The spinach souffle (with gruyere) was really, really good. Salty. Flavorful. Fluffy. Recommended.
Overall: CJ does a great job. Go, be merry, and eat souffles.
*I’m taking liberties with her name. I hope she’s cool with that.