It's fairly common knowledge that Fallbrook is the avocado capital of the world. But The Friendly Village's status as an enclave of the arts is perhaps a more interesting, yet less-touted, part of its personality. If you know where to look, painters, potters and sculptors abound.
"But, Jenny, what if I want a sandwich with my art?"
I'm glad you asked. Mosey down Main Avenue (that's the cute part of downtown Fallbrook) to Café des Artistes (103 S. Main Ave.), a sweet little place attached to the backside of the Fallbrook Art Center.
This is a friendly lunch spot, serving soups, salads, sandwiches, panini and a healthy dose of small-town charm. The owner, Michael, will probably greet you and seat you, as well as make your drinks and serve your food.
I try never to consume honey-baked ham more than once a year—a few slices at a Christmas buffet is enough for me; then I never want to see it again. But I'll make an exception for Café des Artistes' ham sandwich. Salty-sweet slices are tucked into a soft croissant along with cheese and creamy aioli. When paired with a cup of soup, this hits the perfect lunch sweet spot.
Speaking of soups—go for the lentil. The yellow lentil soup is creamy, mild and simple, with the barest hint of sweetness. Skip the French onion: It's fine, but nothing memorable and lacking in gooeyness.
The panini menu, however, offers ample opportunity for hot, cheesy goodness. I loved the eggplant and roasted red pepper panino; I feel virtuous when I order anything all-veggie. Then I mock my virtue by having them add thick slices of brie, rind and all, giving the smoky, cool veggies a warm, creamy counterpart.
I also found myself drawn to the wild salmon panino. Smashing the huge, pink chunks of fish in a sandwich press doesn't do much in terms of creating the all-melted-together texture of your typical panino, but it does give the focaccia a golden toastiness that goes well with the fish, capers and aioli.
Café des Artistes also offers a full-service, old-fashioned soda fountain serving milkshakes, malts, Italian sodas and even egg creams. An egg cream has no egg, nor really any cream. It's essentially chocolate milk with soda water—a fizzy version of your favorite childhood beverage. I think the inherent sentimentality associated with the drink is what makes it taste just that much sweeter. Cozy up to the counter and pretend you're getting ready for a sock hop.
Yes, one reason for the "des Artistes" part of this cozy café is that it's attached to the aforementioned Fallbrook Art Center, but, also, its own walls are covered in unique and colorful offerings from local artists.
Enjoy your meal and your egg cream and take a gander at what the café and gallery are showing. And, if you're lucky, you'll spy some avocado-themed art. Ah, full circle.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Follow Jenny on Twitter @jennymontyinsd.