On a hot and windy day last month, in the middle of a brutally stormy day in South Florida, I ate at Vincent’s Bistro French Bakery one of the greatest croque-monsieur I have had in years.
I know what you may think. This is Palm Beach County. From Boca to Jupiter, there are plenty of spectacular French bistros and bakeries. From the upscale to the pretty casual and unpretentious places where you can have a refreshing drink and eat home-style French recipes like Le Pate, Ratatouille, and Quiche Lorraine paired with wines that will give you a glimpse of France’s art de vivre, a way of life. But the food at Vincent’s Bistro French Bakery is delightful. No doubt.
While I am a writer first and a food writer second, I didn’t want to try the most popular plate they had on their menu, but a traditional French dish. Lunch is my favorite time of day to eat a rich meal and Lake Worth Beach seems to agree. The place was packed.
Chef Vincent Durin was extremely busy cooking back in the kitchen so after my delicious meal, I had a nice time chatting with his son, Hugo. The family business, he tells me, started in Quebec, Canada where his parents—Vincent and Christine—opened two restaurants and a catering service. It did quite well for over six years. In 2004, they moved back to their hometown of Saint-Aygulf, a small village of approximately 5,000 residents in the district of Fréjus, which borders the Mediterranean Sea with many preserved beaches and coves in Southern France. The seasoned restaurateurs opened their third restaurant there, and in their first year, they doubled their customers, captivating them with their wildly popular, semi-gastronomic restaurant for 15 years.
“Saint-Aygulf is a really local community,” says Durin. “But in the summertime, from June to August, the city explodes, going over two million people with tourists coming from everywhere. It’s one of the most attractive places in France and probably in Europe as well. So, a lot of people from different countries like Greece, Italy, and Spain visited our restaurant that was just 100 feet from the sea.”
This could explain their attraction to the coastal town of Lake Worth Beach. But the town was not what drew the Durin family here. In 2017, Vincent received an unexpected message through Instagram from the owners of Dayane’s Bistro, the former owners of their locale. Apparently, they saw a video of Vincent that had gone viral back in France.
“My dad has a really interesting temper,” explains Durin with a chuckle. “Sometimes he can get mad pretty easily. It’s a French thing. And in that video, he got mad at a fake review left during the season. That’s when we work the hardest and sleep very little. That day, he had been up since six in the morning and worked until one in the morning the next day. It’s intense, so your nerves get really fragile. And it happens quite often in the restaurant industry. But that day, we got a fake review from someone that we knew for a fact had never come into the restaurant. The things he said were just impossible. That got my dad really mad. So, he made a video of himself, but it was supposed to be just for a circle of friends and family as a joke. However, the video ended up getting about 2 million views in 48 hours.”
When the owners of Dayane’s Bistro saw the video, they contacted Vincent and invited him to visit their establishment in Lake Worth Beach. They asked the Durins if they were interested in taking over their restaurant for three years or so. Then, in September 2019, the Durins bought the place and during the COVID-19 pandemic, they decided to transform it and make it their own bistro/bakery. “We figured, as a French family, there was nowhere for us to go to get good croissants and good French specialty desserts nearby. So, we decided to do it ourselves. And it ended up working out really well,” says Hugo. As he recalls, the family was happy to join the beautiful and culturally rich Lake Worth Beach community and make it their new home.
Vincent’s Bistro French Bakery has all the delectable classic sandwiches like their Provencal Chicken Pie and Beef Bourguignon Pie, or their butter croissant, blueberry tarts, Napoleon, eclairs, and French Macaron! And my new favorite, the Paris-Brest. This pastry, which looks like the wheel of a bicycle, is a French dessert made of choux pastry and a praline, hazelnut-flavored crème and adorned with almonds. It got its name from the Paris-Brest bicycle race competition that starts in Paris and ends in Brest which is on the west side of France. The winners eat this tasty pastry at the end of the race. While it is calorie-intense, the taste is light and heavenly.
What I find so interesting about bistros is that in recent decades, traditional bakeries and bistros were under threat, even in France, as the world’s obsession with nouvelle cuisine became a fad. Only in the past few years has the world rediscovered old-school dining and rekindled their love affair with the bistro’s more homely style of cooking.
As for me, I have found a comfy spot at Vincent’s Bistro French Bakery, where I can settle for the menu from Tuesday to Sunday. This bistro is a must-visit. Find it at 516 Lucerne Avenue, Lake Worth Beach. Online at vincentsbistro.com and @vincentsbistro