Café Francais La Belle Claude
Calle Galeana (7th Street), No. 8186-A
La Belle Claude, named after the owner's daughter, looks expensive but isn't. It's a light, airy patisserie full of richly varnished wood, Victorian ceiling fans and lamps, and display cases stuffed with cookies, cakes, and cheeses. The menu is authentic, too. Check out the "Croque Monsieur" (open-faced sandwich on honey bread with ham, grilled Swiss cheese, and béchamel sauce) or "Croque Madame" (same as the "Monsieur" but with an egg). Great cheap breakfasts, too, such as the mushroom omelet or eggs Benedict. And they arrive on gold-rimmed plates with heavy cutlery. Unusual bonus: the cheeses, Cornish hen eggs, vegetables, and honey used here come from the owner's own farm, Rancho "El Eden." But whatever you do, try the Cuban coffee. It's strong, gutsy, and legal here.