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My friend Tina lives less than a mile from Champagne French Bakery Cafe in Del Mar. Last week, on a whim, we decided to walk over for lunch. It was 70 degrees and sunny at 1:30 p.m., past the lunch rush. We had no problem getting a table outside.

Champagne Bakery is my kind of place. It’s a few notches above your typical coffee shop/bakery, but the prices are reasonable. The lunch combos are only $7.95, and you can add a fountain drink for $1. Combos include: half a cold or hot sandwich or a half quiche plus a cup of soup or a spring salad. You can also do a soup-salad combo for the same price.

I went with half a French dip and the spring salad. I don’t often feel like roast beef, but I knew as soon as I saw this on the menu, I had to have it. The Swiss, the beef, the au jus – it all hit the spot. Even the French country bread, which appeared dry, turned out to be exactly right. Anything softer would have soggified in the au jus.

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The dressing on the salad was decent. I couldn’t quite place the flavor at first. Then I looked at the menu again and realized what I tasted was a combination of French and curry. I’m not a huge curry fan, but it wasn't too heavy on the curry. I didn't love it, but it was ok.

The other hot sandwich choices that looked great to me were the Croque Monsieur and the garlic chicken Panini. The chicken salad croissant and the fresh mozzarella from the list of cold sandwiches looked good too.

Tina went for the smoked salmon quiche. But she didn’t clarify that she wanted the half and half combo, so she ended up with a whole one ($9.75). She ate it all, and if she hadn't, I would've helped. It looked damn good.

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Other quiche choices included spinach and goat cheese, quiche Lorraine, ham and mushroom, and tomato mozzarella.

The cafe also has locations in Rancho Santa Fe and Carmel Mountain (as well as others in Orange County, LA, and Marin County.)

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