Café Sauvage offers a slice of Paris in Back Bay

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Café Sauvage in Back Bay features a traditional Parisian menu with African influences. Photo by Quillan Anderson.

Allie Kuo, news correspondent

In 2016, a Parisian couple arrived in Boston for a job opportunity. Five years later, Anaïs and Antoine Lambert opened Café Sauvage on Massachusetts Avenue in Back Bay. 

“We had this idea to open something like … a mix of our culture and what we experienced in Paris, more than this French stereotype restaurant you can find in the U.S.,” said Antoine Lambert, co-owner of the all-day French café. 

Antoine Lambert has prior experience at Frenchie Wine Bistro in the South End, starting as a food runner and making his way up to an assistant manager. The couple returned to Paris for a year before the staff at Frenchie’s sister restaurant, Colette Wine Bistro, called Antoine Lambert to come back and work at the restaurant in Cambridge. Eventually, Anaïs and Antoine Lambert decided to create a space of their own and opened Café Sauvage in October 2021.

Brian Pu Ruiz, a photographer and founder of Corners of Boston, went to Café Sauvage in December and posted a TikTok with over 279,000 views about his experience, calling it the “Cutest Café in Back Bay.” He recognized the owners from their previous jobs at Frenchie and Colette.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s really sweet,’ because I remember their warm hospitality and service,” Pu Ruiz said. 

For Antoine Lambert, the atmosphere is a big part of what makes Café Sauvage special. He said they were inspired by customer service in the United States, where “someone is automatically saying ‘Hi, how are you’ with a big smile.”

“We make people feel welcome,” Antoine Lambert said. “It’s warm, and that’s what we aim to do. It’s to make people feel good when they’re here and comfortable, and they can stay all day if they want.” 

And stay all day they do. Café Sauvage is currently open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. These hours are reminiscent of Parisian cafés, where Antoine Lambert said beer and wine are served at any time and diners can visit the same restaurant for both breakfast and dinner.

“We wanted to really bring the café concept,” Antoine Lambert said. “You can find it elsewhere in Boston, but our name is ‘café.’ We wanted to be open all day and you can come pretty much any time.”

The other half of the restaurant’s name, “sauvage,” means “wild,” a reflection of how the business mixes Anaïs and Antoine Lambert’s cultures and personalities, he said. Anaïs Lambert’s family is from the Ivory Coast and Congo, and Antoine Lambert’s family is from Brittany in France. 

“At home, it’s a mix of culture,” Antoine Lambert said.

The couple have a young daughter, and Antoine Lambert said that they wanted to create a place where she would feel comfortable and everyone feels at home. 

Dalia Valencia, the owner of Kushala Sip Coffee House, visited Café Sauvage on Easter. She said the restaurant had “a nice blend of both [African and French] cultures,” fostered by the efforts of Anaïs and Antoine Lambert.

“Even if they are not right there, you can see it in the work they put in the business and also the menu. They’re trying to mix the foods from their country,” Valencia said. 

Valencia’s husband ordered an açaí bowl and bissap, a traditional African juice with hibiscus, mint and lemon, while Valencia ordered two cortados. The menu at Café Sauvage does not shy away from combining drinks and dishes that might not make it to a typical French café menu. 

Even the croque madame, a classic French dish, has a twist — it’s finished with dijon mustard, a touch Antoine Lambert’s mother used to add when she’d make it for him. His personal favorite from the menu is the breakfast sandwich with avocado and smoked salmon.

“I can eat that all day — and then the duck benedict for brunch, it’s really good,” Antoine Lambert said. 

Carol Lam, a market researcher from Lynn, said she heard of Café Sauvage through social media and visited the restaurant in March for breakfast.

“The cool part is there isn’t really any café that resembles this particular café, like the aesthetics, the color palette that they chose — it’s really unique. This place is definitely somewhere you want to hang out and socialize in,” Lam said. 

There is a framed print by the espresso machine that says “Good things take time,” and Antoine Lambert said this reflects the restaurant’s progress. With a liquor license and outdoor seating on the horizon, Café Sauvage is continuing to grow.

“Everyday, we have new ideas and we’re trying new things. It’s always moving,” Antoine Lambert said. 

The latest change to the space is the addition of a round family table with four seats for larger groups. 

“Since the beginning, we wanted a bigger table where everybody can sit and share their dinner. It’s in the idea of Café Sauvage — you can come work on your computer, but you can come with your family and sit at this round table,” Antoine Lambert said. 

Valencia said that even with the small space, it was cozy and the owners “paid attention to certain details.” 

The velvet booth seating is similar to a couch that Anaïs and Antoine Lambert had in their home, and some decor, like the frames and books, come from their personal collection. 

“That’s what we’re trying to bring here, the memories from where we are from and childhood,” Antoine Lambert said. “You come into Café Sauvage and it’s like home, and you just want to feel like it’s your home as well. Everybody can take a little piece of it.”