Little French Café

Martha Barrier is planning to open The Little French Café of Newark at 64 E. Main St., a space last occupied by Brewed Awakenings.

Little French Café

Martha Barrier fell in love with the French culture as a child and has dedicated much of her life to sharing that love with others – both as a high school French teacher and through hosting French dinners for friends at her home.

Soon, though, she’ll get to fulfill a lifelong dream and take her love of French culture, specifically French cuisine, a step farther.

“I always had in the back of my mind to have a little French café,” Barrier said. “It was the right time, right place and right price. We jumped on it.”

In June, Barrier will open The Little French Café of Newark at 64 E. Main St., next to National 5 & 10. She is currently renovating the space last used by Brewed Awakenings, which closed during the pandemic.

It’s a small space – fewer than 20 seats – but has a quaint, homey feel. In fact, the building was originally the home of the Handloff family, which started the 5&10.

“It’s got so much character in it,” Barrier said, adding that the restaurant’s front counter originally came from the old Newark Police Station when it was on Main Street.

The Little French Café will offer a variety of crepes and sandwiches, such as a ham and Gruyère sandwich and a turkey and brie sandwich, both served with Dijon mustard and raspberry jam. Barrier is also planning to serve a quiche of the day, croissants and a selection of coffee and tea options.

Patrons with a sweet tooth will enjoy a variety of dessert crepes, as well as chocolate croissants, scones and Madeleine cookies.

Barrier said all the menu items are foods she has eaten while in France, though she noted many French cafes actually have a smaller menu.

“A café in France is very simple,” she said. “It’s very different than in America. We like lots of options. The French are just like, ‘OK, I’ll take one of the three things you offer’. They’re not big on a lot of variety.”

Crepes and sandwiches will be made on site, but the restaurant does not have space for baking, so Barrier plans to purchase croissants, baguettes and other baked goods from a French bakery. She has been sampling pastries from all over the region to find the right ones.

“It want to get it right,” she said.

The café will be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, but Barrier also plans to offer occasional French dinners – or “soirees” – that highlight dishes from a particular region of France.

In addition, she will participate in the Main Street Alfresco outdoor dining events by offering charcuterie boards and wine, if the city approves a special-use permit to sell alcohol.

Barrier hopes to be able to do a soft opening during the week of the University of Delaware’s graduation and plans to be open regularly by mid-June. She is planning a grand opening celebration the week of July 14, in honor of Bastille Day, the French national holiday.

Barrier’s love of French culture began when she was 10 and started taking French classes at the private school she attended in North Carolina. She credits her French teacher for inspiring her.

“She had such a passion for French,” Barrier said. “I was so excited to be in her class every day.”

At age 18, she spent a summer in France living with a host family as part of an exchange program. She then majored in French at UNC-Greensboro and recently completed her master’s degree in French language teaching in Angers, France.

Barrier and her husband, Greg, moved to Newark in 2004 and live in Oaklands. She taught French at Smyrna High School and now teaches art at Wilmington Christian School but is planning to retire from teaching this year as she turns her attention to the café.

“‘Retire’ was never really in my vocabulary, but I’m ready for something new,” she said. “I’ve been teaching for a lot of years and I love it. This just gives me so much energy to be able to do this.”

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