Let's Do the Twist

Written By: 
Denise Mullen
Photographs by: 
Mac Kilduff

This bistro shakes things up with a classic French menu that can also strut out gourmet tea

Tucked into the back of Village Square Shopping Center is a rather obscure storefront, which previously housed a local darling of schnitzels and strudels for more than 18 years.

But when the former Cafe Old Vienna moved on to bigger digs, it opened the door for the French Twist Tea Room, reinventing the petite venue as a “French cafe for tea lovers.”

The under-window bench seating stayed put. The cafe curtains appear to be the originals. And the sidelong bar is still there.

But the vibe has definitely traded Austria for France, with a layover somewhere in England. Sauerbraten has left the house. Bienvenue to crepes, Nicoise, quiche and an impressive global menu of teas.

With only 35 seats, French Twist is intimate enough for one server to handle and proprietor Madame McCollum to oversee. It’s cozy and friendly and relaxing, especially if you kick back for a while with a pot of hot tea.

And that’s exactly what we did one late May afternoon, a day I recall fondly since the special du jour was a sampler of house quiches—one slice of Lorraine with the traditional bites of bacon and one of mushroom and Swiss. Served warm with a salad of spring greens, the savory pies are the perfect environment for melted cheese and select veggies.

For dessert I asked to have organic hibiscus tea iced and ordered a crepe stuffed with caramelized peaches, Brie and drizzled with honey. Light and fresh, it was tres bon, even though the fruit appeared as slices, rather than cooked down to a “caramel” state.

French Twist offers two soups daily: One chilled and the other, French Onion. Instead of a crouton floater, the French Twist version incorporates bread in the broth and is covered in Gruyere. What makes it better than usual are the simple acts of not killing it with salt and allowing the onions to turn sweet.

Most of the French Twist sandwiches are built on a baguette, and my husband was pleasantly surprised by the BBQ Chicken l’orange ($10.50) with Swiss and Gruyere cheeses and a schmear of orange aioli. In fact, he was so impressed that we had to return so he could taste the warm ham, apple and Brie sandwich. Chicken and tuna salad ($9) come on a flaky croissant and BLTs are served on sourdough.

French Twist also has a menu of “savory flat breads” that run $9.50 each, including a salad or cup of soup. There’s a Chicken Caprese (that one is $11.50) that I’m destined to try topped with black olives, roasted red peppers and, of course, cheese and fresh basil. Also calling my name is a simple three-ingredient flatbread of sautéed spinach, lardons and Swiss.

Special dishes are prepared every day that can be as Francais as Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon or can veer off to an Italian chicken piccata or simply be as down-home as meatloaf with mashed potatoes.

You can order French press coffee here, but it would be a shame not to treat yourself to a pot of specialty tea ($4.25).

Tea at French Twist is an experience all its own. The Meditative Mind, a Chinese white, is infused with rosebuds and jasmine pearls. Or go for the gusto with high-test green Gunpowder with a slightly smoky finish. Black tea lovers can sip Darjeeling, Earl Gray and English Breakfast or break with tradition and delve into something like Assam with malt and floral undertones.

Looking for something herbal and health conscious? Try the Organic Detox with hints of sage and lemongrass or maybe the Organic Turmeric Tonic that addresses inflammation in a hot elixir that includes ginger, cinnamon, fennel, nettle and chai.

And for energy seekers, you can stimulate the mind and body with a pot of Yerba Mate infused with kola nuts or the Matcha Mate.

French Twist offers biscotti (two for $1), a rotating lineup of desserts and puts on High Tea by reservation. Happy hour starts daily at 4:30, pouring wines by the glass ($5–$9).

This is a cafe that operates from a spirit of independence. It doesn’t follow the crowd. The inspiration is French, but it celebrates tea. It’s not open on weekends. The specials will never be predictable.

But at French Twist, it’s the caring that counts. It’s the chef eager to ask you how your meal was, the owner sharing a piece of her birthday cake with you and the waitress making a point of saying goodbye and genuinely thanking you for coming in.

All I can say is French Twist has that certain je ne sais quoi about it!


French Twist Tea Room - Village Square Shopping Center

4025 N. Kings Highway Suite 5 (behind Foxy Lady)
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
(843) 945-2632
www.frenchtwisttearoom.com

Hours: Open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed on weekends.