Little Red House is Dunedin's answer to a French-American restaurant


click to enlarge Ludovic Royer, who owns Dunedin's Little Red House. - Jenna Rimensnyder
Jenna Rimensnyder
Ludovic Royer, who owns Dunedin's Little Red House.

A little slice of France has made its way to downtown Dunedin’s former Sweet Peas Cafe. In March, Ludovic Royer took over the business at 434 Virginia Lane, opening the appropriately renamed Little Red House.

Royer began scoping out locations for his French-American restaurant last November, a search that started in downtown Tampa and continued to Ybor City, Pinellas Park and finally Dunedin. After the papers were signed, the new owner hopped aboard a one-way flight to Dunedin from Paris.

Now, Royer has big plans for the close to 1,500-square-foot building that Sweet Peas once called home.

“I had a crush on this space, because it is unusual,” he said while his stepfather used a step stool to paint the dining room.

The nearly century-old house was renovated into Sweet Peas in 2011, serving as a destination for typical American stalwarts. Although Royer has kept the cafe’s previous selection of sandwiches and salads, he’s also added some French touches, including the vegetarian lasagna ratatouille, which combines tomato, zucchini and eggplant with layered mozzarella cheese over Provencal sauce.

“I’m trying to have a French-American restaurant,” said Royer. “I don’t want to go too French — a lot of people think that French food is expensive. What I want to show guests is that they can eat here as the French would eat every day.”

The Little Red House — one of the few eateries in the area open at 9 a.m. almost daily — continues to offer an American breakfast, and it’s in the process of testing a French breakfast on Sunday, too. But no matter if they stop by in the morning or afternoon, guests have vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan options to choose from across the menu.

Within the next couple of weeks, Royer plans to roll out evening hours from 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (he’s also eyeing a possible happy hour). Saturday will function as French Night with a menu of strictly French cuisine; this elevated way of dining, as he puts it, reflects how the French chow down on a Sunday.

The quaint restaurant, from an aesthetic standpoint, has undergone a serious revamp over the last eight months. A new white picket fence surrounding the largest yard in Dunedin and an updated color scheme in the dining area, where the walls have gone from bright blue to taupe with a dark red accent wall, are among the changes.

“Essentially, everything has been updated except for the kitchen,” the owner said.

In the near future, the restaurant will expand beyond 24 seats, a count that includes the dining room and outdoor picnic tables. Free street parking is available to Little Red House guests, as well as a small lot around back.