New ownership: Café Marcel keeps the crepes & adds alcoholic cupcakes

Christian and Sonia Carrington, new owners of Café Marcel, bring their passion for quality food and plan to expand the menu.

When Joe and Michelle Frazier were looking to sell Café Marcel, they were looking for new owners who loved the French creperie as much as they did. They found those people in Christian and Sonia Carrington.

“We saw a lot of ourselves in Joe and Michelle,” Christian said, “and they saw a lot of themselves in us.”

Originally from Rhode Island, Christian has worked in the food industry since he was 14 years old. He and Sonia hadn’t planned to own a restaurant.

Married for 21 years, each worked in other fields for most of their adult lives. It was after Sonia grew ill and unable to continue her work in the retail field that she began to bake cupcakes.

“I was depressed,” Sonia said, “and Christian introduced me to baking to help me feel happier.”

Sonia fell in love with baking, and Tucson Cupcake Bar was born. The cupcakes are infused with alcohol — from the batter to the frosting.

Flavors include Honey and Whiskey, Strawberry Champagne, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Limoncello. People loved the bold flavors, and the Carringtons expanded from farmers market booths to delivery and catering.

Eventually, they decided to open a storefront. When they began to look for available restaurants, they discovered that Café Marcel was for sale.

“They [Joe and Michelle] put out a perfect product,” Christian said. “They cared about what they gave their customers.”

The Carringtons saw a perfect opportunity to marry Café Marcel and Tucson Cupcake Bar. While the menu on the wall is still the same, a new case displays Sonia’s cupcakes. The couple also plans to expand the breakfast offerings, as well as lunch and dinner.

Cafe Marcel co-owner Sonia Carrington with a margarita cupcake (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Cafe Marcel co-owner Sonia Carrington with a margarita cupcake (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“We want to add, not change,” Christian said. “There’s history here we don’t want to touch.”

In that spirit, the Carringtons made a Banana Nutella Cupcake for the Café Marcel regulars, using the special Nutella sauce that Joe created.

The Carringtons, like the Fraziers before them, are dedicated to sourcing the best ingredients they can. Everything is made in-house, from the Herb Cream Sauce to the crepe batter. They are building relationships with local distilleries and wineries, too.

Café Marcel Top Choices

Both Carringtons favor the Chicken Pesto Crepe and point to the Smoked Salmon Crepe as one of their customers’ favorites. One of their most popular drinks is the Nutella Mocha Coffee, using their signature Nutella sauce.

“We want Café Marcel to feel like home,” Christian said. “We want people to stay as long as they want.”

Posted by Cafe Marcel on Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Café Marcel is open from 7 a.m.-2 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sundays. Hours may expand in the future based on customer demand.

Custom orders of cupcakes are available with a week’s advance notice.

Cafe Marcel is located at 2281 N. Oracle Rd. Keep up with both Café Marcel and the Tucson Cupcake Bar on Facebook.

Samantha Colaianni has family roots in Tucson that go back before the Gadsden Purchase. When she's not cooking Mexican food, she's baking Mexican pastries.