.Café Sparrow Delivers an Authentic French Dining Experience in Aptos

From traditional cuisine to ambiance, co-owner Bailey Suesens brings a slice of France to Santa Cruz County

Bailey Suesens first worked at Café Sparrow as a teenager, assisting her dad—co-owner of the Aptos spot since 1989—in the kitchen. Eventually, Suesens set out to earn a degree in fashion marketing from the Art Institute of San Francisco, where she met her now-husband Donnie—he went through the school’s culinary program.
With a talented chef by her side, Suesens moved back to Santa Cruz and now co-owns Sparrow with Donnie, who’s flourished running the kitchen.
Bailey describes Sparrow as a “comprehensively French upscale dining experience,” from the décor to the classic cuisine—with a California twist. Seared scallops on polenta with balsamic reduction highlight the apps, and the filet mignon, made with a traditional beef bone stock sauce, is an entrée must-have. They also serve locally sourced wild fish specials and quintessential French desserts like profiteroles, a mini puff pastry filled with custard or ice cream, topped with Ghirardelli chocolate sauce.
Sparrow is open Monday-Friday, 11:30am-2pm, for lunch; Monday-Saturday, 5-9pm, for dinner; and closed Sundays. Bailey talked to GT about her “over it” moment with kitchen work and how Café Sparrow keeps it French.

When did you know your back-of-house days were over?

BAILEY SUESENS: I was 16, working in the kitchen doing prep work and plating. My dad was the head chef, and I plated a dish wrong and burned myself on the chicken livers he was cooking. He got upset with me, and I felt terrible too and started crying—I knew from then on that I didn’t want to work in the kitchen anymore. From there, I became a busser and then a server and felt more in my element. Now I love working front-of-house and being the face of the restaurant.

How does Café Sparrow keep it 100% French?

For one, our sauces, which are very traditional to French cuisine and are all made in-house. For example, the Espagnole, which is the base for our sauce on the filet mignon, and the bearnaise, which is basically a hollandaise with tarragon and shallots. Also, the décor is very French countryside too. We have an entire wall of wine bottles, and the other walls are adorned with hand-painted art; there are also lots of quaint French accents throughout the space and menu, starting at the front door with a traditional farm door.

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Café Sparrow, 8042 Soquel Drive, Aptos. 831-688-6238; cafesparrow.com.


  1. Awesome kids. This is Aunt Sandi Suesens. I’m so very proud of you. I’ve haven’t had the pleasure of meeting You Bailey but so looking forward to it one day. Congratulations

  2. Some of the best food I have ever had. I will definitely be going again. I give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  3. We went there recently for our 24th wedding anniversary . It had been years since I’d been as I no longer live or work in Aptos. Food was delicious, service was great, and atmosphere was wonderful! We will definitely be going there again soon!

  4. I have loved it the last 3 times, but my food temperatures have come out luke warm. Please address this. Thank you!

  5. You may want to take a closer look at the current Cafe’ Sparrow. It sure isn’t the restaurant that my wife and I have enjoyed for years. We feel that the food we were presented with at a recent anniversary dinner was subpar and unbelievably overpriced. The fromage starter, which was bread with melted cheese, was the price of a large pizza. Really??? The pear salad special was a heap of chopped romaine which was not fresh, a few slices of rock hard pear, sliced strawberries, roasted almonds, a minimal amount of sliced brie cheese, and to top it off balsamic vinegar drizzled on top. Terrible! The main course was locally sourced halibut. The halibut was very nice. The problem was what was on the plate with it. Pumpkin puree in the summer? What happened to using local, seasonal vegetables? Three overcooked green beans. Beats that must have been canned. And to top it off a huge mound of rice. Since when does French cooking use rice??? The only shining stars in the meal, aside from the halibut, were the coconut cheese cake and the wine. The wine was a Chardonnay by Alma de Cattleya from Sonoma County. So sorry to see a once great restaurant loose it’s way like this. We’ll never return after this experience which cost $250.00 even though we split all of the dishes.

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