By DALE MADISON
Do the names Jean Doherty and Veronique Leroux sound familiar? These women own one of the hottest little restaurants in South Florida. Le Patio boasts just 282 square feet, making it one of the most intimate dining places around. It has certainly become one of my favorite eateries. On April 1, the duo celebrates three years as proprietors of “the tiniest, cutest restaurant” in town.
Sitting at the bar–which serves beer and wine—a sign caught my eye: “This is not Burger King: you don’t get it your way.” I chuckled about it as Veronique (“Vero”) quickly pointed out “that is NOT our philosophy! We will do what we can to make your dining experience just that, an experience.”
Friends took me to Le Patio last month for my birthday, and it was one of the best meals I have ever had. That was not the first time that I had been there, and I have always been intrigued by the tiny size of the place. When I finally caught up with these delightful women to get their back story, it turns out that it spans 24 years, and is fascinating.
Doherty and Leroux met while both were working as sales reps for a company in Leon, Spain. Jean’s boss told her “you need to take the new rep out for training.”
“At 4:00 p.m. we went to the local pub,” Doherty recalls. “Vero thought it was a test for her, but that was 4:00 p.m. and I think at 6:00 p.m. we were at U-Haul. Of course we all laugh about the fact that the girls always do that. We did rent a truck and moved in together. Been together ever since and neither of us can see us being apart,” she adds.
Leroux picks up the story: “We bought a house together. Our daughter Kathleen was so important in the relationship. She has been so supportive.” She remembers their first restaurant. “It was a little Tex-Mex with a bar,” recalls Leroux. “It worked out well but it wasn’t what we wanted.” It was while they owned the bar and restaurant in Leon, “The West Saloon,” that the couple made their partnership permanent. “The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence held our commitment ceremony,” says Doherty. “They waived a toilet bowl brush over us and pronounced us ‘wife and wife.’”
Three years ago, Leroux and Doherty were scouting locations for their signature Wilton Manors café. “We wanted the space where the tattoo parlor is next to Matty’s,” says Doherty. “We called the owner and were told, ‘Sorry, I just leased it. BUT, I have another space around the corner.’ We met him and fell in love with the space. And we have been so happy that we have it. It’s become our home.”
Doherty and Leroux attribute the success of Le Patio to its patrons. “One of the greatest testaments for our little restaurant is 98 percent of our clientele is gay, one percent is lesbian, and one percent is straight,” says Doherty. “We love our gay boys. They come in, have a wonderful time, they bring in their mothers, and all have a great time, and we love them,” she adds.
The couple is grateful also for their friends in the community. “If it not been for our general contractor, Jeb Sherer, I don’t know where we would be. He was our saving angel,” notes a thankful Doherty. “You know only one-in-10 restaurants succeed. We are proud to still be here and are energized every day to be here,” she says.