In praise of non-fancy French restaurants

When I used to think of French restaurants, I used to think “fancy”. Restaurants  with nice table cloths, great lighting, complex dishes, and high prices. Places like  Le Bernardin, Bouillon Bilk, Place Carmen, Maison (S.C.) and more. All fancy, all great and I love them.

While fancy French restaurants are good, I am here to praise non-fancy French restaurants. Restaurants  with basic settings, everyday lighting, simple dishes (often bistro style), and relatively low prices. Sure, the cooking might not be as fancy, but it is still good and it satisfies the need I have for steak frites, moules, pate, croque monsieur, duck confit and inexpensive French wines.

I’ve been fortunate to go to many such places and have loved them. In London last week, I had charcuterie (shown above) at Le Beaujolais. A few weeks earlier I devoured a fine lunch at Fast and French in Charleston. Whenever I am in  Montreal I try and dine at the justifiably famous L’Express. Closer to home, I’m a decade long diner of  Le Paradis and for good reason. Finally, one of my all time favorite places to dine in Toronto is Cote du Boeuf. I was delighted this weekend to savour their oysters, pate, steak frites and duck confit. Fantastic.

There are lots of inexpensive restaurants that serve great Italian and Indian and Chinese and Vietnamese cooking. I love them. I wish there were as many places as those serving everyday French cooking. That would be heaven for me.

Let me know your favorite non-fancy French restaurants. I will add them to my list.

P.S. If you go to Le Beaujolais, get that charcuterie. You will need at least 3 hungry diners. At Fast and French, get the soup and sandwich and wine combo: it’s incredible value. L’express has too many good dishes to mention, but I love the ravioli, though many are big fans of the bone marrow. Le Paradis has great shellfish. Also cheap cocktails: I love their sazerac. The meat at Cote du Boeuf is incredibly good. I try to order many things there, but the steak frites is irresistable.

 

 

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