Ask the Editor: Where to Go for a Parisian-Style Bistro Birthday?
This diner has theater tickets in Boston, and a strong penchant for steak frites.
Welcome to Ask the Editor, Boston magazine’s new dining advice column. Need a restaurant recommendation? Ask a pro.
I am a devout Francophile with a penchant for old-school Parisian bistros. Think tin ceilings, wicker chairs, waitstaff dressed in black and white, steak frites and foie gras. My birthday is in June, and I’m looking for the perfect restaurant for my husband and I. It needs to be in Boston because we have theater tickets that night. Thanks!
Ah, joyeux anniversaire!
Dinner on the ground floor of Bistro du Midi checks all your boxes, with bonus glorious views of the Public Garden for your early summer birthday.
Chef Robert Sisca recently introduced a more casual menu in the first-floor bistro, with bavette steak frites, beet gnocchi, a prime short rib burger with gruyère, and more entrées priced from $15-$45.
There are also raw bar options and daily crudo, and ample wines by the glass and half-bottle with easy-to-navigate tasting notes and a range of price points. (272 Boylston St., Back Bay, Boston, 617-426-7878, bistrodumidi.com.)
With lofty ceilings lined with bottles of wine, a zinc bar, and brass-studded barstools, Gaslight Brasserie au Coin, as the name implies, is more brasserie than bistro. But chef Sean Woods—who is also behind stalwart bistro Aquitaine—does pâté de foie gras with a Sauternes reduction; trout Amandine with parsnip puree, haricots verts, and sauce meunière; steak frites, and more here that sounds just like what you’re looking for.
The beefy French onion soup with truffled short rib is a must-order, richly layered but not over-seasoned; and the house moules frites, with its herbaceous broth of Pernod and aromatics, is one of our favorite variations on the Gallic classic.
The brasserie on the corner also has its own parking lot—can’t argue with that when you have a show to catch. (560 Harrison Ave., South End, Boston, 617-422-0224, gaslight560.com.)
You’ll find your painted-tin ceiling aesthetic in the small dining room at Frenchie, but we recommend snagging a two-top in the light-filled atrium for your birthday dinner. The dark, bold floral wallpaper is très chic, and sets the scene for this modern take on the wine bistro.
The stewards are legit: Owner Sandrine Rossi has wines on her list from her parents’ Bordeaux winery, and partner Loïc Le Garrec managed Petit Robert bistros for more than a decade before opening Frenchie.
Chef Alex Falconer takes French menu staples and gives them a small-plates twist, like drumstick coq au vin with mushrooms and farro; and buttery escargot toast. There are traditional steak frites, though, with tender sirloin and confit shallots, and a couple other entrées. There is also nontraditional but totally fun frosé—the perfect libation to accompany a pre-theater meal in the summertime. (560 Tremont St., South End, Boston, 857-233-5941, frenchieboston.com.)
Now, one final suggestion that isn’t quite what you asked for. On another night when you don’t have a show to rush off to, I think you’d be assez content at Café du Pays.
This Cambridge spot takes some of the best aspects of the trope—snug rooms with vintage fixtures; seasonal ingredients prepared simply; a lengthy list of Cognacs—and applies them to a slightly ironic, effortlessly cool, never pretentious French-Canadian bistro.
Chef Dan Amighi goes for sustainable ingredients, so choice steak frites are not an option here, but when beef is on the menu, it’s likely local and grass-fed. There is rich foie butter to accompany sourdough, and whole-roasted liver for true foie lovers. We’re partial to the pork and venison meat pie, and the maple-fried rabbit leg as well. (233 Cardinal Medeiros Ave., Cambridge, 617-314-7297, cafedupays.com.)