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Bonne Soiree in Chapel Hill

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Greg Cox of the News and Observer is kvelling over Bonne Soiree in Chapel Hill:

He gives it four stars, placing it in the same class as Magnolia Grill and Fearrington House.

Has anyone been to Bonne Soiree? Is it really that good? Info on prices and vegetarian/pescetarian friendliness would also be appreciated.

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  1. bonne soiree is one of the best meals i've had in the triangle. it's super old school, but remarkably well-executed, and the room is absolutely gorgeous. it's WAY better than fearrington, although not quite as good as Mag Grill. more different than the grill than not as good, i guess. they do have both veg and pescaterian dishes-- chip is especially talented at cooking seafood... they used to run a restaurant down at the beach, after all.

    1. We went to Bonne Soiree between Christmas and New Years, and I think that may have something to do with some of my feelings about it. We'll definitely try it again, the food was good, some of it very good, but we felt like youngest people by far in the room (and trust me, thats kind of hard to do!), and like it was a little stifling. Again, this may just be because of the timing.

      I have to disagree with HeelsSoxHound on the veg thing ... I have that night's menu in front of me, and there wasn't a single veg. entree. There were, however, 3 seafood/fish main courses out of 8, so if you eat fish, you're plenty safe here. And they were incredibly nice about leaving the ham off the savory tart for me (my appetizer ... amazingly good). So they may well be amenable to making a veg entree for you if you ask.

      Ok, so on to the food. There was that great tart, very tasty with gruyere and caramelized onions (and regularly including serrano ham), and a quail egg. My husband got the soup - oysters, cream, fresh herbs. Very nice, simple. I then had the fish of the day - flounder with roasted potatoes, leeks and carrots. This was perfectly pleasant, and the fish was cooked beautifully, but it wasn't especially exciting. My husband got the ribeye, which came with incredibly good mashers - I had to hold back from stealing bites of those. He seemed happy with the steak. The desserts were truly killer - I had a walnut tart, he had a pot de creme. Both were, seriously, among the best desserts we've had in the Triangle (up there with Magnolia's coconut cake, which just slays me).

      The woman who is at the front of the house (Tina?) is incredible - she's warm, friendly, helpful. I just wish her warmth pervaded the room a bit more. It was VERY quiet when we got there, with just a few tables (we eat early - gotta get home for the babysitter so she'll be happy and keep coming back!), and again, we were the youngest people there. And there were so many people working ... one person took our drink order, another came over and took our food order, another kept coming over to ask if all was well. It actually got comical, because we'd be in the middle of a fun conversation and they'd interupt us to do something or other at our table. It just seemed like it was every 2-3 minutes, and completely unnecessary. That and the quietness made it a bit difficult to relax and just enjoy ourselves. It did get pretty busy by the time we were leaving, but it was still eerily quiet (but at least it kept the floor staff a bit busier!).

      Prices range from about $8-11 on the appetizers, and $23-37 on the entrees (at least the night we were there). Seemed to be a nice enough wine list. The room is pretty, but again ... just a little stiff feeling. This is the kind of place you were proudly take your parents to - very good food in a pretty setting, but not a very lively place.

      1. i don't know about stiff, but i did mention old-school... and i think they're going for a more staid ambience. I had that tart the other night, too, btw... holy mackerel that was good. and the egg over the top? wow. i also had the oxtail en crepinette (braised, then wrapped in caul fat and sauteed... yummers.) again, not avant garde, but perfectly executed, using super high quality ingredients. I will say that my wife had the bass (prepared much like the flounder perhaps just a special on a different night?), and i thought it needed a little salt. minor quibble on our end.
        as far as a veg entree-- i think if you ask when you make your res, or even when you get there, they're so accomodating about other stuff that i can't imagine they'd have a problem on that end.
        with respect to ambience--i agree, it's not a party--i wouldn't go there with a bunch of my friends. but for a romantic date with my wife after a long week? exactly what the doctor ordered, in my case. i do think they could use some music in the dining room (or maybe i was too into my oxtail to notice it)...
        i do see what you're saying about the hush of the place, LlM. I just think it's on purpose! *grin* sounded as though you enjoyed the food, anyway.

        1. Oh yeah, we definitely enjoyed the food (and you are SO right - I think a little salt would have made a big difference in my fish that night). Also right on the music thing ... we left saying that same thing. My only quibble with the romantic date aspect is that whole business of the constant wait staff presence at our table. You really couldn't carry on any kind of conversation that you wouldn't want interupted (over and over again) the night we were there. I like feeling well taken care of as much as the next person, but this was a little out of control. My guess is that the timing of our visit (during the holidays) had a lot to do with the stiffness, and the possibly bored wait staff. We'll definitely give it another shot.

          Old school is a *much* more polite way to put it.

          We agree - the food is defintely very good (that tart!). Did you have dessert?

          1 Reply
          1. re: LulusMom

            I'm with you, Lulu's Mom. I appreciate what Tina's 's trying to do, but at a certain point it becomes intrusive. And I find it so unbelievably irritating that she refers to all women as "madame," especially when it appears to be the only French word she knows. But yes, the food really is quite good, and it feels like a very unique, special occasion place.

          2. yeah, we had a chocolate hazelnut tartlet w/coffee ice cream. It was quite good, although I'm not much of a dessert person.

            1. We ate at Bonne Soiree last night (anniversary dinner, which made for a good excuse to try something we'd been wanting to try anyway), and I came away bemused & generally well-fed, but not really super-impressed.

              We had the winter greens salad with pear & walnut, the terrine du jour, the striped bass (and I'm currently unable to recall how it was served, other than that there was a citrusy sauce and some *perfectly* cooked shrimp -- it wasn't my entree, and I didn't get access to much of it ;-)), and the pheasant.

              Good stuff first: the bass was very nicely prepared, and seriously, those shrimp . . . I generally avoid shrimp in restaurants because it seems inevitable that they wind up huge & overcooked, but these were truly marvelous. I will continue to avoid shrimp in restaurants as I'm fairly sure they're not going to be as good as these were ;-)

              The pheasant was served with a nice mix of savory wintry vegetables--fennel, celeriac, leek, chestnuts, mushrooms--and honestly, they were the best part of the dish. The two or three slices of the pheasant from the center of the breast were remarkably tender & had a nice muted but pleasant flavor, but the rest ranged from overcooked to merely blah. Honestly, the main reason I ordered it was due to a sudden craving for the vegetables it was being served with, so I didn't really have anything in the way of expectations for the bird, other than to provide me some protein, so bottom line is that I just wish there'd been more of the veggies (though the chestnuts, served whole, were a bit much--I would have liked to have smaller bits of chestnut better-integrated into the dish as a whole).

              The dressing on the salad lacked anything resembling a tart, salty or tangy note . . . it seemed to just be a glaze of oil . . . which left the salad an unfocused plate of subtle (or bland, if you prefer) greens, walnuts, and a rather flavorless pear. There *were* about 2 grams of sharp cheddar hidden in the salad, which helped, but only in the two bites that contained them.

              The terrine was described as "pheasant, with foie and pistachio" and probably a couple of other ingredients I've forgotten. It was served country pate-style, as a slice from a larger bacon-wrapped loaf. There was a little slice of pheasant breast in the center, which was kinda weird, but tasted good. The whole thing actually tasted good, but texture-wise, it was *really* dense, to the point that we were using knives and forks to cut & eat it. It seemed pretty cold, too, so it's possible that some of the firmness was just due to that.

              Although it was tasty, it wasn't as good as any of the various terrines & pates I've had at Piedmont.

              The rolls were good, particularly the crust, (the crumb was a couple of degrees denser than I'd really consider optimal, but the flavor was nice, so I'm not really complaining), and they kept a steady flow of them all evening.

              The service was amusing in its odd hybrid of formality and, for lack of a better word, hominess. The waitstaff did all the formal-service stuff (serve left, clear right; fold yr napkin for you while you're in the bathroom), but Tina is just way too enthusiastic & bubbly to pull off the formal maitre'd role, to her credit. She really works the room.

              (I'm not a wine drinker, but Tina clearly knows her wines & really enjoys describing them, and M. confirmed that Tina's description was dead-on, and that the wine was really tasty)

              I found it a little weird that one person gave us the specials, took our dessert order, and generally seemed to be "our waitress," but the other waiter took our food order. He also seemed to be responsible for taking photos, upon request, of the other diners, which just added to the hominess. He was an older gentleman, in a suit, and his demeanor was a funny mix of formality and drollness, as if he acknowledged he was playing a role that he took seriously, but only to a point.

              Other folks mentioned music, or the lack thereof; there was definitely music last night, predominantly a mix of jazz vocal standards (Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Dean Martin), though there was one horribly jarring moment when Bread's "If a Picture Paints a Thousand Words" came on. Blech.

              We tried the chocolate/raspberry layer cake & a berry tart (oh jeez, I'm blanking, was it boysenberry, loganberry, huckleberry? some kinda small blue berry). The cake was a pretty good example of a by-now-familiar dessert-tray standard. The tart, particularly the crust, was outstanding.

              One weird phenomenon ended the evening on a kinda bum note: after we finished dessert, and M. said no thanks to a 2nd cup of coffee, they cleared the plates and then . . . left us sitting there, for at least 5 minutes, maybe more. No check, no followup, nothing. After a while, we began speculating as to why this mysterious service breakdown was occurring, and developed the theory that it was because we were holding hands above the table, and they were trying to be unobtrusive.

              Sure enough, when we stopped holding hands, the check appeared almost immediately. I guess this gives us a trick to try next time we're dining out & wishing for the check to appear, since I will confess we do a fair amount of hand-holding when dining as a couple.

              1. Had dinner there last night and in short, it was a wonderful experience. The restaurant is very pretty and the service was perfect, but Tina coming by for a brif chat every now and then kept it from being too formal. We couldn't decide between the two appetizer specials, a creme-based fish soup and a terreine made with a beboned capon stuffed with chicken, pork, and duck livers and meat with mustards and onion jam, so they split them for us and served them as two separate courses. Brilliant-- and they didn't charge us anything extra to do so. My wife's entee was a provencal style dish of clams, shrimp, scallops (huge!), and snapper served with a saffron broth. I went with the duck, which consisted of a pan roasted breast and braised thigh accompanid by roasted veggies. We were feeling very full by dessert time but couldn't pass on the caramelized pinapple atop a soaked sponge cake-- a glorified pineapple upside down cake if you will-- and a cappucinno.

                Everything was sublime. Ben and Karen Barker better get off their laurels because there is a new best restaurant in the Triangle as far as I'm concerned.

                4 Replies
                1. re: bbqme

                  I believe we fell victim once again to the too much hype syndrome. The experience was solid, but not exceptional. We had no problem spending the cash, but after thinking about the food, feel a bit insulted. $28 for king mackerel and vegetables. I want at least expensive ingredients or creativity for that price. I may be wrong but I don't think mackerel is even an expensive fish. My wife had the above mentioned Marseille inspired seafood entree, which was good and somewhat reasonably priced at $30 given the ingredients. The service, atmosphere, and onion tart were great. The Riesling by the glass was also excellent. My wife's filet mignon carpaccio was tasty but dry. Could have used a (larger) drizzle of olive oil. The gateau au chocolat with white chocolate gelato was weak. We will go back and try non-fish entrees and skip dessert. Four Square is still my favorite in that price range.

                  1. re: Shag Waits

                    Your instinct is correct about mackerel - it shouldn't be an expensive ingredient. From a fishing website (http://www.pierfishing.com/resources/...):

                    "Most people hate to eat mackerel because they don’t know how to cook them; bags of mackerel are taken home for the cats, or used on the rose bushes. They are very bloody and strong flavored. ... Bar-b-queued mackerel is fairly good and smoked mackerel is even better. But no, it will never be the same as eating halibut."

                    1. re: GermanShepherdPuppy

                      Having grown up near the coast of north FL I got to do a lot of saltwater fishing. There is a huge difference in flavor between any old mackerel (e.g., spanish or northern) and king mackerel. Also, they are fast moving, deep water fish so I imagine their price would be consistent with that of similar fish such as tuna or wahoo, which also are not inexpensive fish.

                      1. re: bbqme

                        A friend of mine who fishes a lot and catches a lot of mackeral. He put the filets of mackeral in a plastic bag with orange juice overnight to take the oily taste of this fish out. I have to agree it works pretty well and gives you a tast non--oily filet.

                2. I have been to Bonne Soiree 3 times thus far (and am going back again tonight) and have been pretty impressed. We used to dine at Ocean Blue when they were at the beach and LOVED it there as well. I feel like the food is fresh, prepared well, and typically offers something a bit different. My favorite thing to order is sweetbreads when Chip has them as his are some of the best I have ever had. The prices are very reasonable in my eyes and Tina has 'thrown' in our first glass of wine with our flights each time we have gone. VERY good and I highly recommend it.

                  1. We dined last night at Bonne Soiree and enjoyed it very much.

                    I am, I must say, not a fan of Magnolia Grill, which the last two times I tried to go there was way overcrowded and overloud to the point where it detracted from the pleasure of the excellent quality food they serve.

                    Bonne Soiree does not have this problem. The space between the tables is reasonable, the room is not cavernous or acoustically like a garage (George's Garage, Piedmont, etc), the lighting is good without being too bright or too dark. I could carry on a conversation with my spouse at my table without being overheard, so long as I pitched my voice for intimate conversation, and I could hear myself think. So no, not a loud party restaurant, thank goodness.

                    People were dressed nicely, a pleasant change from the last time I went to the Angus Barn (where people now are accepted in shorts and mid-riff baring tops, I myself was not raised in a Barn, even if I was eating in one).

                    The food is fine, I don't really have any serious quibbles about it. They really know how to cook vegetables, and the chef's skill at caramelizing onions is remarkable. They are accommodating to requests for substitutions or changes, a highly desired feature. Given the menu, I would indeed not count on there being a vegetarian dish, so say something when you make reservations.

                    We examined the wine list, it was better than most, given the number of wines on it. With only the two of us, we decided to give the wine-tasting ($30 each) a try and really enjoyed it. Ms. Vaughn seems to have fun with it, and we did as well. An excellent value, and probably worth a half-star increase in rating just on this aspect alone. We were served 4 wines: bubbly/aperitif, with salad/appetizer, with entree, and dessert. Actually we were served 5 and a half wines, maybe that was as a result of our conversation, maybe just her generosity, but you are only advertised to get 4 wines.

                    The service was just like what has been described by others, an interesting mix of formal and informal. Personally, I liked it.

                    Overall, whether I choose to go there or one of my other top 3-4 restaurants in the area will be based on what style I want to be eating that day. Yes it is a bit on the high side of price for the food alone, but when I eat there it won't be for the food alone, but the whole experience.

                    My only two quibbles are going to be as follows: a) I really wish with a rotating menu that they had even a one-page website with the current menu on it, and b) while the handwriting on the menus is good quality, with flair and style, I and other people I know will have a hard time reading it at times, so I wish it was printed.

                    1. We went there on 2/13/08. No ham was listed in the tart. The first courses section had 3 vegetarian options and they all seemed very good. I chose the tart which was delicious. There are no vegetarian second courses on the menu, but the Chef made me a special plate with different vegetables and garnished with green apples and it was delicious. For dessert I tried the tart du citron with the Italian merengue on top. I liked the tart, but the merengue was not how they are made in Italy. It was good, but soft—usually in Italy merengue is cooked all the way through.
                      We let them paired the wine to each dish and we truly enjoyed that. I did not find the place "stiff", I actually think the Fearrington house is much stiffer. The decor is elegant, and I was impressed by the level of details when they described the food or the wines. We will certainly return.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: vanecita

                        Thanks for the update. By the way, just what did they charge for the off-the-menu vegetable plate?

                      2. I went there last week w/a friend. It was a wonderful experience. The staff was super friendly, the servers were attentive but not overbearing. For apps, we had the boudin blanc and the leek tart. Both were fantastic, w/the sausage being outstanding. For dinner, we had the rockfish and the flounder. I really enjoyed the rockfish but I'd have to say I loved the flounder even more. My friend and I split the tart au citron. It was delicious but my only quibble is the orange was a little bit crunchy. We just ate around it.

                        My friend had a hard time reading the menu b/c of the script. It didn't really bother me but I can definitely see where it could be an issue for some folks. All in all, one of my favorite dining experiences in the Triangle. I will definitely be back!

                        1. We finally were able to have a meal at Bonne Soiree and it was wonderful. I agree with all earlier posts here. Service was good combination of formal and casual. We were left alone when we wanted to be alone, but staff would appear out of nowhere - like magic - when we needed anything! I was so impressed. I reached over with a fork to take a bite of my husband's appetizer, and before I knew it, they had me a plate! Food was very good. We will go back!

                          1. I've known about Bonnie Soiree since its opening in late 2006 yet for some reason I'd put off going. Despite the fact that it was a new restaurant, it seemed so "old-guard" and the mixed reports I'd heard from people I genuinely trust didn't help matters.

                            I'm kind of upset I waited this long to go. I had probably the most technically proficient meal I've had in my nearly four years in the Triangle. There are a couple other restaurants that are more creative and at a more accessible price point, but I pretty much have no complaints about my meal at Bonne Soiree overall. For me, that's saying something, especially given my penchant for creative cooking.

                            I visited Bonne Soiree this evening with my roommate and was able to try several dishes throughout the evening. The room is perhaps a bit stuffy, a caricature of fine-dining that doesn't really even exist in most fine-dining restaurants. Still, once I settled in it was quite comfortable. The clientèle skews older and toward special event diners. Not exactly the hipster crowd, but I can understand why. It's certainly no fault of the restaurant itself. The service was extremely friendly and well-meaning. They're not going to win Michelin stars on the account of the grace of their movements, but I felt coddled and very well taken care of. Realistically I couldn't have asked more.

                            The hand-written menus are great. Seriously old school, seriously cool. You just don't see that kind of thing anymore (not that I actually ever did, but I hear there was in fact a time before minimalistic menu printing was the standard, maybe the 1980s). Tina is a perfect matriarch, and I don't know where some of the criticisms I've read about her come from. She runs a tight but friendly ship and knows what kind of experience she wants to create for her guests. I can't fault that. She worked me through my wine pairings and checked in on us at least a couple times in addition. I thought the wine pairing was a great value and only had a slight issue with the "appertif," an Oregon pinot gris with a bit of fruit and a lot of minerality through the middle. I can see where she was coming from, but that's not quite an appertif, especially since we weren't served an amuse or anything. A glass or sparkling or a even a short pour of a riesling or gerwurtz would've seemed a better start. My second wine, with my first course, was a REALLY cool Spanish white blend the likes of which I had never tried. Tina described it as a white that drinks like a red. I couldn't have described it better myself. Another interesting pick was my dessert wine, a late harvest chenin blanc. The first time I've had a dessert wine made from those grapes from the Loire.

                            Between my roommate and I, we sampled the boudin blanc and sweetbreads as starters. Although one can get both at Vin Rouge, these were very refined examples. Textbook execution, refreshing in their unpretentious tastiness and subtle elegance. I preferred the sweetbreads, one lobe, crusted with breadcrumbs and dijon, sitting in a wine sauce with some spring peas. Great contrast between the rich/unctuous star of the plate and acidic/sweet accompaniments.

                            For our mains, we had the stuffed quail and the pork noisettes. The former was stuffed with, among other items, foie gras. While I've had better foie-stuffed quail from the likes of Joel Robuchon and Guy Savoy, the mere fact that this dish even renders comparison is the highest praise. I was all about this dish. My roommate's pork was an earthier affair thanks to pecans, spaetzle, and bacon-wrapped prunes. Not quite as refined but very, very tasty. Great wine pairing there with a tabacco-y cab franc that picked up similar notes from the prunes and well-seared pork.

                            For dessert, the pot au creme and the baba rum with tropical fruits. The former was perhaps the only marginal let down of the evening. A wonderful chocolate custard, perfectly bitter, but a bit boring. The rum-soaked cake however was excellent, so French in its flavor profile. A tropical fruit sauce sat at the bottom of the plate, topped with the cake, filled with a tropical fruit salad. Simple but so satisfying.

                            I realize this sounds like a love letter to this restaurant, and I suppose it is. Sometimes I get so caught up in the cutting edge that I forget how good the classics can be. Bonne Soiree was an unexpected surprise. I'm actually considering going back before I leave for good a few weeks from now.

                            After tax and tip I spent just north of $105. Not exactly cheap, but well worth it. Again, I want to go back. I'm usually apprehensive to rate area restaurants on the NYT scale of stars, but this place easily merits a strong two if not three.

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: BryanZ

                              Thanks for the great, time consuming review! Have not been yet myself, but looking forward to it. Tonight is Panciuto in Hillsborough.

                              1. re: winedine

                                hey, do a post about Panciuto if you can. I've been wondering what sort of fresh, local ingredients they've brought in for their menu this early in the season.

                                1. re: mikeh

                                  I did a review on Pancuito on this board in October. After the lack of response, I haven't documented any further meals there, but here is the thread...

                                  I recommend it to people as much as I recommend Bonne Soiree (just to keep up with the main topic here).


                              2. re: BryanZ

                                Namedropper!!! :-) Nice write-up. I assume you're finishing up at Duke and heading off to conquer the world soon? If so, best of luck to you. Your posts on this board will be missed.

                                1. re: BryanZ

                                  Thanks for the great review. Makes me want to try it again, if I didn't have a new baby and wasn't about to lose my job. Those menu options sound so much better to me than the selections when my wife and I went. I'm all about some quail, foie, sweetbreads, and boudin blanc. Not a one when we went. Savoy and Robuchon? Lucky you. Best of luck after you leave the Triangle!

                                  1. re: BryanZ

                                    this is a great review! Frankly, I was looking for a write up that I'd submitted for the restaurant and began reading yours thinking it was mine. Well done.

                                    1. re: BryanZ

                                      I have been going to Bonne Soiree since it opened and agree heartily with this review. The food and atmosphere and yes, even service, come as close as I've had in this area to places like Pre Catalan or even Tour d'Argent in Paris. I'm writing to add a few things from my experience that have not been mentioned:
                                      1 - I'm a vegetarian with some very idiosyncratic likes and dislikes and I learned when I made my first reservation that if I told Tina what I could eat, Chip would make something dazzling and special. Even though I may only go a few times a year, I have only to call and leave my name and they remember my eating preferences, my husband's - it's amazing. A really well-taken-care-of feeling.
                                      2 - As for trending older - the last time I went it was with 3 generations of my family, including a 9 year old wearing a blazer, tie, and bright red gym shoes. He was warmly received by Tina (the tie was appreciated, the gym shoes were admired) and the wait staff, and throughout the meal, he and the waiter played off their shared sly sense(s) of humor. Far from stuffy, and the young man's first fine dining experience couldn't have been more relaxed and enjoyable. He's a convert!
                                      So I think if you convey to the wait staff that you are not stuffy yourself you'll find the service gracious but not at all stiff or intimidating (contrast that with some of the 4-star local restaurants where the wait staff's "Is the food delicious?" makes you feel like you need to pass a test of your discrimination).
                                      The whole evening was a great experience with lots of laughing and enjoyment and yet still haute cuisine. Go figure.
                                      3 - Bonne Soiree is also a wonderful restaurant for solo dining - the first time I went it was to try it out shortly after they opened - over the holidays in fact - and I was treated regally and never felt at all uncomfortable as I sipped my wine, read my book, and ate my food (none of that "Just one?" business at the door or sublte message that single women are not quite equal)
                                      As a former New Yorker, I'm just thrilled Chapel Hill has a place like this.

                                      1. re: hwa1234

                                        Hwa I"m veg too and avoided Bonne Soiree, what did you have? was it uber cheesy? which is just too rich for me. I'd really like to know and give them a chance

                                        1. re: Rory

                                          I think if you gave them the word ahead of time you'd have no problem with them making veg. stuff for you. As to the richness factor, it IS a classic French place, so I think you sort of have to expect that. But it would be worth asking them if they could try to lighten things up too.

                                          1. re: Rory

                                            The thing is, I could imagine that they would bend over backwards for anyone (re: Lulusmom's suggestion to ask them to lighten up), but if you ask them to do things so differently than what they normally do - you're not getting their cuisine. Asking for vegetarian is fine, I think - all chefs should really have a good vegetarian repetoire. My favorite thing there was vegetarian - the goat cheese tart and I didn't find it too cheesy at all. The guy is obviously an ace chef and wouldn't just drown something in cheese. Try the tart and a nice salad. Or go in for a dessert one night. I remember having nice desserts. I resisted this place for a long time because I was afraid it would be too precious or fussy, but then I just went for it. And it was a bit precious and fussy - a lot of people like that though. In any case, I can see why people like it and I'm glad I tried it once.

                                            1. re: suse

                                              The goat cheese tart is seriously one of the best things I've ever eaten in my entire life.

                                            2. re: Rory

                                              Re veg entrees, usually non-run-of-the-mill vegetables with risotto or, most recently, homemade fettucine and a delicious, light - I don't think any of these was cheesy.

                                              Bonne Soiree Restaurant
                                              431 W Franklin St Ste 10, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

                                        2. I can't seem to find an official website for Bonne Soiree. Anyone know if one exists?

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: dcraig

                                            Don't believe so. You can call for the menu. It is a small, intimate venue.

                                            1. re: megabytes

                                              This thread is getting a bump to give my input on a visit this past weekend. My wife and I had dinner at Bonne Soiree for our anniversery meal and the best way to describe it was perfection. This was one rare occassion where everything about the whole dining experience was perfect. I regret that it took us this long to cross this place off of our to do dining list. I would recommend without any hesitation.

                                              Bonne Soiree Restaurant
                                              431 W Franklin St Ste 10, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

                                              1. re: Jesco

                                                I didn't know The Dancin' Outlaw (Jesco White) had such refined tastes!

                                          2. I just heard that Bonne Soiree is closing or has already closed?! Can anyone confirm or deny?

                                            Bonne Soiree Restaurant
                                            431 W Franklin St Ste 10, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

                                            38 Replies
                                              1. re: bbqme

                                                They are staying open until their lease runs out in April. Complete shame as I thought it was the best restaurant in the triangle. It's hard to survive in Chapel Hill on three busy nights a week.

                                                1. re: veganhater

                                                  Desolee, if this is accurate. My favorite restaurant in the Triangle. Going to have to increase my 4 times year special occasion going to more frequent if it really is going to close in April.

                                                  1. re: hwa1234

                                                    Sad.... where are they moving too?

                                                2. re: bbqme

                                                  That is a shame. Are they closing or are they closing and moving? They are/were one of the best in the Triangle. I hope they can reopen elsewhere and do a better business.

                                                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                    The Craigslist post said 'owner is relocating' - I wonder where? If they are going outside the Triangle, that would be a real loss for us. :(

                                                    1. re: romansperson

                                                      You know the place that use to be the Fish Shack in Durham may work, but it is also a bad spot location wise. Let us hope they stay in the area. Wonder if the newspaper would have any news.

                                                        1. re: peetoteeto

                                                          That is correct. They are going to try to open a place in New York City after a year or so. Very frustrating.

                                                          1. re: veganhater

                                                            So it wasn't like a rent issue or anything like that. They just want to try their hand in a bigger pond? Good luck to them. I guess it will be one place to trust and eat at. I'd see them in Brooklyn before I see them in the actual city of Manhattan. Well that just stinks. Wonder what will come to that space.

                                                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                              I don't think they wanted to try their hand in a bigger pond. If that was the case, they wouldn't have tried to make a go of it in NC for such a long time. Bonne Soiree needed to be busy five nights a week. Considering the size of the dining room (40 seats or so), this should have been possible. It was not. Three busy nights did not make this a viable venture for one of our most talented restaurant duos. Quite a shame.

                                                                1. re: rajeevofcarrboro

                                                                  Great (but sad) article. Thanks for posting that.

                                                                  1. re: rajeevofcarrboro

                                                                    Really getting ticked off by the proprietor of that property. Just seems like one bad move after another with the parking fiasco and now raising rent. If Bonne Soiree can't make it I wonder how Vimala's and Veronique's is going to make it. Even more perplexing, how does a great restaurant like Bonne Soiree not make it there but Penang with its so-so food and crappy service continue to survive?

                                                                    Bonne Soiree Restaurant
                                                                    431 W Franklin St Ste 10, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

                                                                    1. re: bbqme

                                                                      Penang is more visible, more affordable and can seat more people I would think and you don't have to dress up.

                                                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                                                          I don't think Tallulah's or Spanky's are anything that great, but they have managed to survive.. heck Butternut Squash is still around...

                                                                          Butternut Squash Restaurant
                                                                          Chapel Hill, NC, Chapel Hill, NC

                                                                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                            I think Bon Soiree didn't make it as people just don't want to eat fine French food all the time, maybe if they'd had rustic bistro food during the week at lower prices. I never went as the food is too rich. I really felt liverish when I lived in France..

                                                                            1. re: Rory

                                                                              Agreed. I love French food, but more of the bistro variety, and in a more casual setting, like Vin rouge or Rue Cler. I don't really want my dining experience to feel like I can't let out a large guffaw if my dining companion says something funny. That as a bit of a problem at BS for me. I liked the food, but as Rory says, it as on the rich side, fairly expensive, and not a comfortable place to sit and chat.

                                                                              And I'm very with bf about Tallulah's. That place used to be excellent, but it has been a few years, and i don't get at all why it is still open. Spanky's I get - they'll actually cook a burger medium rare, and that makes my husband very happy, since so few places around here will.

                                                                              Rue Cler Restaurant
                                                                              401 E Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701

                                                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                LulusMom, you'd think the Triangle would be able to support just ONE restaurant that has a more peaceful/elegant atmosphere like BS. Isn't it a blow to lose out on the ability to have this sort of experience, as it would be to lose NC's pitmaster tradition for BBQ? They are both artforms that are exceedingly difficult to pull off. Living in the SF Bay Area like I do now, I can tell you that I would kill for at least one place to offer up the peaceful escape and seamless service that BS has. Yes, I really do enjoy being able to drag myself in my California casual to enjoy cutting-edge/top-notch cuisine in a boisterous, if not communal, environment, but there's something to be said about a place where you can escape the din that pervades our lives and just focus on the food. The WSJ had an article entitled "One Square Inch of Silence" that I highly recommend.

                                                                                Even New Orleans, a city that prides itself as the everyman, blue-collar culinary mecca, has room for places like Restaurant August, where a hearty guffaw would be out of place, or Galatoire's, where despite the loud atmosphere you still have to wear a jacket for lunch. Such restaurants fill an important space in the spectrum of experiences one can and should be able to enjoy while dining.

                                                                                1. re: mikeh

                                                                                  Maybe having grown up in DC, a very very buttoned up town, has made me a little less enamored of the whole fancy and (somewhat) stuffy restaurant. I do see your point, it is just that I have been to so many places like that, both in DC and all over Europe, and quickly realized that I prefer more relaxed places that have the same quality food. We spent a 2 week period in France visiting as many 3 star places as we could, and found at the end that it just wasn't as enjoyable as the places with the fat little michelin guy next to them in the book. I think it all has a lot to do with your preferences and experiences. I definitely think the area *should* have been able to sustain a restaurant like this, especially with all the retirees and fairly high paying jobs and well traveled people. For that I blame the management, and not at all the restaurant.

                                                                                  Edit: by management I mean the owners of the building.

                                                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                    I think I've mentioned this before but although Bonne Soiree is plenty elegant I never felt a constrained or too buttoned-up atmosphere - in fact, in some ways almost warm and homey, albeit a very nice home.

                                                                                    Bonne Soiree Restaurant
                                                                                    431 W Franklin St Ste 10, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

                                                                                    1. re: hwa1234

                                                                                      Somehow on the nights we were there we never did. I thought Tina was a fabulous hostess, but the other people working the front of the house made it feel stuffy to me.

                                                                                  2. re: mikeh

                                                                                    The Triangle has at least two other high-end places with a peaceful/elegant, if not somewhat hushed, atmosphere (Heron's and Fearrington) so it's not as if the area can't support a place like this.

                                                                                    Mikeh, I nearly always agree with your posts, but your New Orleans examples are probably working against your argument in this case. My dinner at August was fairly noisy and the crowd in the bar that night was downright raucous - wandering by on other nights, it never struck me as a quiet spot. As for Galatoire's, the people may be wearing jackets, but they are there to party. I don't think anyone stumbling out of there remembers what they ate through the haze of Sazeracs. Ah...good times though.

                                                                                    I'm with LulusMom on this one, I've had my fill of quiet and formal. Give me quality food, but without the stiff atmosphere.

                                                                                    1. re: dinersaurus

                                                                                      Heron's and Fearrington definitely came to mind after my above post, but I guess the economics of those are somewhat different given that they are connected to, and thus subsidized by, a larger hotel and hotel traffic that passes through. When you throw in corporate gigs and such, they tend to have a captive audience that standalone restaurants don't.

                                                                                      I stand corrected on Restaurant August - I was there for lunch and it seemed quite white-gloved and hushed.

                                                                                    2. re: mikeh

                                                                                      I guess that niche has and will continue to be filled by Fearrington House Restaurant.

                                                                                      Fearrington House Restaurant
                                                                                      2000 Fearrington Village, Pittsboro, NC 27312

                                                                                2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                                  It would take a Really bad restaurant not to survive in Spanky's location.

                                                                                  1. re: ucctgg

                                                                                    Of course, four or five failed directly across the street before qdoba.

                                                                                      1. re: brokegradstudent

                                                                                        I remember a Copy Center there for many years. What restaurants were there?

                                                                                        1. re: ucctgg

                                                                                          There was a martini/tapas place for a while, but I think they were a little ahead of the trend. I know there was something else there before Qdoba, but can't remember.

                                                                                          1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                            I first visited Chapel Hill in 1984. That spot was a Christian Bookstore for a good amount of time. I think the copy center place replaced the bookstore. I also think the copy center was there longer than any other business. I also remember an Italian restaurant, I think called "Rendezvous". It closed, but moved up to an office park on Weaver Dairy Road. I never made it to either place. I remember going to the tapas place once and was less-than-impressed. I also think there's been one other restaurant there, because there seems to be some gap in the years. Maybe it just sat empty?

                                                                                            1. re: wintersummer

                                                                                              The tapas place was odd in that their posted menu didn't have anything on it that was recognizable as tapas. Lots of entrees, nothing priced or described like tapas.

                                                                                              There were two successive ventures with "grill" in the name but I'm not sure the second one ever get past the "opening soon" sign phase after the first one closed. Qdoba took forever to open as I recall. There were so many rumors in that period that I think I've inserted one of those in my count.

                                                                                              Also, I always try to put Michael Jordan's (closed) restaurant on that corner instead of a few blocks further west.

                                                                                              1. re: brokegradstudent

                                                                                                Yes! Now I remember the place that was "opening soon" - but didn't!

                                                                                              2. re: wintersummer

                                                                                                There was an upscale Italian restaurant there just before Qdoba called Valentino's. I ate lunch there once but it was a bit pricey - too much so to go there on a regular basis. They ended up moving to the office park at Vilcom Circle and then closed permanently. I don't think either location was a good fit for them.

                                                                                                1. re: romansperson

                                                                                                  And Valentino's bread wasn't very good. Good brick-oven bread is a requirement for a decent Italian restaurant

                                                                                              3. re: mpjmph

                                                                                                The first restaurant I remember at that location was Mr. Gatti's pizza. My friends and I would skip school on Friday afternoons, go eat pizza, and watch endless MTV videos on the big screen (circa 1984). I think it occupied both the Qdoba and Ben & Jerry's spaces.

                                                                        2. re: peetoteeto

                                                                          I don't think that Bonne Soiree is stuffy at all - they did a great job with the space. But in the Independent article, they are quoted as saying "There just aren't a lot of people who can afford to spend $150 on dinner very often". For us, it simply came down to the food...while good, I'd rather eat at Magnolia, Nana's, Fearrington, Elaine's, or Herons...i.e. we chose to spend that $150 someplace else.

                                                                  2. Thanks for the information - I'm going to try to eat there more often in the next couple of months.