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MSP - Authentic French Bistro

My friend wants to try out an authentic French Bistro type place. I did a little research and came up with Pierre's and Cave Vin. I've been to Cave Vin and I liked it but it didn't necessarily feel very authentic to me. Would Pierre's fit the bill or is there somewhere else that is more Frenchy?

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  1. Not really a bistro atmosphere, but maybe Vincent's for happy hour? You'll get the authentic french food for sure.

    1. Pierre's is probably accurate. I have never been inside, though.

      Cafe Barbette is another option.

        1. I find Salut is much like the places that line the Champs Elysees (sorry fno rench accent keys on this machine) and the food is very good.

          2 Replies
          1. re: MN Hick Chowhound

            I think of Salut more as a brasserie, but regardless, Salut purposely mocks itself and the French brasseries that it imitates. That is not to say that the food is bad; I've never had anything bad here, actually -- but anyplace that mocks the concept of a French eatery could not really be considered authentic, right?

            I would say that Barbette "feels" the most like a French cafe of anywhere in the cities. The distinction between cafe and bistro can come down to semantics, so it depends on what your friend is thinking. Some of the dishes at Barbette are relatively authentic. The buckwheat crepes are a decent approximation of Brittany. The frites are pretty close. Not everything on the menu is authentic French, though.

            I would also second the recommendation of Vincent's happy hour. Go to Vincent and eat from the bar menu. Starburst is right that it won't exactly "feel" like a bistro, but the food will probably be very close.

            1. re: Chris Mitra

              The best way to describe Salut is the way that the owners themselves have: It is to French food what P.F. Chang is to Chinese food.

              Their goal is to establish a national chain of "French" restaurants. The one in Edina is a prototype, they're adding another on Grand Ave in St. Paul. We'll see where they take it from there.

          2. I suggest Vincent (wonderful food; sit in the bar), Margaux (haven't tried it yet), or Patrick's new place in Wayzata (also untried 'cause I'm not thrilled with the Richfield location's food these days). Based on the reviews I've read, Margaux is the closest to a real French bistro in terms of both the food and the atmosphere.




            I found Salut to be excessively "touristy" and not very good. It feels like a chain to me. (But maybe that makes it like the places on the Champs Elysees :-).

            Pierre's has gotten some bad reviews on this board. Here's a thread from last year discussion our lack of French bistros:


            And another thread mentioned the great sandwiches and crepes at this out-of-the-way French cafe:


            I'd love to hear which place you choose and how you liked the food!


            1 Reply
            1. re: AnneInMpls

              I'll probably try Pierre's since it's near my house and I'm curious. Barbette and that place in Signal Hills are on the top of my list now! Thank you!

              There is something I don't like about Patrick's I can't put my finger quite on it but it bugs me. I've had nice pastries and quiche there. I guess it feels like just a copy of Turtle Bread, but in a spot that is easier to get to for the Edina ladies.

              By the way, the Red Pepper Chinese in that same strip mall isn't a bad choice. It is basic Chinese-American but it's reliable and sometimes it's hard to find a place that isn't a buffet. They kind of annoyed me since they charged my family of five 1.75 per cup of tea, but it's not bad. Also open on Sundays unlike a lot of other family run Asian places.

            2. Another vote for Barbette here. Closest to the "feel" of a french bistro that I've found in the TCs.

              1. Nobody has mentioned A Rebours yet. Do they qualify at all?

                2 Replies
                1. re: Jordan

                  I have not been to AR in a while but just mentioned it to a friend looking for a place "with French food AND ambiance". I am not sure about the official difference between bistro & brasserie, but maybe AR is closer to a brasserie.

                  mnitchals - let us know about Pierre's - have not been there for many years now, but do recall tasty frog legs and a very nice onion soup!

                  1. re: Jordan

                    AR: we had an awesome meal there! i did backflips all the way home over my tender slices of lamb's brains (& if that is a huge turnoff they have a great all-around menu)! patricks has pretty pastries but i agree that is very edina "ladies who lunch" and not what brings back memories of paris for me, anyway. barbette i think is doing its own thing rather than being too-very french-derivative, cold carrot soup aside ;(.

                    i think msp does lack real french bistros at present, but has good franco-diaspora eats.

                  2. I've never felt "French" at Barbette. I don't get the French connection at all. At least not the parts of France that I frequent (Paris, Occitaine). I love the place, but it would never occur to me to recommend it as a French bistro or cafe. Definitely not a brasserie, despite the availability of beer.

                    1. I agree, neither Margaux nor Barbette sound French or they sound French like the French dressing is French ! try Kallyste in Signal Hills center, in West St Paul. It is not a bistro but you will find French food

                      1. Thursday night we finally went to Pierre's. I've been to France only once (but going back this month). It certainly felt "Frenchy" to me. The hostess sat us down right away but everything was relaxed -in a whatever it's just an evening when you are going to dine not a big deal kind of way. There was a small bar in front and I French guy (I am assuming it's Pierre) was holding court entertaining a gaggle of Lake Harriet Lawyer Wives. The dining room was pleasantly dark, and felt like many of the places I went to in France -only they seemed to be below ground often. The only un-Frenchy thing about the setting was the neighborhood. Not enough foot traffic for france and too many Mayberry-like elm trees. For our entrees decided to go classic. I had the coq au vin, my friend had Steak au Poivre with pommes frites. The entrees were perfect. They clearly came straight from the pan to the table. The Coq was not too oily or smokey and the vegetables and potatoes were nice. The only disappointment was the dessert -Poire Belles Helene. The pear wasn't soft enough to eat with a spoon and it was in a really narrow tulip glass so I had to extract the fruit and cut it with a knife. Otherwise it's a great place -nice but doesn't look like you are trying too hard.

                        1. We were in France this past fall and just loved the laid back bistros where we sat for hours. My husband & I have noticed lately (maybe France ruined us) how rushed we feel when it's the two of us going out lately. We were at Il Vesco Vino last night in St. Paul and felt like (even though we loved our waitress) that they really wanted to turn that table. We specifically waited to order our mail course but the waitress did come and say we might want to order as she didn't want our food to take a long time. We told her it was fine with us if it did take a while. My husband commented on how much he missed the leisurely meals in France. We did have a great, "slow" meal at Margaux's the night before Valentine's Day. I think they were actually understaffed not realizing how busy they would be so each course took awhile and it was so nice. The scallops I had there by the way were the best scallops I've had anywhere. Also had a great salad. I know these restaurants want to turn those tables and make money but if we're dropping a bit of change there, I'd like my meal to last more than an hour. J

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: janiceh

                            Janice, try Restaurant Alma for a leisurely, non-rushed meal. Although the food isn't stereotypically French - there are more Italian ingredients in the dishes than anything else - this place reminds me of the best neighborhood bistros that I loved in Paris. They won't rush you, and if you tell them you want to take your time, they'll do an even better job at letting the evening last. (And it doesn't hurt that the food is fabulous!)


                            P.S. I just got back from dinner there tonight - I highly recommend the roast chicken!

                            1. re: AnneInMpls

                              Anne, that is so on my list of places to try soon. Their menu looks great. Thanks for the info, I do miss those 3 hour dinners in Paris but not the heartburn at 11pm. Janice