Cyrano's is kind of confusing. I agree the food sometimes varies from night to night, and it generally is not very crowded. But:
It has an interesting menu (tripe, sweetbreads, kidney, rabbit, etc.) compared with (for example) Mon Ami Gabi which is very Americanized (steak eleven different ways.) Also, it has an interesting wine menu with a number of very good less heard of wines that aren't overpriced. This type of menu will never be as popular in Chicago as one with a lot of steaks, but it means you can always get in, which is a plus.
So if I wanted a tender steak with a nice Bordeaux, I would go somewhere else. But I go there once a year or so when I want something a little less ordinary. I haven't had any big problems with the service or the food.
The Bistro on the list which I would never return to is Campagne. May have been an off night, but why go back when there are so many alternatives, and the menu and wine list were so ordinary? Mon Ami is another that suffers in comparison to others.
After two return visits to Cyrano's this year I would place it very near the bottom of Chicago's bistro lineup. We received exceedingly poor service and poorly-prepared food on both occasions. If bistro dining is high on you list I would instead hope that you might consider the following in that same general vicinity:
900 N Franklin St.
1437 N Wells St.
And, if you are willing to move a bit further afield, I would hope that you might also give consideration to one of these establishments:
4518 N Lincoln Ave.
1846 N Milwaukee Ave.
111 N Carpenter St.
Mon Ami Gabi
2300 N Lincoln Park West
Good luck to you,
re: Erik M
My last experience at Cyranos was also disappointing. Incompetent waiter, but I'm sure he's gone by now. Of more concern, the food was not well prepared - left dressing off of the salad. Ingedients missing from other dishes. Things like that. In the past it had been much better.
I'd go to La Sardine, or Brasserie Jo instead.
Wow. Considering the other replies, maybe I caught them on a good night. This was several years ago, too (maybe more than the 2 years I previously said). Things may have changed.
That said, I had a lousy experience at Cafe Matou (although I think I'm in the minority). I thought the food was flavorless and uninspired (and expensive). I think I had lamb (although the cheese and pate plate was very good). Everybody else seems to love that place.
For French, though, I enjoyed Cafe Bernard and its sister restaurant, the Red Rooster Cafe. Haven't been there in several years, though, either.
"Wow. Considering the other replies, maybe I caught them on a good night. This was several years ago, too (maybe more than the 2 years I previously said). Things may have changed."
At one time, Cyrano's was one of my favourites in the bistro category, but my visits over the past few years only seem to indicate a pronounced decline. It's sad, really, given Didier Durand's pedigree/history in this town. But, it has become a hugely competitive category, and nowadays we certainly don't lack for alternatives.
You know, the rooms have been nearly empty whenever I've visited these past few years. It makes me wonder how they manage to stay in business. Perhaps Chef Durand is still dispensing foie gras for free...
Unfortunately, I have to cast another negative vote for Cyrano's. It is right near my office, yet I'll cab elsewhere when I want Bistro food. My last meal there was dreadful (a particularly horrible cut of steak), finished off with stale cake. The meal prior to that was quite bad, which I thought was a fluke, so I tried again.
re: Erik M
I know you have La Sardine on there, but do you not like Le Bouchon? I know it's not for everyone....noisy, crowded...but I have always loved it. Have probably had everything on the menu at least twice. Cassoulet is incredible in the winter. Love their onion tart too. Oh, and the poulet is outstanding and comes with this amazing potato.
You have a good eye; I didn't include Le Bouchon because I truly loathe the place. As you've suggested, to each his own. Me, I have never been pleased with the food, the spacing, the pacing OR the service.
Given my grievances, La Sardine came as a shocking surprise to me when it first opened, I can assure you.
I also had a great meal here two or so years ago. My most recent meal, however, was anything but great. I ordered chicken with one set of sides, my husband ordered duck with another set of sides, and the server brought out my chicken with my husband's sides and vice versa. While we were easily able to transfer the proteins to the correct plates, when we told the server about the mistake, he was unconcerned and didn't even apologize. Setting aside that mix-up, the food was average at best.