HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >


French Bistrot in the City

I'm looking for a good French bistrot in Chicago, or possible the very close outskirts, to take my mom for her birthday. She used to live in Paris, and misses classic bistrot food. I need a good, not super expensive (I'd go up to about $25 for an entree, depending), authentic place. We also have some food restrictions in my family: one seafood allergy, one nut allergy, and one vegetarian, so the menu has to satisfy all of us. Right now I'm looking at Bistrot Margot, Brasserie Jo, Marche, and the Stained Glass Wine Bar. I've never been to any of them, though, so I welcome any comments and other suggestions. Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Skip Stained Glass and Marche if you want something classic. I would personallly go to La Sardine near Harpo Studios off of Randolph. I think it is rather authentic, has good service, and a wide enough menu that you will be able to find something. I prefer their sister restaurant Le Bouchon, but many think it is too noisy and crowded and rushed so might not be good for a family birthday.

    Bistrot Margot and Basserie Jo are both good...I just prefer Sardine. I also like Bistrot Campagne in Lincoln Square.

    1. Some friends and I had a very nice meal at Kiki's recently. Although I have never been to Paris, it seemed the menu was fairly authentic "bistro cuisine" (mussels, steak & frites, roast chicken, duck terrine, tarte de Provence, etc.) . I am not a huge fan of the genre, but I enjoyed my meal very much, and the service was great. The wine list was very nice and fairly reasonable with many choices by the glass.


      1 Reply
      1. re: Roger Spark

        I forgot to add a place link.

        Kiki's Bistro
        900 N. Franklin St., Chicago, IL 60610

      2. Here's another hint: La Sardine has a prix fixe on Tuesday night that is the best deal; you can get 3 courses very reasonably, including the yummy dessert soufflees... However, if your mom wants some quiet, then take her on a different day.

        1 Reply
        1. re: grapeface

          As does Le Bouchon. Le Bouchon feels like a classic bistro- same owners as Le Sardine

        2. I think you'll like Kiki's Bistro. Authentic, varied menu, great service. The staff is all good but I hope James is your waiter! And for dessert, consider the pear tart--it's divine!

          1. You don't mention where (which city neighborhood or suburb) you're coming from.

            The Stained Glass is very good, but not very French. If you're in the northern suburbs, one authentic place is Miramar, in Highland Park. www.miramarbistro.com Another is La Petite Amelia, in Evanston. www.lapetiteamelia.com In the city, Bistro 110, right off Michigan Avenue, is always good and quite authentic. www.levyrestaurants.com I also agree with the suggestion of Kiki's by others. www.kikisbistro.com

            1 Reply
            1. re: nsxtasy

              One more super-authentic French bistro in the Northern suburbs is Cafe Central, in Highland Park. Sometimes they have Îles flottantes for dessert! www.cafecentral.net

            2. La Sardine is one of my favorites, but it does get crowded particularly on Tuesday when the special prix fixe draws crowds and limits the options.

              Brassierie Jo is good choice, for a more low key ambience, particularly if yopu don't mind an Alsatian touch (their choucroute is very good):

              1. I would go with Bistro Margot or Bistro Campagne, based on the ones I have been to before. Not sure about the restrictions for either of those though...

                1. My two favorite French bistros are Bistro Zinc and Le Bouchon

                  Of all the restaurants you listed, I would recommend Bistrot Margot

                  1. Add my vote to La Sardine. Definitely superior to Bistro Margot. And, except for Tuesday evenings, La Sardine is generally not that crowded -- even at its standard prices (as opposed to Tuesday prix fixe special), you will have plenty of options if you are willing to spend $25 for an entree.

                    1. Um... Chez Joel, maybe?
                      I've never been to the place, but I walk by it all the time and the outside space looks really charming! Maybe somebody can shed some light.

                      Caution: stupid site plays music...grrrr


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: delk

                        I had a good experience at Chez Joel about 2 years ago, but haven't been back since. Would be interested to hear if others have been lately

                        1. re: delk

                          I had a disappointing, so-so experience at Chez Joel about one year ago. Too long ago to recall the details but I remember that the food just was nothing special.

                        2. I would NOT recommend Bistrot Margot. I went there for the first time about a month ago and it was awful. The mussels were just so-so, and my salmon dish was awful. The salmon was dry and all I could taste was salt in my potatoes. I can't remember what my friend got, but he was definitely not impressed.

                          1. I finally got to try La Sardine a couple of weeks ago, and liked it a lot! Yes, I was there on a Tuesday, when they do their "any three courses for $25" deal! I made a reservation in advance on their website. It was actually somewhat empty till about 6:30 or 6:45, then started filling up quickly.

                            I had been particularly looking forward to the sweetbreads, which is a dish I love. As it turns out, they were fairly good, but didn't blow me away - they were sliced rather than left whole, and the flavor was quite bland (even for this relatively bland dish) - and was my least favorite dish of the meal. I loved the mussels meuniere, especially the creamy broth. And I loved my chocolate souffle for dessert! It was not as chocolatey as some, but that was perfect because it didn't overwhelm the creme anglaise they poured over it. All in all, an excellent dinner, and a great value as well.

                            La Sardine is right off the Randolph Street corridor in the West Loop. (Oh, and while Tuesday is a great deal, it's not all *that* much more expensive on the other nights of the week!) www.lasardine.com