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French, Special Occasion, Suggestions Please

I know I asked this question before a couple of years ago, but couldn't find the original post. Same question: price no object really; not bistro food; classical French preferred, but could be across the river; we would be driving. I remember one place suggested was in N. J., but that isn't necessary. If I could say "knock our socks off" in French, I would, but I'm not great with languages!

Special occassion: me treating hubby.

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  1. What could be better than Le Bec Fin?

    1 Reply
    1. re: idia

      True, about LBF being great, but we have been there for lunch several times; I can't do stairs so Le BAr Lynonnais is out. Birchrunville sounds fab, and might be perfect for this occasion, so I will research.

      But, keep em coming, and "epatez nous", which is one heck of a great phrase if that means 'knock ones socks off'! Thanks much.

    2. First of all the French is "épatez nous". Now, to the restaurants. You won't go wrong with LBF -- the ultimate special occasion, classical French place. Of course, it'll cost you a bundle. I like Le Bar Lyonnais downstairs -- same kitchen, half the price, but watch the wine list -- same prices as upstairs, ie real, real steep. The food is less formal, but not bistro food.

      You don't mention western suburbs, but I am very fond of the Birchrunville Store Cafe. It tries to replicate the 1-star Michelin (they don't have a star, BTW, but I bet if they were licensed, they would be a candidate) inn in the countryside of France (I don't know if this is what you meant by classical French). It will cost you a great deal less, partly because it's BYO, but the food quality is an amazing value. And truly French.

      Other than that, the truly French pickings are pretty slim around here. Couple of other places that I know of, that are French and pretty good, but not up to the standard I think you're looking for -- Spring Mill Cafe and Gilmore's.


      1. Did you ever visit Pif when it was open? It's closed now, but the chef's newer restaurant, Ansill, does a prix-fixe Pif menu every Sunday, it's really good and definitely classical French. If you get the prix-fixe they'll let you BYO, too.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Buckethead

          No, I never went to Pif (I'm only in the area a few years). I had it on the list (my wishful list of places to try, which grows longer rather than shorter) but it closed before I got there. Thanks for the tip on Ansill. On the list.


        2. The Inn at Philips Mill right outside of New Hope is quite good. Classsic french fare, nice traditional cozy atmosphere. BYO and prices are reasonable. Also, its a very pretty drive to get there, you feel like you are away from the rest of the world!

          1. You can't go wrong with Birchrunville Store Cafe, Gilmore's, or the Inn at Phillips Mill. Each one of those offers outstanding service, creatively prepared excellent food, and wonderful ambiance.

            1. I also agree with the Inn at Philips Mill. They do vegetables better than any other place I have ever been. How about Le Bon Auberge in New Hope? I have never been but my cousin raved about it. that was awhile ago--is it still there?

              5 Replies
              1. re: RUShue

                I'll add my agreement about the Inn at Philips Mill. Regarding Le Bon Auberge - take your wallet, it's expensive! Another place you might consider is Slate Bleu in Doylestown.

                1. re: bucksguy14

                  We were going to try Slate Bleu for lunch one day but it wasn't open. Would you mind expanding your comments on the restaurant? Thanks.

                  1. re: crazyspice

                    Unlike most restaurants, they're only closed on Tuesdays. Lunch is from 12-2 every day but Tuesday. Here's a link to their website - http://www.slatebleu.com/sb.swf We both love the place. Good/great food - faultless service - Susan oversees the front and it's run extremely well. Mark runs the kitchen and does an outstanding job. I have quite a few family members in the restaurant business and one of my brothers, who has a restaurant in NYC (Tribeca) says he "only dines in restaurants that are either chef-owned or if I know the chef in the kitchen personally, or a restaurant where the owner is on premise and he’s not a chef, because you’re guaranteed to have someone who is personally interested in your dining welfare". I think that is why we like Slate Bleu so much! You won't be disappointed.

                2. re: RUShue

                  I feel like I need to add my disagreement for the Inn at Phillips Mill. My wife and I went there with two other couples (one of them French and working here in the US for a year) last Saturday. None of us enjoyed the dining experience. When the French man ordered the French-named dish, the waitress could not understand the order and we had to point to the item on the menu. This may have miffed her because service only declined from there. They are a BYOB, but I had to walk to find wait staff and ask them to open a bottle. Any request like refilling the bread or water was met with an expression that told you how much you were bothering them ... and then nothing was refilled. You only had to ask 4 or 5 times ... it would eventually get results. The food was acceptable, but definitely not worth suffering the rude service. Only twice in more than thirty years of dining out have I not wanted to leave a tip. This was one of the two.

                  1. re: mangiatanto

                    We've been going to Phillips Mill, off and on, for about 15 years. I have never experienced what you did last Saturday! Did you complain to the Maitre'd? I have always found them to be very accommodating regarding opening and taking care of any wine we've brought with us. I cannot recall having to ask repeatedly for more bread and/or water. We've been dining out longer than you have and whenever I've encountered rude, or non-, service, I talked to the Maitre'd, manager or owner and let them know what was wrong. We had servers changed, table switches, service by the Maitre'd or manager (and in 1 place I recall, we were served by the owner). We have left a couple of places with the meal sitting on the table because we couldn't get satisfaction. If you've been going to places like Phillips Mill and accepting the kind of treatment you described, you're crazy - it's your money!

                3. Gilmore's, in West Chester. Hands down. http://www.gilmoresrestaurant.com

                  Tough to get in without advance notice on weekends, weekdays no problem.

                  More good places here >> http://www.bestofchestercountypa.com

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ronnybass

                    Is there a reason no one has suggested Lacroix in the Rittenhouse Hotel? Seems to me that it would be a great option, and at FAR less money than LBF (and probably much less attitude). I have another suggestion: drive the (relatively) short distance into Manhattan and go to Eleven Madison Park or The Modern and have a meal that will be far beyond anything in Philadelphia. I ate at EMP a few weeks ago and had the best meal of my life in a beautiful setting with service that is perfect. It is quite expensive but if this is a very special occasion then it would be perfect.

                  2. Definitely Le Bec Fin. An alternative would be The Golden Pheasant in Erwinna, PA along the Delaware.

                    1. How about the Fountain room? It's expensive, but I think worth every penny. Also, I agree with the other chowhounders about going to Ansil, Lacroix or Le Bec Fin....you'll have a fantastic culinary experience with any one of those restaurants.

                      1. Hey Bashful, I bet the place in Jersey that you're thinking of was La Campagne. Which I definitely recommend. :-)

                        http://www.lacampagne.com <-- website has directions & menu including prices, which IMO are quite fair

                        La Campagne
                        312 Kresson Rd, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034, USA

                        La Campagne
                        312 Kresson Road, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Mawrter

                          You got it, Mawrter! Thank you so much! This has been a great thread for me. We did snag a reservation for Birchrunville Cafe next week, and I'm excited. However, I have a $149.50 leg up on our next eating out experience, that came from a tough phone negotiation concession. So, La Campagne, here we come, sometime soon.

                          1. re: Bashful3

                            Is the Birchrunville Cafe reservation for a weeknight? When I called a couple weeks ago, the message said no weekend reservations until June 14th!

                            1. re: JanR

                              Jan, that's only weekends. I was there Thursday night, and the place was about half full (I was on the 6-8 pm shift). It'll get busier come spring, but Wednesdays and Thursdays are still reasonably accessible. Our strategy is to make the next reservation in person as we leave.


                              1. re: FrancisdeR

                                The Inn at Phillips Mill has french ambience, but the chef or owners are not french, whereas Hotel du Village is husband and wife team french owned, and same french atmosphere as Phillips Mill.
                                For a romantic getaway I would recommend Glasbern Inn in Fogelsville Pa.

                                1. re: JanR

                                  Yes, Our reservation is for a Wednesday night. We were just as happy to go on a weeknight. I will report!

                            2. I agree with Le Bec Fin, the Fountain and Birchrunville -- but also would like to plug La Bonne Auberge in New Hope. True, it's very expensive but Madame is a very gracious hostess and the staff are excellent. Ane the place is beautiful.