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Mar 11, 2009 01:51 PM

French Bistros

I recently enjoyed the Tuesday special (3 courses from the entire menu for $25) at La Sardine; the food was great (particularly the mussels and the dessert souffle), as was the value, of course. Now I'm wondering which other French bistros I ought to consider. In addition to La Sardine, I've also tried and enjoyed Bistro 110, Kiki's, Brasserie Jo, Mon Ami Gabi, and Bistro Campagne in the city, and in the suburbs, Jacky's and Jilly's in Evanston, Café Central in Highland Park, and Miramar in Highwood. The only French bistro that disappointed me was Café Matou - not that it was bad, but it just didn't bowl me over.

Would anyone like to recommend other French bistros for me to try, as well as provide additional opinions on these? (I'm aware that Le Bouchon is the sister restaurant to La Sardine and also does the special on Tuesdays.) I'd love to hear opinions about which are the best, as well as any places to avoid. I should also mention that I've already done a search of previous topics with recommendations for French bistros, including these:

Here are the French bistros I'm aware of (and I'll note that I'm referring to moderately-priced, casual places serving traditional French bistro fare, and not the more expensive "fine dining" French restaurants):

Brasserie Jo (River North) -
Kiki's Bistro (River North) -
Cyrano's Bistrot and Wine Bar (River North) -
Madame Tartine (River North) -
Bistro 110 (Michigan Avenue) -
Bistrot Zinc (Gold Coast) -
Bistrot Margot (Old Town) -
Old Town Brasserie (Old Town) -
Mon Ami Gabi (Lincoln Park) -
Cafe Bernard (Lincoln Park) -
Bistro Campagne (Lincoln Square) -
La Tache (Andersonville) -
La Sardine (West Loop) -
Marche (West Loop) -
Le Bouchon (Wicker Park) -
Café Matou (Wicker Park) -
Cafe Absinthe (Wicker Park) -
Chez Joel Bistro (Little Italy) -
La Petite Folie (Hyde Park) -
Jacky's Bistro (north suburban Evanston) -
Jilly's Café (north suburban Evanston) -
Cafe Central (north suburban Highland Park) -
Froggy's (north suburban Highwood) -
Miramar (north suburban Highwood) -
Retro Bistro (northwest suburban Mount Prospect) -
D&J Bistro (northwest suburban Lake Zurich) -
Bistro Monet (west suburban Glen Ellyn) -

So, how about it, Chowhounds - where should I go the next time I want to try another French bistro?


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  1. I'd give Matou another try. During the week they have a bistro meal, 3 courses for something like $25 (don't quote me, but it's around there). Plus once a month they blow out wine for (again something like) $20 a bottle. The bistro meal is fixed, and different each night, so if you don't like what it is that night tant pis and you will order off the regular menu, but it's a great deal if you do like it.

    1. Great list. Looks pretty comprehensive.

      My faves (in no particular order) are:
      Cafe Bernard
      Bistro Campagne
      Le Boucon
      Le Sardine
      Cafe Central

      1. I've never been, but for the sake of comprehensiveness I'd definitely add:

        Cotes Du Rhone‎
        5424 N Broadway St,
        (773) 293-2683‎

        Also, it's stretching the definition a bit (but the idea of "French bistro" is quite stretchable), but you might want to consider Bonsoiree, too:

        By the way, this is quite a list. Is there another city in this country other than NYC (and perhaps SF) that can match it in quantity/quality? I'm one of those who thinks that along with Mexican and Thai, "French Bistro" should be added to that list of "ethnic cuisines" Chicago offers at the very highest level of quality/choice/authenticity..

        1 Reply
        1. re: jbw

          Good points, jbw!

          Cotes du Rhone, in Edgewater, certainly belongs. I hate restaurants that don't have a website though! ;) Their menu is on Menupages, at

          I've left out the more expensive French restaurants, and instead included them in the topic on "Special Occasion Restaurants - Haute Cuisine and Casual Fine Dining" at There, you'll find mentions of Everest, Le Titi de Paris, and Le Vichyssois, as well as places that are not quite as traditionally French, such as Cafe des Architectes, Tallgrass, and Michael (perhaps my three favorite restaurants in the Chicago area). Based on the menu on their website, Bon Soiree (where I haven't been) probably belongs in that topic rather than with the moderately-priced bistros listed here. Of course, your point about the definitions being arbitrary and "stretchable" is a good one!

          I'm fairly familiar with San Francisco dining and while they have some good high-end places, they don't have the depth of French bistro dining that we do. Besides NYC and SF, I'm not familiar enough with other large cities to compare. It's certainly something we do extremely well and, as your last statement implies, it's often overlooked - especially for value as well as quality. Some might debate whether it is considered "ethnic cuisine" because they might consider French cuisine too mainstream to be thus categorized (a debate which also can occur with Italian cuisine).

          In September 2006, Crain's Chicago Business did an article titled "Malaise in French dining" about how French cuisine had drastically declined in popularity. That article was primarily about the high-end of the price spectrum, where the "creme de la creme", to use a French expression, have moved towards a more contemporary and global cuisine, retaining some influences of classical French cuisine while incorporating others from America and elsewhere. As we can see from the above list, moderately-priced French bistros continue to be popular.

        2. Bistro Bordeaux ( ) is a French bistro that recently opened in downtown Evanston. I ate there this evening and posted a detailed report at

          Madame Tartine, listed above, has closed.

          LM ( ) is a new French bistro in the Lincoln Square area.

          1. Also add to the list:

            Cafe Touche (Edison Park) -

            11 Replies
            1. re: nsxtasy


              Hemingway's Bistro (west suburban Oak Park) -

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Old Town Brasserie, listed above, has closed.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    Brasserie Jo, listed above, has closed and re-opened as Paris Club.

                    La Tache, listed above, has closed, and re-opened as the Dutch restaurant Vincent.

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      "Brasserie Jo, listed above, has closed and re-opened as Paris Club."

                      And it gets a very unenthusiastic vote from me, food-wise. I heard about the barnyard smell from a friend before we went and it wasn't that apparent to me, but my wife noticed it immediately and it really disrupted our meal.

                      1. re: ferret

                        Is Chef Joho in charge of the kitchen?
                        Where do you suppose a barnyard smell comes from in downtown Chicago? The Siannus Brothers' legendary goat?

                        1. re: chicgail

                          Reclaimed barn wood. It wasn't that strong to me but my wife said she smelled it the second we walked in. Joho is the conceptual overlord (along with a Melman offspring), but he's not running the kitchen (and it shows).

                          1. re: ferret

                            Sorry to hear that. All of it. Brasserie Jo filled a niche. Sounds like this place may not last long.

                      2. re: nsxtasy

                        Along with Vincent, another bistro in the Benelux category of restaurants that are not French, but close, is Leopold, a Belgian restaurant that opened recently in West Town.

                      3. re: nsxtasy

                        Here's another one to add to the list:

                        Barrington Country Bistro (northwest suburban Barrington) -

                        I ate there for lunch today, and really enjoyed it! I started with a very good lobster bisque, and my main course was a cheese souffle, which was exceptional. I look forward to going back!

                        Barrington Country Bistro
                        700 W Northwest Hwy, Barrington, IL 60010