Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Pennsylvania >
Aug 22, 2009 11:56 AM

Authentic French Bistro

We were in Paris a few months ago and my husband is still talking about the amazing food we had. Our favorite restaurant was a bistro serving classic French dishes. I know, we aren't in Paris...but what is the restaurant in Philly or the burbs that really comes the closest?

Thanks for your suggestions.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: Boognish

      Listen to Boognish, go to Bibou!! The chef there has cooked at several places in France (their menus are on the wall at Bibou), with Daniel Boulud, and was executive chef at Le Bec-Fin for (I think) 10 years. It's been reviewed quite a few times in the last month or so by the regional magazines.

      1. re: Buckethead

        I'm sorry I didn't have time to expand upon my initial post, but it looks like I didn't need to!

        I don't think I ever had a chance to do a write-up of my last meal at Bibou, but we very much enjoyed it. The bread is house-made and fantastic (and I almost never eat the bread at a restaurant), and the food is very good quality & a great bang for the buck.

        The BYO aspect is a nice way to keep the whole bill down. Just remember that they do NOT take credit only.

        I've heard some pretty solid things about Parc, which is a full-service kind of joint, so it would make an interesting contrast

        1. re: Boognish

          I think the food is good at Parc. But, what puts the place over the top is how authentically bistro-like it looks. The decor and finishes are beautiful. And, you really can't top sitting overlooking the square on a beautiful day. We ate a late lunch at a table on the last row in the actual restaurant, up a level from the sidewalk . What great street theatre. Parc would be a good place to relive the Paris atmosphere you probably miss.

    2. Bibou. You can read my previous posts.

      We've heard good things about Minette, but haven't been there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sylviag

        Thank you, everyone. I'm making reservations at Bibou.

      2. Also consider Bistro La Minette for the authentic experience. It's a beautiful little space, and the food is good. Lunch is the real value; I think the dinner prices are at the high register of acceptable for solidly rendered bistro fare.

        Two other names to consider, because they are going for the authentic bistro thing: Coquette and Cochon. I haven't visited either, but the folks over at egullet are very fond of Cochon, and Coquette's menu looks to be the real deal. Any thoughts from folks who've been?

        2 Replies
        1. re: nwinkler

          I'd skip Coquette. They've been through several chefs and I think the current menu is more geared towards Asian Fusion.

          1. re: barryg

            The former chef de cuisine at Pif just took over at Coquette a couple weeks ago, so that should improve things (though I haven't been there since they opened):


        2. Bistrot La Minette is perfect if you are looking for a classic french bistro experience. However, I feel the food is better at Cochon (and it's BYOB).

          2 Replies
          1. re: micreynolds

            I'm most interested in the food as opposed to the setting. And for it to be tradional bistro fare. We're going back to Paris next summer. But until then, would like to find someplace here that does duck confit and steak frites, etc. I made a reservation for Bibou. Will try also try your other suggestions later. Thank you so mcuh.

            1. re: DaisyM

              We had good onion soup, steak frites, etc. at Coquette - but this was before the change in staff. We also enjoyed the oysters there.
              I'll be interested to hear how it is under the new chef.

          2. I can't believe no one has mentioned Caribou Cafe on Walnut! Ever since I moved to Philly (almost 17 years ago) this gem has been a favorite for simple classic french bistro fare. With the added bonus that they welcome Doxie with his own bowl of cool water when Doxiemom is lucky enough to get an alfresco table on downtown excursions. Plus they are so affordable, I don't think you'll be disappointed...

            1 Reply
            1. re: doxiemom

              We wholeheartedly discourage anyone from going to eat at Caribou ever again. We ate there last night, and they used to be our favorite restaurant in the city, but they are a ghost of their former self. There appears to be a new manager there, and he has destroyed the entire place. The decor hasn't changed, but the wait staff is entirely replaced, and doesn't have a clue what is in their food or on the menu; they're also rude and careless, and not in a French way--with very classic American sloppiness and lack of interest or pride in their work. Also, the kitchen is clearly cutting corners in food prep that would never have been acceptable in the old days; the raie, which was one of the superb signature dishes of this establishment and melted like succulent butter in your mouth, was a bland, boring, pan-fried whitefish, and the divine beans with capers and wine which accompanied it were clearly made with canned beans, flavorless capers, and seemed to be lacking any wine at all. We had to send two dishes back to the kitchen, after explicitly asking for no soybean oil (which is in their no-longer-house-made mayo), and when the salmon came to the table the second time, it was burnt. There appears to be a lot of micro-managing going on, and no one is able to do their jobs well because they've got this guy peering over their shoulders constantly. The atmosphere, the food, and the service are completely shot. It is very sad, but there is absolutely no reason to ever waste your time/money/appetite on this disaster of a restaurant in a city with more great restaurants than there is time to try. 2nd worst restaurant experience ever.

              Caribou Cafe
              1126 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19107