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Jan 19, 2010 12:12 PM

French for a Francophile

I have friend visiting who is a real Francophile wannabe. She dreams of living in Paris someday (never most likely) etc. Anyway, I agreed to take her to 2 french restaurants in NYC over the next week or so. In the past we've been to Petite Auberge, Nice Matin, Pastis, Alouette and several other places that were such duds that I can't even recall their names at the moment. She really like Petite Auberge as it had a "Rive Droit" vibe--well sort of I guess. She liked Alouette too. Anyway, I am not sure were to take her now.

I was thinking Chez Napoleon--but I have some reservations (may be past prime??), or maybe (reviews are so mixed), or maybe Chez Lucienne in Harlem? Any thoughts on these? Any better ideas? Thanks for any guidance.

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  1. I've not been to Chez Napoleon (though I want to go), but wonder if you saw the piece about it in the NYTimes within the last couple of years? Apparently French tourists like to frequent it because it is the kind of traditional French restaurant that has become hard to find in France. For a really upscale place, I'd recommend La Grenouille, but it is expensive. I've posted two reports on it recently.

    Another place that I've wanted to try is Le Veau d'Or,, and I think there actually might have been a nice piece in the NYT about it last year. One more place to look into - though I've not been for about 15 years - is Le Perigord.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      Le Veau d'Or was a place on mind, but I could not recall the name. I think it was featured on Anthony Bourdain's show, maybe?? This is the type of place my friend seems to like, but honestly I had the same concern as Chez Nap. I will add this place to my list--thanks for the reminder.

      1. re: Ora

        Yes - it was that AB episode, not the NYT, that brought the restaurant to mind. I did poke my head into Chez Nap. once, and it is a dark tiny little place.

        1. re: MMRuth

          I ate at Chez Napoleon years about 7 yrs ago on a no so great date and the food was OK; but, then again, my lackluster date may be clouding my memory :)

          1. re: Ora

            I like Chez Napoleon because it is just about the only place I can find certain organ meats, particularly brains. It is quite true that even in France it is difficult to find this type of cooking today. There are plenty of places with better food, but Chez Nap is a little gem that really gives you the feeling of being in a bygone Paris.

    2. Gascogne, La Luncheonette, Lucien.

      1. Benoit
        Le Perigord
        Boeuf a la Mode
        La Grenouille
        Brasserie Cognac
        and of course L'Absinthe

        Most of these have reasonable prix fixe options at lunch and at dinner. You can read about these options on their respective websites or on

        Scroll through the photos of Benoit. It is a francophile fantasy, at least visually.

        8 Replies
        1. re: gutsofsteel

          How's the food at Benoit and Brasserie Cognac? They were both places that I had wanted to try when they opened, but seem to recall reading less than raves about them, and haven't tried them.

          1. re: MMRuth

            HIt or miss at both, I'd say. Stay simple and classic and they're both fine.

            1. re: gutsofsteel

              Thanks. And, now that I think about it, I did try to go to each right after they opened, and couldn't get a table. Then lost interest.

              1. re: MMRuth

                You would enjoy the Benoit space.

                1. re: gutsofsteel

                  It's in the old La Cote Basque space, right? I recall reading raves about the room. Putting it on the list!

          2. re: gutsofsteel

            yes, there was just an article about la grenouille in the nytimes


            1. re: lemonyc

              It just got a 3-star review in the NYT...

          3. I'm very fond of Chez Napoleon, and also of Gavroche on West 14th. Both have decent (not spectacular) classic dishes at very decent prices. And your friend can practice her French with the charming owners at both places.

              1. re: Jeffo405

                Yes, I like the sound of Gascogne--it will make the list! Thanks to all for the great suggestions!