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Jun 4, 2012 06:15 PM

Help, Need to find a Julia Child throwback!

It's my mother-in-law's 84th birthday soon, she's not well, and she'd like dinner in a quiet, old-fashioned French restaurant in the Boston area.

By "French," she means the food Julia Child made in her heyday, or "traditional" French dishes served in the1950s to '80s at places like Maison Robert. To her, anything else is not authentic. (For the record, she had Julia and Paul to dinner at her house after hearing that people were too intimidated to invite them. She'd taught herself to cook from Julia's books.)

It also needs to be a quiet place; we can eat very early.... She has been to Petit Robert, Sandrine's (Alsatian, big mistake), Brasserie Jo (also Alsatian but more to her taste), La Voile, and Pierrot, among others, and she wasn't too happy with any of them. I hope there's some retro jewel out there that I'm missing, that will be quiet if we go early in the evening. Thanks!

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  1. Locke-Ober perhaps?
    The Improper Bostonian just published an article about them. They sound old-school for sure and their website boasts that they are Boston's "leading French restaurant."

    1. How about L'Espalier?

      That's a wonderful anecdote about inviting Julia Child to dinner.

      1. Gaslight is good. I especially like that place because parking is so easy.

        1. Thanks for the advice! I checked the menus at L'Espalier and Locke-Ober and I don't think they'll suit her. While Locke-Ober does offer all the traditional sauces, she rarely eats steak, and the rest of the menu is not as old-fashioned as it used to be. L'Espalier is also more up-to-date. I love Gaslight, but I'm beginning to think Pierrot is as traditional as we're going to get, with Coquilles St. Jacques, Boeuf Bourguignon, and so on.

          One of the family trophies is Paul Child's lovely thank-you note after that dinner.

          3 Replies
          1. re: squaquerone

            Only caveat with Gaslight: it can get uncomfortably loud in that space.

            1. re: nightsky

              I like eating outside at Gaslight because it is quieter. Unfortunately she doesn't like to eat outside...

            2. re: squaquerone

              i think that pierrot is very accomodating and very traditional.

            3. Sandrine's has several classic items, but also the dreaded fruity creme brulee. It's probably a no, unless she likes Alsatian food, which seem the most traditional items on the menu. There is a Groupon on for the next 30 min.

              9 Replies
              1. re: jennymoon

                Great idea, but... we were almost asked to leave Sandrine's a few years ago because she complained so much to our server about everything that the chef came to our table to argue with her.

                1. re: squaquerone

                  So, I usually stay away from traditional French restaurants since I am vegetarian. That is a disclaimer because I haven't actually been to Les Zygomates. The menu looks not at all innovative though!

                  1. re: jennymoon

                    I can't have cream or alcohol, so I'm generally doomed in French restaurants, too! And one of us is vegetarian. Thank goodness for salad and baguettes. Les Zygomates does have a few old-fashioned dishes. Food for thought — thank you!

                    1. re: squaquerone

                      The only really traditional dish at Les Zyg, is the steak frites which the OP's mom doesn't eat. Also, it's a bit bustling in there, in the bistro style.

                  2. re: squaquerone

                    You could try the Taj Hotel (the old Ritz). Looks like the Cafe is now Indian, but they still have a more traditional French Room. (I knew of an older woman who used to eat at the old Ritz cafe and who sounded just like your mother in law.) Or Clio at the Eliot. Hotel chefs can be amazingly accommodating as they tend to be used to fulfilling the off-menu wishes of more demanding/difficult guests. If you call ahead and explain the situation you might find one who is more than willing to show off his/her classical French training.

                    1. re: nightsky

                      That's a great idea; thank you (and everyone!) for your suggestions. We should take her to tea at the Taj in the French Room sometime soon. She'd love that. Too bad they don't serve dinner!

                      1. re: squaquerone

                        im sorry i dont know Boston and I know even less of classic french food ....But why not hire a chef trained in the classics to come in and cook for her and your family ...Yes it will cost a little more but you will get a menu tailored to her tastes ....You could make it a very special evening ...

                        1. re: luv2putt

                          That is a spectacular idea for down the road, and I thank you for it! Unfortunately, I've been procrastinating over this birthday dinner and it is later this week, so I don't think we could pull it off in time. But what a fantastic way to keep her entertained and satisfied, assuming we find a chef with the right personality. I will definitely look into this for the future, assuming she's able to stay in her house, which has a Julia Child-era kitchen with a French mural and all. (My own kitchen is the size of a breadbox.)

                          1. re: squaquerone

                            As long as you're checking menus, look at those for Pigalle or Bistro du Midi.