Back in 1789, French dissidents stormed a fortress in Paris called the Bastille, one of the the final straws that sparked the French revolution. The French now celebrate this day, le quatorze juillet, every year on July 14. The English call it Bastille Day, and this year, the holiday is on a Saturday. Which means you can celebrate like the French do! [Insert a joke about not bathing for a week, which we totally don’t mean.]
Now, somewhere along the line — it may have been post-9/11, and it may have been right around the time of Napoleon — francophilia sort of fell out of vogue here in the States. And suddenly, in 2003, we were ordering “freedom fries” while licking our very American lips.
But if you’re a culinary enthusiast, it’s hard not to love French dishes at least a little. And in a food town like Chicago, there are plenty of places that pay homage, in butter form, to rich French flavor and traditional French dishes. So if you can’t jet off to the mother country this Saturday for the parade and festivities, here are a few ideas on where to celebrate locally.
The patio at Bistro Campagne in Lincoln Square
1. Bistro Campagne. Whether you love Paris in the spring…any other time of year, this Lincoln Square gem will welcome you to its secluded French countryside-style patio or its warm, rustic indoor confines. Start with a kir royale and don’t miss the French onion soup.
4518 N. Lincoln Ave. | 773-271-6100
2. Mon Ami Gabi. Normally we wouldn’t post about a multi-location restaurant, but the Lettuce Entertain You group knocks it out of the park over and over with Mon Ami Gabi. There are 10 varieties of steak frites — varying in cut and sauce, but never leaving off those piping hot, amazingly skinny hand-cut fries — and no matter how full you are, order the profiteroles for a perfect French dessert. Your day with be full of French dishes and your stomach will match it!
2300 N. Lincoln Park West | 773-348-8886
3. BadHappy Poutine Shop. Okay, so it’s not straight-up French, and the Quebecois don’t really celebrate Bastille Day…but this heart-stopping concoction of fries, cheese curds and brown gravy is too darn délicieux for us not to mention.
939 N. Orleans St. | 312-890-2165
BONUS: RM Champagne Salon. Tucked away in a cobblestone alley, just off-the-beaten-path of the main corridor of Randolph Street, RM Champagne Salon looks like a speakeasy on the outside but hides a lively French bistro inside. As you could imagine by the name, champagne is the focus, and Executive Chef Jared Van Camp’s menu follows suit, with classic French dishes such as steak frites, a selection of cheeses, and a raw bar. This West Loop restaurant will be quick to transport to pluck you from the West Loop Restaurant scene and deposit you right to the banks of the Seine, thanks to the expertly crafted list from sommelier Jason Wagner – everything feels progressive, yet approachable. Watch the salon’s trailer for a taste of the bubbly.
116 N. Green St. |(312) 243-1199
Photo: Yo! Chicago