Time to get out your beret. July 14th is Bastille Day, marking the kickoff to the French Revolution in 1789. In the intervening years, the holiday has evolved into a larger celebration of French culture. It would be impossible to salute the country’s traditions without indulging in some classic cuisine from the land of éclairs and escargot. So you don’t have to buy a high season ticket to Paris, here are 11 très magnifique French restaurants where you can celebrate Bastille Day.
Brasserie 8 ½, New York, New York
The showstopping brasserie puts out pleasing plates that recall simpler times. All the regulars are present and accounted for –lardon topped frisée salad with a soft-poached egg cozied into its leafy center, duck breast with braised red cabbage and chestnut flan, and an all-killer, no-filler jumbo lump crab cake. Bon appétit! [Photo courtesy Philip Greenberg]
Brasserie L’Oustau de Provence, Manchester, Vermont
Vermont’s natural resources are transformed into Gallic gastronomical delights at this countryside brasserie. Expect plenty of French favorites – from steak tartare and moules frites to boeuf bourguignon and onion soup gratinée. The restaurant has some nice options for petite gourmands, such as a croque monsieur and a Gruyere-topped burger with pomme frites and haricots verts.
DBGB, Washington, D.C.
Daniel Boulud planted the other red, white, and blue flag in the nation’s capital late last year. The brasserie menu boasts plenty of familiar faces – such as coq au vin, tarte flambée, and steak tartare – all executed with precision and care by executive chef Ed Scarpone. Of course, you probably shouldn’t leave without trying the Baked Alaska, which is set ablaze tableside to create a fiery finale to your meal.
The Goodstone Inn & Estate Restaurant, Middleburg, Virginia
Nestled in the heart of Virginia wine country, the 265-acre estate is home to a working farm that provides some of the ingredients you’ll dine on. Executive chef John Leonard crafts seasonally inflected French fare that’s worth the drive from D.C. Béarnaise-sauced filet mignon, artfully executed chateaubriand for two, and escargot practically floating in garlic herb butter are all tender tributes to the Hexagon’s heritage.
laV Restaurant and Wine Bar, Austin, Texas
The Provence-inspired eatery is putting on a party to celebrate Bastille Day. Expect an Eighties cover band, photo booth, complimentary beer and wine, and French fare ($40 in advance/$50 at the door). If you don’t make it in for the holiday, hone in on the chicken liver pâté, basil escargot with tomato butter, and the foie gras torchon enlivened with figs, basil, and black pepper almond crumble.
Le Diplomate, Washington, D.C.
From July 11th through the 14th, the patio of this Stephen Starr stunner is transformed into a pétanque court (think of it as France’s answer to bocce), while a mime walks through the restaurant, amusing guests and posing for selfies. Executive chef Michael Abt serves all his usual highlights – foie gras parfait, steak frites, and skate grenobloise – as well as a special of pike fish quenelles with a creamy Nantua sauce packed with crayfish.
Le Périgord, New York City
For over five decades, this Manhattan mainstay has been setting the bar for the classic French dining experience. The service is impeccable; the linens are pure white and crisp; the food a stirring reminder why France’s food is considered some of the best in the world. Hone in on the velveteen lobster bisque, veal medallions accented with morel sauce, and whatever strikes your fancy on the pastry trolley for dessert.
Le Pigeon, Portland, Oregon
Classic dishes get a playful twist here. There’s beef bourguignon made with cheeks, seared foie gras accompanied by Middle Eastern elements (hummus, grapes, olives, and slow-roasted goat), and a smoked rabbit pie with mustard ice cream. Definitely save room for the restaurant’s signature foie gras profiteroles drenched in caramel and speckled with sea salt. Defibrillator not included.
Melisse, Santa Monica, California
You can’t argue with two Michelin stars. Chef-owner Josiah Citrin creates head-spinning, world-changing cuisine worthy of its recherché prices. If the seasonal truffle menu is available, by all means indulge. No matter what time of year you go, start with the soft-poached egg topped off with lemon-chive crème frâiche and a mound of American Osetra caviar.
Oceanique, Evanston, Illinois
Indulge in the bounty of the sea prepared with a French technique and Asian accents by chef-owner Mark Grosz. Generous hunks of lobster come with vibrant golden beets, purple asparagus, and a peppy yuzu-saffron sauce, while sashimi-style scallops get a lift from homemade kimchi and a lobster-soy-sake reduction. Desserts are worth the calories, especially pot de crème and the tri-level Napoleon.
Suzette’s Creperie, Wheaton, Illinois
As you might expect, you’ll be able to feast on crepes galore – sweet or savory – as well as an array of quiches and bistro favorites, such as lemon sole meunière, steak au poivre, and duck confit with wild mushroom risotto. Before you leave, stop in at the boulangerie to pick up a few baguettes, a couple croissants, and some jam-packed linzer cookies. If you’re feeling generous, you can thank us for the recommendation by sending us a box of those cookies.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell.