Bon anniversaire, Julia Child. The darling of French cuisine’s birthday is August 15th, and we think the adored, talented, unpretentious chef would love these five casual French restaurants that are anything but stuffy with approachable-yet-classic French fare — including one of her favorite spots to dine and sip at when she lived in the Boston area. Julia famously said, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream!” In that spirit, we say, bon appétit.
Moulin, Newport Beach, California
The idea behind Laurent Vrignuad’s restaurant is to make guests feel as if they have been transported to France. The chef and boulanger-pâtissier were both culinary trained in their native France, the décor is decidedly French bistro, and classics like the croque madame and fresh-baked artisan pastries practically demand a beret. Make a reservation at Moulin.
Margeaux Brasserie-Waldorf Astoria, Chicago, Illinois
James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Mina’s bistro is an ode to Paris with a locally-sourced menu that has creative nuances on traditional French dishes. Like the duck wings à l’orange, which goes from fancy plate to shareable app. Also don’t miss the hand-ground steak tartare with potato gaufrette, spicy cornichon, and egg yolk. Make a reservation at Margeaux Brasserie-Waldorf Astoria.
Dirty French, New York, New York
Hip and unpredictable like its Lower East Side locale, the restyled French menu here is rooted to French classics but with a rebellious spirit. The staff wears Levi’s 501 jeans and Nike Air Jordan sneakers and serves signature French dishes like mille-feuille (trumpet royale, pea shoots, green curry) and poisson vin blanc (black bass, Madras Curry, button mushrooms). Make a reservation at Dirty French.
Mercat Bistro, Dallas, Texas
Order the fresh tagliatelle pasta and you’ll get a dish flamed tableside. Pair it with the signature péché mignon, a frozen ball made from mixed berries, pineapple orange juice, Crème de Violette liqueur, and Champagne or rosé. The booze is poured over that frozen ball tableside, and as, the ball melts, the sip gets tastier. Make a reservation at Mercat Bistro.