Baristas at Cafe de Paris brew Novo coffee fresh for each cup and steep more than 50 different kinds of organic loose-leaf tea from International Tea Importers, filling the café with rich aromas transported inside a soft haze of steam idly spiraling through the air. Sipping microbrewed masala chai tea with pressed ginger between bites of sweet and savory crepes, panini sandwiches, and regular or gluten-free bagels, patrons may browse the Internet inside the café or listen to live jazz music and indie rock performances during weekly events. Outside on the terrace, lined with umbrella-topped tables, diners clink glasses of French wine or craft beers during nightly happy hours while strains of music linger in the background.
Weekly pre-fixe menus have become a restaurant staple, but at Le Central, the chefs have added their own personal touches. Each menu is inspired by the home region of one of the employees, a nod to both the authenticity of the restaurant’s French cuisine and the feeling of community it cultivates. The Olivier menu, for example, is in honor of the management’s newest member, who hails from the French Alps of Savoie. This is the land of cheese, walnuts, morels, and veal; so fittingly, the menu starts with an arugula salad with goat cheese and walnuts. On other weeks, diners can enjoy meals inspired by server Pascal’s home of Bezier in the Languedoc region, pastry chef Dominique’s childhood in Southern Brittany at the mouth of the Loire Valley, and charcuterie chef Phillippe’s roots in the German-influenced Alsace region. In addition to the prix-fixe offerings, the à la carte menu is populated with French staples such as house-made pâtés and moules frites—the classic combination of sweet black mussels and salty french fries. Homemade sausages, duck, and trout are bedecked with indulgent touches such as gastriques and brown butter. Pastry chef Dominique whips up sweets in house, including colorful, airy macarons and a croquembouche: a tower of cream puffs that traditionally serves as the dessert at French weddings. The warmly lit dining room gives off the feel of a Provençal cottage, with natural wooden beams, exposed brick, and traditional wooden furniture. Diners can also enjoy dinner on an enclosed patio, with rustic wooden touches and strings of white lights that twinkle at night.
Inside what 5280 Magazine describes as a "125-year-old dining room with original mosaic tile and a sparkling chandelier," restaurateur Robert Thompson and his expert staff have re-created the cuisine and atmosphere of old-school Parisian bistros and brasseries. With locally sourced ingredients, artisanal cheeses, and in-house charcuterie, Chef Sergio Romero and his culinary team craft French cuisine that 5280 Magazine, in its 2011 Best New Restaurants feature, lauded as "light, fresh, and remarkable." French classics such as escargot, steak frites, and a savory crepe of the day complement a selection of cocktails made by mixologist Colin Dart. Diners can savor each bite while nestled into oversized booths or contemplating infinity on the outdoor patio.
From the beautifully composed salade Lyonnaise, a tangle of frisée, crisped potatoes and bacon lardons haloed with a fried egg, to the parting confection of chocolate mousse gateaux drizzled with caramel, Bistro Vendome – located in its own alcove just behind the hustle and bustle of Larimer Square – oozes with informal French bliss. The classic atmosphere includes antiqued mirrors, hardwood floors that creak and squeak, bistro tables and tapestry-clothed wooden chairs, offering up an unbridled sense of romance. As does the patio, a charmingly leafy respite that, during the warmer months, is flush with kaleidoscopic flowers. The small bar area is an ideal setting for a late-night rendezvous and a glass of French bubbly, or weekend brunch, when kir royales run through the veins.
Colterra's food gurus, captained by chef Bradford Heap, curate organic produce from local farms and Colterra's own garden to forge upscale breakfast-lunch blends infused with classic French and Northern Italian flavors. Sate after-morning appetites with a selection from the brunch menu such as French toast, stuffed with Long Farm sausage and topped with organic apple compote, strawberry coulis, fresh blackberries, and a cumulus cloud of whipped cream. Smoked wild salmon, eggs from a local farm, and organic spinach frolic in hollandaise sauce atop an English muffin benedict, and all breakfast dishes are served with roasted baby Yukon gold potatoes and local field greens that toast tongues with champagne vinaigrette. Lunch eats imported to the menu range from grass-fed Lasater Never Never burgers—bedecked with bacon and layered with Grafton cheddar cheese—to pan-roasted, wild-caught tilapia accompanied by mussels, shrimp, and shallots in white wine.
Hickory House Ribs is named for its signature racks of baby-back ribs, a combination of high-grade meat imported from Denmark and specialty sauce made in-house. The ribs have claimed numerous awards and accolades for their succulent flavor, which begins with pork ribs from hogs fed all-natural and lean diets. The ribs then spend hours slow-smoking in a combination of hickory and oak. Once they get to Hickory House Ribs, chefs coat them in thick housemade sauce, made from scratch. The restaurant also serves up other classic barbecue fare, from certified Angus steaks to smoked pork shoulder. Each kind of barbecued meat is seasoned and smoked daily, and served with baked beans and coleslaw each made fresh every day.