For six months, Isobel Drummond and her husband sojourned across France with their two teenage daughters, seeking out the country’s best cafés. The couple lingered over coffee and macarons in Paris, Bordeaux, St. Tropez, Marseille, and Nice. Now, at Simply French Cafe, they strive to capture the welcoming ambiance and gourmet foods they enjoyed in their favourite French eateries.
Simply French’s crystal chandeliers and Toulouse-Lautrec posters pop against dark wooden floors and exposed ceiling beams. Customers linger over paninis, tiramisu, and French-style pastries served on delicate pastel china. And in the evenings, a hands-on macaron-making class lets students create their own confections without the difficulty of growing meringues from seed.
With Chloe Bistrot, French-born chef and owner Laurent Gabriel has transformed an unassuming storefront in Laurelhurst into an elegant eatery seemingly plucked straight from Paris. Inside, cherry-red upholstery, dark chestnut walls, and polished tabletops puts guests into a Parisian state of mind even before they glimpse the menu of classic French fare. Diners can begin with escargot in garlic and parsley butter before moving onto steamed mussels in a tomato, garlic, and fresh thyme broth. An extensive wine list, meanwhile, pulls together varietals culled from across the French countryside, while authentic desserts like tarte tatin rival those found in any French bakery or left carelessly on any French windowsill.
Recently opened by the owners of the popular Hangar Cafe, The Ridgeback Cafe designs couture crepes, waffles, sandwiches, and more. Stroll into the 65th Street location and dig into the signature Ridgeback crepe, an envelope stuffed, like wedding invitations, with sausage, egg, onions, mushrooms, avocado, and cheddar ($9.50). Sucrose seekers can chomp on a coco-banana crepe, adorned with whipped cream, toasted coconut, and walnuts ($7). A savory waffle tellingly named "Are you kidding me?" brandishes two fried eggs and apple-smoked bacon ($7.50), while the Triple B waffle mixes apple-smoked bacon, brie, and basil for a meal more satisfying than discovering a brick of gold in a winter-coat pocket.
As you and your dining date nestle close in Crêpe Cafe's cozy confines, you'll get to watch the crêpes get spun right in front of you. Though crêpes are traditionally a dessert, it's recommended that you start with the menu of dinner crêpes first. Whet your appetite with a bubbly-cheesed French onion soup before wrapping your reptilian tongue around entrees such as Heaven's Crêpe (Black Forest ham and swiss topped with homemade béchamel sauce and fresh asparagus, $12.95 for a regular) or the Island Girl (shrimp with fresh mango, spinach, roma tomatoes, avocado, and Swiss topped with a Caribbean lime and mushroom sauce, $15.95). Vegetarians won't have to huffily pick things out of their crêpe and then feed them to roaming restaurant dogs if they order the Westchester (avocado, swiss, caramelized onions, roma tomatoes, and spinach with sun-dried tomato coulis, $12.95 for a regular) or the house specialty, Mushroom Medley (assorted mushrooms sautéed in a white wine and garlic cream sauce wrapped in a buckwheat crêpe with gruyere cheese, $12.95).
Where to Sit: Day or night, find a window seat, or—better yet—grab a table outside to take in the epitomic Seattle sights.
When to Go: The restaurant is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, or you can stop in for a glass of wine or cocktail at the bar.
While You’re Waiting
Fun Fact: Place Pigalle is named after the red-light district in Paris. Years before it became a fine-dining institution in 1982, it served as a bordello (masked as an inn), a biker hangout, and then a gathering place for artists and travelers.
Dungeness crab: West Coast crab with a slightly sweeter taste than snow or king crabs.
Bouillabaisse: a Provençal fish stew originating in Marseille, typically made with several types of fish and shellfish and served with rouille on grilled bread.
Rouille: a creamy sauce blended with olive oil, breadcrumbs, and saffron.