Batter is ladled out onto the surface of a steaming hot plate, and as the Chez Elle chef spreads it out into a circle with a wooden spatula, it slowly transforms into a light, crispy-edged crepe. Each tender wrap is filled with sweet and savory ingredients, from spinach, artichokes, and crème fraîche, to raspberry sauce and chocolate mousse. Vegan and gluten-free batters cater to diners of all dietary persuasions. Freshly prepared plates, sided with wine, coffee, and beer, are carried to the leather couches and sleek chairs of the dining room, or to an airy outside patio. This parisian atmosphere is cultivated by owner Ellen Trakas, who first became enamored of crepes when she lived in France. She pours that passion not only into the food, but also the eco-conscious business practices at Chez Elle. Paper goods are made with biodegradable corn rather than traditional coal dust, and the café's used coffee grounds find second homes as compost for local farms.
Authentic techniques are the key to French recipes. Understanding this, Chef Emmanuel Langlade honed his cooking skills in Marseille, France, before opening Aixois Bistro with his wife more than a decade ago.
Amid suspended orb lights and rustic, wrought-iron chandeliers, French flavors prepared by chef Miguel Sanchez delight palates at all hours. As morning light spills through enormous windows, the staff brews fresh coffee to pair with piping-hot croissants for early-bird visitors. Lunchtime guests sample favorite French sandwiches, from the classic croque-monsieurs to the egg-crowned croque madames. For dinner diners, the kitchen dishes up an elegant menu that includes two varieties of moules frites (mussels with pommes frites), as well as seafood, steak, and oven-roasted chicken. Afterward, traditional desserts such as cr?me br?l?e topped with fresh berries cap off meals and keep sweet teeth from rebelliously biting tongues.
Behind its Parisian-style storefront, Westport Café & Bar serves an eclectic menu of elegantly prepared French and American dishes alongside an extensive collection of flavorful libations. Scrumptious hors d’oeuvres such as baked ricotta with goat cheese and truffled honey ($9) prep palates for further culinary exploration. For the main course, Westport’s grilled chicken sandwich comes on a croissant and garnished with gruyere cheese, bacon, and roasted tomatoes ($11), much like an already soft quilt adorned with a bacon-patterned cross-stitch. Noodle purveyors can shovel in the creamy pasta champignons with a smattering of a spring peas ($12). Wash it all down with potent potables such as an Old Tom Collins ($7) or the house’s specialty Westside cocktail, an amalgamation of vodka, lemon, simple syrup, soda, and mint ($8). Barley pop buffs can guzzle down a Boulevard Tank 7 Ale ($5) from Westport’s tap, and drowsy diners can perk up with French-pressed coffee ($4).
French Bistro Cuisine | Seasonal Ingredients | Exotic Meats
Inside Tip: Check the restaurant's Facebook page to learn about special events. These include nights when local DJs spin as well as an annual Bastille Day celebration, which complements dinners with a variety show that incorporates everything from Les Misérables parodies to silent periods for existential contemplation.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Explore musical history at the American Jazz Museum (1616 E. 18th Street), where exhibits blend commissioned art and sculpture with listening stations and custom mixing boards.
After: Sip one of 80 draft beers while taking in an independent or classic flick at the Screenland Armour (408 Armour Road).
Avenues Bistro's chefs modernize traditional European bistro fare by creatively incorporating Latin flavors, helping earn KC Magazine's award for Restaurant Innovator of the Year in 2009. In addition to frying orders of Belgian-style pommes frites and braising beef short ribs in marsala and veal stock, the chefs also marinate pork tenderloin in chimichurri for guests to enjoy in a newly renovated dining room. This interplay between Old- and New-World flavors extends to the wine list, which features bottles from domestic, international, and trans-dimensional producers, and won the restaurant Wine Enthusiast Magazine's Award of Unique Distinction in 2007.
Earthy aromas from fresh-brewed beverages greet guests at the door of Le Peep, hinting at the espresso-based creations that await inside?Colombian house coffee, specialty blends, or the flavor of the day. Beyond coffee, the staff also sweetens cups with fruit smoothies. These handcrafted drinks accompany a menu of breakfast and lunch fare dominated by omelets and sandwiches. Whipped eggs arrive studded with fresh veggies or chorizo sausage, and half-pound burgers come layered with Cajun bacon, weighing down tables so that they don't have to be anchored in place by linens made of iron.