Top 5: Vive le France

While the cuisine of other countries and cultures has gained in prominence, French food and cooking techniques are still at the top of the food chain, so to speak. While many think of haute cuisine when it comes to French food, it actually runs the gamut from homey comfort food to fine dining. The Fort Lauderdale area is lucky enough to have excellent restaurants that fill the spectrum from haute cuisine to bistro fare to home cooking, all with a French accent.

Cafe De Paris
715 E Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale

Since 1962, this Las Olas restaurant has been one of the most popular French restaurants in South Florida. Three indoor dining areas, as well as an outdoor patio, are decorated so that you are, indeed, in a restaurant in France (except that the service is friendlier). The best bets for appetizer options are the pâté, escargots, mussels and the classic onion soup gratin. Entrée salad options, priced from $20-$25, include; a grilled shrimp stuffed avocado with creamy mustard dressing, lobster salad served in the shell on a bed of baby greens or the classic Niҫoise with fresh seared tuna, green beans, potatoes, olives, tomatoes and hard boiled eggs. Entrées run $25-$40 and include French classics such as; sea bass Veronique, filet of sole in a variety of preparations, frog legs Meuniere, bouillabaisse, duck a l’orange, veal Française and of course, steak frittes. Dinner specials include an early dinner (served 5-6 p.m.) which includes a limited choice of appetizers, entrees and dessert, priced from $21-$28 or a “gourmet menu” which includes an expanded choice of appetizers and entrees, vegetable of the day, Lyonnaise potatoes or angel hair pasta and a choice from the dessert cart, priced from $24-$30.

Sage French Cafe and Wine Bar
2378 N Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale

French takes on an international flair at this relaxed bistro with a main dining room, bar dining and a small outdoor patio (which, unfortunately, overlooks a parking lot). Appetizers, priced from $7-$12 include a terrific grilled artichoke with sweet peppers, escargots in garlic butter, an excellent chicken liver pate and, of course, traditional onion soup gratinee. Salads, large enough for an entrée or to be split by two, range in price from $10-$14. Entrées, priced from $15-$30 include such classics as; chicken paillard, cassoulet L'armagnac, roasted crispy duck, mussels prepared a choice of three ways (in white wine, creamy garlic sauce or with tomatoes and garlic), bouillabaisse, coquilles St. Jacques and steak au poivre. Brunch and weekday lunch run $8-$15. Brunch features four variations on eggs Benedict; classic, smoked salmon, and crab cake as well as the more exotic Sardou (poached eggs on artichoke bottoms with mussels and a béarnaise sauce). The lunch menu showcases a variety of crepes as well as sandwiches. Dining specials include; two for one meals (with the purchase of a beverage) on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Le Patio
2401 NE 11th Ave., Wilton Manors

Dinner at the tiny Le Patio is like visiting your eccentric lesbian French aunt’s house. With just a few indoor seats, the majority of the dining space is on the patio, making dining dependent on the weather. The onion soup is authentic, and delicious, but on more than one visit seemed a bit on the sour side. But that is about the only complaint you’ll find when it comes to food. There is always a daily soup that is vegetarian and organic. The escargot offers a large serving, swimming in homemade garlic butter so good you’ll want to bathe in it. The same butter is equally delicious on baby clams. Tomatoes a la Provenҫal is an excellent rendition of the regional classic. Entrée salads, priced $14, include a classic Greek, bacon and blue cheese, chicken and avocado or roasted goat cheese. Entrées average $15-$20 and will provide enough for lunch the next day for all but those with the heartiest appetites. While there are plenty of classic French dishes, there is also a distinct Mediterranean influence, evidenced in lasagna, manicotti a la Provenҫe and lobster ravioli and Dungeness crab cioppino. Desserts, $8 each, are limited in selection (poached pears with roasted almonds, peach crumble and crème bruleé), but not flavor.            

Le Petit Cafe
3308 Griffin Rd, Fort Lauderdale

This Dania Beach location has been turning out consistent country French fare for a dozen years. The lunch menu features salad combinations with a choice of quiche, seafood coquille, onion soup or an omelet. Snails with garlic butter, homemade pâté, Niҫoise salad, and crepes, augmented by daily specials round out the menu. A “Sunset Dinner” special, served from 4:30 to 6:30, includes a choice of appetizer (soup of the day, vichyssoise, house salad or fresh fruit), entrée (brook trout, filet of sole, chicken, veal, beef bourguignon, crepe or calves liver) served with vegetable and potato and dessert (crème caramel, chocolate mousse or pastry du jour) and coffee or tea. A la carté dinners are quintessentially French; veal Française and Cordon Bleu, tournedos au poivre and roast duckling a l’orange. All are served with a vegetable and Lyonnaise potatoes. There is an extensive dessert and wine menu.

Rendez-Vous Bakery
1576 E Oakland Park Blvd, Oakland Park

Unlike the other restaurants included here, it also serves breakfast. From a light, typically French breakfast of toast or pastry and coffee to heartier fare such as the “Trio Benedict” (three poached eggs, one each on spinach, smoked salmon and Canadian bacon) or quiche. Lunch includes a variety of salads, sandwiches and French favorites such as; croque monsieur, friand (puff pastry filled with chicken, mushrooms and béchamel) and, of course, onion soup. Dinner entrées are a mixture of classic French cuisine; beef bourguignon, steak frites, blanquette de veau, duck a l'orange, cote de boeuf, trout almondine and steamed mussels along with a few international favorites (chicken curry and chicken Marsala). Since Rendez-Vous is also a bakery, there is an extensive dessert menu.

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