In one of my very favorite movies, Sabrina, Audrey Hepburn demurs, “Paris is always a good idea.” I believe her so much that I have a small clutch with these magnificent words emblazoned on the side and in visiting Bistro Bordeaux, I find that I can act on this good idea whenever I like, right on Church Street.
I recently visited the cozy restaurant for brunch when my parents came into town for the weekend (the best time to go to Bistro Bordeaux: when your parents are picking up the bill) and was struck by how cozy the marigold walls with antique photos feel in tandem with the rich, red booths and mahogany chairs. It truly lives up to its “Bistro” title—I immediately looked around to see if Hemingway was in a corner, thoughtfully sipping coffee with a furrowed brow. Just large enough to house a dinner crowd, but small enough to feel like a secret, I felt right at home in my striped shirt (that I didn’t even wear on purpose!) and was completely sold when Edith Piaf started to play from the speakers. The staff was warm and casual, but the service makes you feel like SJP in the last season of Sex and the City: pampered, totally cared for and each of your needs is anticipated.
Normally a dinner site, Bistro’s Sunday brunch is an unexpected hit. The menu is small (and all items are listed in French—brush up before you visit!), but not limited by any stretch of the imagination. There’s something for everyone: mussels for the adventurer, French toast for the sweet-tooth, egg white omelets for the health-conscious. To start, we had a pot of coffee that was strong and bitter and worth a bite with some sweetness after. The escargot, which my father insisted on trying, was served with a warm, crunchy baguette that was perfect for dipping into a sauce that had hints of garlic and parsley in which the snails were bathing. So savory and rich, the French staple is worth being pretentious for. The Omelette Blanche, served with grilled vegetables and Gruyere cheese with a side of seasonal fruit and crispy potatoes and peppers, is fluffy and allows each ingredient to have its say. Mussels, an unexpected brunch item, join the menu to bring in an earthy taste tinged with wine and garlic. For another French staple, try the Croque Madame: an open-faced ham and cheese sandwich with a fried egg on top. The bread that the sandwich stands up on is sturdy and crisp, never soaking up too much of its topping.
The Pain Perdu, Bistro’s French toast, may be my favorite item on the brunch menu, simply because it is executed so brilliantly. Normally, the dish has berries and vanilla Chantilly, but due to the season, Bistro was serving it Bananas Foster style, with caramel and bananas atop the brioche toast. The brilliance is in the fact that the dish is never too sweet, like most breakfasts can tend to be. The brioche adds sturdiness uncommon of most French toast and with a cup of coffee; the dish is worth savoring for at least 45 minutes (with the portion size, it may take that long!).
For a Francophile like me, Bistro Bordeaux is likely to become a regular Sunday brunch place. Visit and see for yourself: spend around 2 hours cooped up at a table with some of your favorite people, a pot of coffee and discover why Evanston looks so much better from this tilted beret view.
Address: 618 Church Street, Evanston, IL 60201
Hours of Operation: Mon. – Thurs.: 5:30PM-9:00PM, Fri. – Sat.: 5:30PM-10:00PM, Sun. Brunch: 10:30AM-1:30PM, Sun. Dinner: 5:00PM-9:00PM