even looks a little like a French country home.
From hearty steaks to delicate desserts, there's plenty to love about French cuisine. We've rounded up our favorite French eateries in the Chicago area. From the Parisian-trained chefs to the Gallic-infused decor, these local spots will make you second-guess whether or not you're still in the Midwest.
View all Chicago French restaurants.
Chef and owner Bernard Cretier serves a mean bowl of the popularized vichyssoise (cold potato soup), but that's not where this Lakemoor restaurant gets its name. Le Vichyssois actually refers to the natives of Vichy, a quaint resort town in Central France. And that's exactly where Cretier hails from. Located in Lakemoor, the restaurant may pose a transit conundrum for some, but it's certainly worth the extra miles. You won't find many contemporary twists or sneaky tricks on Cretier's menu, as the French-born and bred chef remains true to his roots with dishes like smoked salmon terrine, foie gras with brioche, veal kidneys dijonaise and and assortment of cold pates (quail, rillettes, duck).
Red Rooster Cafe & Wine Bar
We can't say enough about this tiny, tasty gem, tucked behind its big sister restaurant, Cafe Bernard. Chef and owner Bernard LeCog opened his namesake in 1972, when true French cuisine hadn't quite yet crossed the border. The place still stands strong today, frequented by loyal Lincoln Park locals, but it's LeCog's Red Rooster (later opened in 1990) that's made us repeat visitors. The quiet French country flair is enough to make you feel like you're miles from the city and the food goes one step further, just to ensure that you've completely lost all sense of your urban surroundings. Expect plenty of Parisian favorites like French onion soup, cassoulet toulousain (a hearty meat and bean casserole) and bouillabaisse.
Located across from the historic Water Tower, this copper-clad bistro offers a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of Chicago's Magnificent Mile. Given its touristy locale, the place does a solid job of standing on its own amongst a chain-crazed crowd. And it's not just the tourists that find themselves pleased with French-bred and Parisian-trained chef Dominique Tougne's classic French fare; Chicagoans flock from all over the city to feast on Tougne's traditionally prepared dishes like wood-roasted chicken, Nicoise salad and steak au poivre.
Cyrano's Bistrot & Wine Bar
French-bred chef and owner Didier Durand named his restaurant after legendary Frenchman, Cyrano de Bergerac, who symbolizes "la grande passion" for the country's way of life. And from Cyrano's kitschy cabaret cafe (located on the restaurant's lower level) to its faultless French fare, Durand's decision couldn't have been more on point.
Chef Charlie Socher may be a native Chicagoan, but his thoughtfully prepared Parisian dishes certainly make him seem like a Frenchman. Chalk it up to his overseas apprenticeships at two Michelin-rated restaurants (A Quai des Ormes in Paris and Jacques Cagna), where Socher learned the tradition and technique of true French cuisine. Thankfully for us, those decadent dishes are available in our very own Bucktown at Cafe Matou, where classic French fare gets infused with trendy twists and seasonal flavors. We recommend the bouillabaisse (saffron-tomato broth, mahi-mahi, yellowfin tuna, shrimp) or the carnivore-friendly blanquette de veau (veal poached with aromatic vegetables, served with calvados and egg yolk cream sauce), $19 and $18, respectively. Vegetarians should stick with the assiette de jardin (garlic potatoes, roast peppers, cattle beans, seared tomatoes, grilled brochette, tomato sauce), while anyone with a sweet tooth may want to skip all the hearty stuff and head straight for the sugar with a classic creme brulee.
Sweets and Savories
OK, so we're bending a bit on this one, and you’ll understand why once you give it a go. Chef David Richards's American-influence on classic French cuisine is enough to make a true Francophile shudder, but his combination of traditional dishes with contemporary flavors works so well that you couldn't care less what region the food's from. If you're still on the fence when it comes to foie gras, order up one of Chef Richards's Kobe-beef burgers with black truffle-mayonnaise, white truffle oil and foie gras pate, $17. The brazen, beefy entree will have you praying that the stuff is never banned again. Of course, you can always stick with something more French like the croque madame with smoked ham, gruyere cheese, bechamel, fried farm egg and grain mustard, $14. Whatever you choose, don't forget to save room for seasonal sweets like blueberry cobbler with white pepper ice cream and Bosc-pear tatin with creme fraiche and gorgonzola ice cream.