Bistros are typically classified as small restaurants, often family-run, that serve simple meals in a relaxed setting. The atmosphere is both intimate and casual, striking a balance of elegant and approachable. Most offer casual outdoor seating and guests are made to feel welcome, like they’re visiting friends of family. The cuisine is traditionally French, though it’s not unusual to see Italian bistros with the same ambiance. Dishes are made with fresh, seasonal ingredients with techniques used in homestyle cooking. Recipes are often shared through family generations, and while there’s a sophistication to the food, it stops just short of being deemed “fancy.” These are the types of meals that are best eaten with fresh bread and a glass of wine. CBS Philly previously shared picks of the top bistros in Philadelphia in 2012. Here is an updated list (with a few repeat favorites!) to try.
Bistrot La Minette
623 S. 6th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Bistrot La Minette is a family affair. Peter Woolsey opened the Queen Village restaurant in 2008 after designing the charming interior with help from his father, John, and wife, Peggy. The walls are largely decorated with photography by Peggy Woolsey of the French countryside (her homeland), paintings done by Bette Woolsey and family heirlooms donated by Peggy’s parents. An open courtyard, banquet seating and a Parisian-style bar set the stage for the seasonal menu inspired by different regions in France. Peter Woolsey recently hired Chef Kenneth Bush to take over as Executive Chef, but he is still heavily involved in the restaurant. Bistrot La Minette offers rich bistro-style dishes such as escargot, lamb shank and duck leg confit. Dinner is served a la carte daily with multi-course dinners also served family style for parties of four to 20 with reservations.
7 N. Third St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Bistro 7 serves modern French dishes in a casual setting. You’ll feel right at home at this Old City spot, with its open kitchen that allows you to watch the chefs in action. Ingredients are sourced from local, organic farmers as often as possible, so the menu changes to reflect what’s available. A few fall favorites include a creamy squash, apple and onion soup, butternut squash gnocchi and skillet-braised chicken. The BYOB is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. You can dine a la carte any of those nights, or you can also choose the multi-course tasting menu Tuesday through Friday.
227 S. 18th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Located on Rittenhouse Square, Stephen Starr’s Parc brings a taste of Paris to Philadelphia. As all of the best French meals do, the meal starts with baskets of fresh breads. Order a glass of wine and perhaps a crock of French onion soup or buttery escargot. Oysters, salad lyonnaise and beef bourguignon are standout choices, and the half roast chicken was once called out by Chef Robert Irvine as one of the best things he’s ever eaten. Daily specials include dishes such as lobster risotto and veal Milanese. The beautiful atmosphere, expansive wine list, wonderful views of the park and outdoor seating complete the experience. Parc is open every day of the week, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner on weekdays and brunch and dinner on weekends.
Paris Bistro & Jazz Café
8229 Germantown Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19118
Chef Al Paris has impressed Chestnut Hill yet again with his newest collaboration with brother restaurateurs Robert and Benjamin Bynum. Paris Bistro opened in early 2014, reviving the former Melting Pot location. The inviting 1930s-style bistro serves favorites like escargot, French onion soup, rotisserie chicken and short rib beef bourguignon. Daily specials offered in addition to the everyday menu include classics such as coq au vin and frog legs. While the restaurant was previously closed Monday nights, dinner service was added as of mid-October. The special of the evening is the always popular $1 oyster. “Le Buck-A-Shuck” will run from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. featuring rotating oysters based on availability. Thursday through Sunday, some of the area’s best jazz performers play in the café downstairs. Enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail, or order something to eat while listening to the live music. The full restaurant menu is available at the bistro bar, dining room and jazz café so every seat is a good one. Paris Bistro also offers Sunday brunch.
Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro
129 S. 13th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
With about 20 wines available by the bottle and over 60 available by the glass, Vintage fully embraces the French tradition of good wine. Even the cocktails all contain wine as an ingredient (often replacing soda or juice as the mixer), and wine flights are also available (beer lovers can also enjoy over 25 varieties). Because you’ll want some food to accompany your drink of choice, Vintage serves a seasonal menu ranging from small bites such as fig and gorgonzola bruschetta and brie and puff pastry to entrees like mussels, grilled flank steak and the signature Vintage burger with Cabot cheddar, bacon, pickled onion, lettuce and cornichon aioli. Be sure to look at the blackboard for food and drink additions.
Michelle Hein is the social media editor for a women’s fashion company in Bucks County by day and a self-proclaimed food and drink fanatic by night and weekend. She enjoys attending wine classes, trying new recipes in the kitchen and going to old favorites and new restaurants alike in the Bucks County and Philadelphia area. If the writing gig doesn’t pan out, she constantly dreams of owning her own bakery…perhaps connected to the restaurant/bar that her lawyer husband would love to open.
< a href=http://www.examiner.com/user-michelle-hein