At the peak of some Americans' pique over Gallic resistance to the war in Iraq several years ago, there was a move in Congress to rename French fries as "freedom fries."
Today in Los Angeles that concept seems particularly foreign, and it has nothing to do with politics. Rather, it is the proliferation of French bistros that have opened in Los Angeles. Bin 8945, Brass Cap and French 75 have all arrived on the scene in the last year or so and a number of boutique hotels are on board, as well.
The Chamberlain Hotel's restaurant is called Bistro and the Avalon Hotel's restaurant Blue on Blue holds bistro nights every Sunday, when wines are also discounted.
It's more the food think steak frites and duck confit than the drink that seems to be the draw.
"It's a timeless classic we feel is ripe to re-visit within the marketplace," said David Wilhelm, president of Culinary Adventures, Inc., the Newport Beach-based parent company to French 75.
James Wheeler, sous chef at Bistro, suggests that L.A.'s flourishing farmer's market culture attunes diners to the fresh, organic and locally grown ingredients that make up the menus.
"The simple elegance of bistro cuisine dovetails with this preference perfectly," said Wheeler.
Restaurants like French 75, which has locations in Burbank, Irvine and Century City, take ambiance seriously, with leather booths, tin-stamped ceilings and deep-red walls. Diners will spend between $22 and $40 on entrees there.
In a year when many restaurants have suffered as high gas prices have discouraged dining out, some consumers are looking to trade down a bit.
John Kaufman, who was part of the original management team at California Pizza Kitchen Inc., opened Truxton's, an American Bistro in Westchester in July and earnings have exceeded expectations. He credits the simple, comfort food and the manageable prices. Dinners range from $10 to $16.
"We define an American bistro as the usual classic and ethnic American dishes," he said. "We're playing to that melting pot, but we do it at everyday prices," Kaufman said.
"The Cheesecake Factories and CPKs are getting a little expensive," said Kaufman. He and partner Tim Foley plan to have five or six Truxton's in Southern California within the next 18 to 36 months.
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