We sometimes forget that phenomenal French-influenced food abounds just north of us in Quebec—and more locally, at the Quebecois-influenced Café Du Pays in Kendall Square. Within this small, homey restaurant from the team behind Mamaleh’s and State Park, you’ll encounter unique fare like Cretons (Quebecois-style pork rillettes) and Tourtière (a flaky pork-and-venison meat pie). But not every dish requires an explanation; Café Du Pays also serves a top-notch take on that most beloved of French-Canadian delicacies: Poutine.
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Longtime Cambridge resident Julia Child would’ve been proud: Boston’s French culinary scene has boomed in recent years. Maybe it has something to do with her lasting legacy—or the abundance of local chefs with haute culinary chops. Whether you’re planning your next tasting menu splurge or a morning croissant run, you’ll be well served by the options below.
Bar Lyon, a South End corner spot specializing in Lyonnaise fare, nails the bistro feel: Expect white tile floors, tufted leather banquettes, and a constant din of happy diners. But more importantly, Bar Lyon gets bistro classics right. Try the soul-warming French Onion Soup with sweet Vidalia onions and sherry; the hand-cut sirloin Steak Tartare with horseradish and toasted ciabatta; or the fat, juicy P.E.I. Mussels steamed in a creamy broth worth sponging up to the last drop with toasted bread. Even better, this is one French establishment where you can order the burger without feeling like a dull American. “Le Burger,” made with dry-aged beef, tarragon aioli, finely chopped mushrooms, pork belly, American cheese, and a farm egg is worth a trip on its own.
Commonwealth Avenue, with its grand stone mansions and tree-lined, European-style mall, feels like the perfect place for an upscale French bistro with strong special-occasion vibes and a manuscript-sized wine list. Deuxave delivers on all counts, with never-had-it-better iterations of classics like the 9 Hour French Onion Soup served with a bone marrow crouton and Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with a red currant puree. Chef Chris Coombs isn’t afraid to color outside the lines, either. His house-made Tagliatelle “Bolognaise” with veal, pancetta, beef, and a thick dollop of mozzarella shouldn’t be missed (even if it’s not technically French).
Not everything that makes French food a delight comes out of the bistro or bouchon. To explore the best of what France has to offer, a trip to a proper pâtisserie is required. Fortunately, Boston features a top-notch French bakery of its own: the South End’s Cafe Madeleine. The flaky, buttery Croissants are the biggest draw here—and the Gruyère-stuffed Ham and Cheese Croissant is almost a meal in itself—but don’t sleep on the creamy Éclair or the almost-too-pretty-to-eat Fruit Tart.
Fort Point fine dining destination Menton may not be strictly French; its namesake, a French town by the Italian border, reflects its hybrid focus. But restaurateur Barbara Lynch has perfected the Franco-Italian mashup. Approach it a la carte to enjoy dishes like Seared Foie Gras with poached quince or the Gnocchi with braised wagyu at your leisure. Or splurge on an eight- to nine-course Chef’s Whim tasting menu for a culinary experience without compare. The wine pairing is optional but hard to pass up, as the diverse wine program—which juxtaposes French, Italian, and Austrian labels with American newcomers—is one of the city’s finest.