Our dining experience at Le Petit Paris, Chicago.


So when my mom and I went to Chicago for labor day weekend, she wanted to go to a French restaurant while we were there. Before we left I looked up a few, and focused on those that were affordable and had the most authentic menus. We decided on Le Petit Paris.  Per the write up online, this was truly a unique experience. By unique, I mean one of the most ridiculous dinners we’ve had to date.

First of all this place was difficult to find from the direction in which we were coming.  After noticing a small neon sign in a window of what looked to be an apt complex or office building, we went through one set of doors, looking for the door to this restaurant.  Wedged in the corner, I noticed a door with a Zagat sticker on it. Upon walking in, we were greeted by the owner, Alain. He was huffy and always seemed to have better things to do unless it involved singing along with the French music he had blaring early in the evening. What’s more is that all of the clientele seemed to coo and fawn over him. The restaurant looked like the AAA on Colorado Blvd. You either know exactly what I’m talking about or have no idea. If the latter is the side on which you fall, let me sum up.  The whole place looked like a converted office space, dark wood paneling, and dark carpet. French flags were everywhere, lest we forget the cuisine. The tables were nice though with tablecloths etc.

We were meeting one of my oldest and dearest friends, so we said there would be three of us. Alain grabbed an extra chair to add to a two-person table, but there was plenty of room. As soon as us two sat down, he kept circling the table, gruffly asking if our third party had shown up yet. Obviously, the empty chair to my right wasn’t indicator enough. We ordered wine and an app to get to him to go away. It seemed to work. My mom started in on the bread and still swears it’s the best bread she’s had outside of France.

After my friend Erin eventually arrived, we perused the menu, and accompanying specials list.  My mom chose the beef bourguignon (beef stew) and Erin and I chose the canard a l’orange (orange duck). The waiter, Jeff, returns to tell Erin and me that they are out of duck. I then choose the steak and Erin, the Mahi Mahi off the specials menu. This time Alain returns to our table with a folded menu, telling us he’s out of the steak and the Mahi Mahi. He doesn’t apologize mind you. He’s put out really. “Look“ he says, “I have 28 items on the menu, I can’t keep them all available all the time.” I find this amazingly absurd. I ask him if he has the filet. He says yes. I ask him again if he’s sure. He says yes. Erin ordered the salmon.

Well Jeff the waiter feels the need to assure us that the food at this place is phenomenal and that he used to work at some other fru fru restaurant that we didn’t know about and that this place has the best food. Going on about how everything is so fresh and brought in daily. My mom keeps pressing him about the bread because I’m pretty sure she’d buy stock in whatever bakery created the delicious morsels she couldn’t keep out of her mouth. Of course, Jeff doesn’t know. It’s something of a secret apparently. Along with what items on the menu might actually be available. Jeff keeps coming back to tell us inane details about the restaurant. For example, the restaurant was expecting a party of 18 and a party of 22. There were only 4 people working there, so we were interested to see how awesome that would turn out.

We received our dinners without much fanfare. As we were eating, the geriatric bus obviously showed up and 18 people all piled into the entryway to be told there was no duck, steak, or Mahi Mahi. The party of 22 started streaming in shortly thereafter, but they kept going into the bar, which we didn’t know existed. The dresses and shoes we witnessed from that party were sites to behold. Stilettos with visible- zipper dresses. You know the ones with the zipper that’s gold. Oh, but our dinners were good. Not amazing, but good, respectable French cuisine.

Well it was soon dessert time. We intentionally ordered the easiest and most difficult items to see if Alain would tell us they weren’t available. So we ordered the baked Alaska, bread pudding, and crème brulee. The baked Alaska was obviously the gamble here. With every time Jeff came to share some more useless info we kept hoping almost that he was tell us it was a no go on one of the desserts. We were actually disappointed when they all showed up. When the desserts were left, Erin said, “I thought the baked Alaska had a flambé element to it.” Well on cue, Alain shows up with some cheap alcohol and Jeff with a lighter. They set the dessert aflame. Then Alain nudges my mom, “Blow it out honey, you don’t want to waste all that alcohol. It’s 60 Proof”. The desserts were really good. I mean, really good.

The piece de resistance was the bathroom break at the end of the evening. We hadn’t noticed the silk flower adorned, 8ft Eiffel Tower at the base of the steps up to the second level. Again, lest you forget the cuisine. The bathroom doors were full length swinging kitchen/saloon doors. The once regular ol bathroom had been painted with kitschy cancan girls and sayings like “oui, oui, oui” “Tres Sexy”, and “Tres Chic”. There was also a ceramic bunny on the floor in the handicapped stall. Not sure what that was about. Erin and I dashed back to our table and told my mom she immediately had to go to the bathroom to see it in all its glory. When she returned, she said she couldn’t stop laughing the whole time she was in there.

After concluding our meal, we saw the bar that the party of 22 had been hanging out in. The saloon doors made a second appearance, only the proper short version. This bar was the only portion of this restaurant that seemed to have been updated any time in the last 20 or so years. There was a wrap around black pleather couch with pillows and a jukebox! A ceramic cat we had “missed” was in the entryway on our way out.

Upon returning to the hotel, we realized my mom had printed out the information on the restaurant from their web site. There was Alain with arms outstretched standing in the updated bar. First sentence in the write up? “Le Petit Paris offers patrons a truly unique dining experience.” Well it certainly was. Moreover, we would absolutely go back.

posted under Food, Misc, Travel

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