If you love French food but going to France for dinner is a bit of a distance, then I highly recommend you stop by Le Bouchon in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. This French bistro is an area hotspot that consistently pleases its guests as is readily apparent at the always-bustling space. This is a big clue to make a reservation!
When you first walk in, you realize that this quaint space is just like a Parisian café. The artwork, vast assortment of French wines, tin ceiling and traditional dishes (think escargot, foie gras, French onion soup) transport you to France. None of this is surprising given the history of the late Chef/Owner Jean-Claude Poilevey who was known as a pioneer in bringing French style cooking to Chicago. He and his wife, Suzanne, opened Le Bouchon in 1993. Since then, they have opened a sister restaurant, La Sardine, in Chicago’s west loop. Both restaurants are a family affair, now being run by their sons. At Le Bouchon, we met Chef Oliver Poilevey who welcomed us into his restaurant as if it was his home.
As we sat down, warm bread and butter along with wine was served. Bon soir! (Good evening!) Now, getting a group of women together, who love cooking and dining out, to order from the menu would have been a challenge. So, Chef Oliver shared his favorites with us. And we couldn’t have been happier with the results!
French food can be very meat focused which, for someone like me who doesn’t eat meat, can be a problem. Not at Le Bouchon though. We had the most wonderful dishes from salads to fish that were simply amazing. Big flavors and textures and pure authentic French taste. For my carnivore friends, let’s just say we had moments of quiet as they enjoyed their dishes.
My absolute favorite two dishes were the following:
Pink Pearl Apple Salad with hazelnuts, manchego, arugula, radicchio, gooseberries and a cider vinaigrette
Moules a la Provencal is a mussels dish with lillett, basil, tomato, garlic and shallots.
Now, the thing about this last dish isn’t just the flavorful mussels. It’s the broth. Pure and simple. The thick, crusty bread is the ideal sponge to absorb the juices. Icing on the cake, so to speak.
Bacon wrapped duck pate with house pickles, beer bread and country mustard; Salmon rillettes which is fresh and smoked salmon with beer bread and basil.
Tuna nicoise crudo with anchovy vinaigrette, quail egg, olives, tomato, green beans, fried capers and fennel
Seared scallops with sunchoke puree, peach vinaigrette, yellowfoot mushrooms, guanciale, nasturtium
Choucroute royale which is foie boudin, merguez, pork belly, rabbit hash and house sauerkraut
Each dish is made with the freshest ingredients, which is readily apparent in each bite. Chef Oliver’s expertise in creating authentic French cuisine carries through from main course to dessert. Perfection!
One of my favorite places in the world is Paris. Having grown up with family that live there, inspired me to begin learning the language when I was young. That love of the language and culture has never waivered. While the opportunity to be in France dining at a Parisian cafe is my wish, having the chance to enjoy an authentic meal not far from home is the best alternative. Next time you are in the mood for a fragrant, flavorful meal or even a glass of French wine and dessert, visit Le Bouchon. You will be very happy you did. Merci, Chef Oliver!