Don't bother flying to Paris. Just go to Le Bouchon. This perennially crowded bistro prepares incredibly authentic and delectable French dishes, and if Michelin rated restaurants in Chicago, this one would get a star.
The staff recommends the hanger steak, which comes in a red wine sauce over creamy garlic mashed potatoes, over the grilled steak. The fish entrees (often found only among the daily specials) deserve special attention. If you're an adventurous American or a homesick French national, escargots, frog legs and veal kidneys are also available. Think of the dessert course not as an option, but as an absolute requirement. You can try splitting the chocolate marquise or profiteroles with the other people in your party, but the treats may inspire open warfare among those expected to share. The lemon tart is divine, but be warned: Le Bouchon has been known to run out of it before 9 p.m.
The one aspect of dining here that leaves something to be desired is the seating. The tables next to the window are practically on top of the powerful heaters, the tables a little further in back get hit by blasts of air from the door, and the tables next to the bar are so close together that if you try to squeeze in you might end up sitting in your neighbor's lap. You might try making a reservation for the early part of the evening to increase your chances of having a choice of tables...and your chances of getting a slice of that lemon tart.
Note: Tuesdays get especially packed, and with reason. The awesome prix-fixe special lets you choose any appetizer, entree and dessert on the menu for just $22.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Abigail Derecho