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Friday, February 25, 2011

How to Visit Paris (without leaving San Diego)

An actual Paris Bistro in Paris.
French bistros are all the rage in Paris.  OK, that's sort of obvious but maybe not so obvious to most Americans is what a bistro is.   For example, PF Chang's calls it self a "bistro", but that's about as accurate as calling Applebee's "fine dining".  A bistro is a casual eatery, moderately priced, serving up rustic comfort foods.  In Paris they're on nearly every corner with the tiny tables (cleverly called bistro tables) facing the street for people watching.  Parisians spend hours in their bistros, slowly dining and enjoying the time.  Maybe we Americans have it wrong with our fast food and dining in the car while racing back to our cubicles.  

Cafe Chloe in San Diego.  Not Paris, but an incredible simulation!
THE VIBE:  Urban, lively, Very Paris-like
THE COST:  Moderately and fairly priced
THE LOCATION:  Near Gaslamp

The other weekend I was wandering around San Diego's East VillageWhat?  Where?  Ahhh, long time locals might know this area better as the area of town where you prayed your car didn't break down.  Located east of the Gaslamp District, it was Bum City for a long time but has really turned itself around since the opening of Petco Park.  In fact, it's downright trendy these days.  And look, there on the corner is Cafe Chloe, looking a lot like a real French Bistro.  Let's go check it out.

Sorry for the butt crack shot.  Is that a tramp stamp?  Don't look!
The outside tables are hard to get but inside it's light and airy.  The bar might be a good spot on a busy day but we got the prime table next to the kitchen.  I know some of you might think I'm crazy but I love watching the food hit the pass and the waiters hustling to get it out to the tables. 

The view from my table.  Superb!
OK, so Cafe Chloe passes the bistro test with it's atmosphere, lively setting and urban vibe.  But how about the food?  Let's digress a bit and take a look at the real thing.

Actual food from a real Paris bistro.  Steak Frites and Duck Confit with duck fat fries.
French salad with a poached egg, lardons and croutons from an actual Paris bistro.
The real French bistro food was elegant and expertly prepared.  This isn't from some fancy restaurant but a random bistro we stopped in at when we got hungry.  Now let's see if Cafe Chloe can pass the test.

Cafe Chloe's steak frites.
I love a good steak.  As you read in my recent adventures, I was really bummed by the steak I got at Island Prime, the Cohn restaurant high end (and high priced) steakhouse.  I was craving a good steak and was blown away by the steak at Cafe Chloe.  It was some sort of hanger steak, more tender than a top sirloin and bursting with savory flavors.  Crave it.  Now.  Let me tell it to you straight - this is a damn good steak.  Don't waste your money at a fancy steakhouse, just get this steak!

Dipping sauces for the fries.  Delicious!
And here's a tip - ask for the dipping sauces for the fries.  Super delicious, you'll be licking the ramekins clean.   And if you happen to order something that doesn't come with fries (God forbid!), don't even think about not getting a side order.  They're that good.  Trust me, I love fries and these are great fries, even if they weren't fried in duck fat. 

Money shot for you carnivores.  Nice and rare, perfectly cooked.
The salad with the egg on top at Cafe Chloe.
The salad was nearly as successful, perhaps knocked down a notch due to the sloppy presentation of the egg, but trust me when I tell you that the flavor was spot on.  Hey, what are they eating at the table next to me?

That looks good!
Mussels!  Bread to dip into the juices!  Oh man, that looks really good!  In fact, everything here is good and the prices fair, making this one of my favorite San Diego restaurants.  So here's the verdict - Cafe Chloe is about as close as you're going to get to a real French bistro in San Diego.  The food is superb, the atmosphere fun and lively, the wait staff and owner friendly, the next time you find yourself wondering what to do on a weekend afternoon just head downtown and waste the day enjoying your time at Cafe Chloe. 

What are you doing this weekend?  Ahhh, going to Cafe Chloe.  Mmmmmm.

DRUNK WALLY!  Napa Tourist Guide
SONOMA WALLY!  Sonoma Tourist Guide

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