Paris 66 is a good thing for the city’s French food lovers since Pittsburgh’s French restaurants are far and few. I just read that Brasserie 33, a French restaurant I had eaten at a couple of years ago in the Shadyside area, recently closed. So it seems that Paris 66, also located in Shadyside, and Bridge 10 Brasserie on the city’s South Side are it for French restaurants in the city which is quite the shame.
The restaurant truly lives up to its bistro vibe especially from the first moment you walk through its door. While the city of Pittsburgh was right outside, when you step further into the restaurant, away from the business of Penn Circle South (the street that it’s on), you truly could be in Paris. The decor, the ambiance, and especially the native French speaking staff all contributed to the feeling of an authentic experience. The fact that Pittbsurgh Magazine rated it best French restaurant in the city also speaks volumes.
Paris 66 is open for lunch and dinner and we ended up going for lunch one Saturday. In the French language, bistro means a small restaurant and that is exactly what Paris 66 is. The restaurant had me from the very beginning as its menu featured not one, but two quotes from Papa Hemingway himself about the city he loved so, “There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris.”
Starters include an impressive selection of salads and hor d’oeuvres (snails anyone?) as well as two soups. We actually passed on the interlude options and instead delved right into ordering our entrees and accompaniments. I was in a crepes kind of a mood and went with one of their six buckwheat crepe selections-La Raclette ($17) which was stuffed with raclette, ham, and potatoes. In case you’ve never heard of it, raclette is a type of cheese and is also a Swiss dish consisting of cheese melted over a fire and then scraped onto bread or boiled potatoes. I learned about raclette through the blog of an American expat who is currently living in France. I was so happy to know what this was since I know many Americans would not. The crepe was delicious although with the richness of the cheese, there was a lot and I ended up taking almost half home. It’s served with mixed greens and house vinaigrette.
D chose the Croque Monsieur ($10), often a favorite of his when dining out. Its partner, the Croque Madame (same thing as the Monsieur except that it features a sunnyside egg on top) was also available in addition to a Croque Vegetarian which was stuffed with ratatouille vegetables and goat cheese and came on a whole grain roll.
We both ordered sides of Pomme Frites ($5) and they were tasty. Not nearly as good as those I had in Brugge, Belgium outside of the Belfort at one of the famous carts, but still good and a nice complement to our sandwiches. We also split an order of the Haricot Vertes ($6) which are green beans. It was slightly more food than we knew what to do with, but doggie bags came in the form of recycled food container boxes with beautiful Paris 66 stickers sealing them shut. And on a neat connection, D ordered a Kronenbourg 1666 beer which he had had before in Paris at a cafe we dined at one night in the Rue Cler area.
My only quibble is that service was “typically” European, as in the waiters are not fawning over you and it takes a while for stuff to happen. (You’re certainly not rushed.) We also seemed to arrive around the same time as a baby shower that was taking place so I know our meals most likely got delayed when their orders were put in.
The restaurant does feature a pastry chef who would make vast amounts of macarons (no, NOT macaroons) every day until the owners of Paris 66 decided to open up a separate patisserie (bakery) located in the city’s Squirrel Hill section (about a 10 minute drive from the restaurant). The patisserie is called Gaby et Jules (Gaby and Jules) and offers beautifully made macarons in addition to other sweet French pastries and breads. D and I stopped by there after our meal and got four macarons-I did lavender and lemon, D went with mint and coffee. They were extremely pricey (about $2.25 each) but delicious. However, should you want your dessert immediately after your meal, macarons and other desserts can still be ordered.
I really enjoyed my meal at Paris 66 and look forward to returning to try out brunch and even dinner.