A mainstay of the city's restaurant scene over the last decade has been the French bistro. You could recite the menu in your sleep: steak frites, duck confit, frisée and lardon salad, croque monsieur, crème brûlée, and—God help us!—bouillabaisse. I've enjoyed eating at places like Casimir, Café Tabac, Pigalle, and Pastis, but was invariably annoyed by the similar menus and cookie-cutter decor, which often features furniture enhanced to look old, crazed mirrors scrawled with "specials" that never change, and, worst of all, jumbled fake antique signs that encourage nostalgia for products we've never known. During the same time, I was charmed by real Parisian bistros during a stay in Montparnasse—small, unaffected haunts often run by extended families, with comfortable furnishings, walls hung with the work of local artists, and menus that play to the strengths of the cooks, but always elegant in... More >>>