Photos By Andy DelGiudice, Words By Logan Hollers
A good French bistro is hard to pull off. It has to be relaxed – the type of place where you can chill over a newspaper and an espresso while people-watching away the afternoon (constantly smoking is optional, of course). But it’s also known for a specific cuisine; French home-cooking, if you will, where each dish feels like it took days to come together.
Bistrot Royal in Alexandria is just such a place. The younger sibling to Bastille, Bistrot Royal offers classic French comfort food without the usual French pretension. It’s beautiful inside – all leather and dark wood, nice enough to bring the parents (or date), yet chill enough to make it your new go-to for French.
Traditional dishes dominate the menu. This is a good thing.
Start with a selection of cheese and some terrific charcuterie – mix and match wedges of Roquefort, comte, and camembert with a trio that includes a rustic country pate, creamy chicken liver mousse, or (best of the bunch) thick slabs of foie gras.
Classic starters more your style? Try the French onion soup, deep and rich, the onions still subtly sweet; or the frisee with lardons, the perfect match of bitter greens, salty thick-cut bacon, and a poached egg.
Mains continue the home-cooked theme: bouillabaisse, Poulet Chasseur, duck confit… Two of the entrees, however, immediately put you in mind of the French countryside. Beef bourguignon is as French as it gets. A braise in red wine and beef stock keeps the beef super tender; sautéed vegetables give crunch and pommes puree soaks up every bit of sauce.
Truite a la Grenobloise (sautéed trout with lemon, capers, and brown butter) is an equally delicious, if lighter, option. This really is a great dish – flaky, mild whitefish, huge hits of bright lemon, briny capers, and a shatteringly crisp skin. I didn’t think I dug fish skin. I was wrong.
It’s French, so sweets are on point. Chocolate fans are covered with the housemade profiteroles; better is the tarte au citron. Lemon curd and a light strawberry sauce are exactly the refresher needed after multiple courses of rich French classics.
Best of all? Sit at the bar and get 15% off your meal! Inexpensive, delicious, and low-key, Bistrot Royal is the perfect choice when you’re feeling French.