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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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