Friday, February 11, 2011

Voila! Paris Bistro in Winter Park

It's no Paris, but Winter Park is a charming Central Florida town that's managed to maintain its Old Florida character.  In stark contrast to the manufactured universe nearby, it boasts cobblestone streets, gigantic moss-covered oaks, gorgeous homes, and quaint shops and cafes.  You have to love a place that lines its sidewalks with water bowls and free treats for pampered pooches.  

It was Mississippi Maven's birthday and she had never been to Winter Park.  A natural for a girls' day out of shopping and lunching, downtown Winter Park offers many enticing dining options, high-priced boutiques for eye-popping browsing and fantastic people watching.  It's not uncommon to spot a celebrity.  Everyone here is so filthy rich that nobody bothers them.

After a scenic walk around Rollins College's lakefront campus, we shopped browsed our way to our Park Avenue luncheon destination:  Paris Bistro.  A waiter was stationed on the sidewalk near a chalkboard menu, ushering willing customers into the restaurant.  I can see why they have someone positioned there because you'd never find it otherwise.  He guided us through an office-building atrium, past a few koi ponds, and into a lovely Parisian-themed restaurant.

We were seated at the end of a plush, red velvet banquette, near floor-to-ceiling windows viewing an artsy children's clothing store/photography studio, a man-made banyan tree twinkling with white lights, and the ornamental ponds we passed on the way in. 

In fact, during our fine lunch I had a direct view of a woman's full-body plunge into one of the ponds.  No kidding!  (I told you that the people watching is good.)  Talking or texting, she tumbled in with a yelp and a splash, and then, out she jumped, cell phone in hand, none the worse for the dunk.

One thing I have discovered about the Orlando area is the surprising number of dining deals at great restaurants.  This spot featured a three-course lunch for $11.95, and there were choices aplenty. 

The salad course consisted of either a Caesar or house salad.  The Maven had a Caesar and I chose the house, which was a simple combination of spring greens and vegetables dressed in a garlicky herb vinaigrette.  Having had some mediocre-to-bad vinaigrettes lately, I appreciated the strong flavors in this one.  A basket of sliced bread - yes, it was the authentic French variety - didn't last long because the Maven and I like to carb up.  The waiter offered to replenish the basket and we sheepishly agreed. 

Entrees ranged from Coq au Vin and Veal Normande to Crepe du Jour and Quiche, with several other temptations in between.  After much hand wringing, I selected a Croque Madame, a French version of a ham and cheese sandwich.  Served warm, this luscious sandwich contained thinly sliced sweet ham nestled between two Texas-sized pieces of white sandwich bread, the outside of which were smeared with a mixture of Gruyere cheese and possibly a roux (sorry, it's just a guess), then decadently topped with a fried egg and broiled.  I couldn't wait to pierce the yellow yolk and watch it cascade down every nook and cranny of that Croque. 

Merci, madame, may I have another?

The French love to top things with fried eggs and that's just what they did with the Maven's hamburger. 

I have already tried this at home.  I highly recommend putting a fried egg on just about anything.

Her Paris Bistro Burger featured ground sirloin, lettuce, tomato, red onion, Brie and Dijon mustard - and an egg, of course.  Heads up:  The waiter didn't inquire how she wanted the beef cooked and it was prepared medium-well.  If that's not how you like it, you better speak up.  Evidently, that preparation was fine with the Maven because, except for some inferior tomato, she really enjoyed that burger. 

Both lunch plates came with a side of fries, which were totally unnecessary.  We were getting stuffed and dessert was on the horizon - creme brulee and profiteroles.  The Maven cracked into the brulee and I devoured the profiteroles, which were ooh, la, la outrageously enjoyable, the sweet cream puffs sandwiching vanilla ice cream and basking in an intense ganache.  The pleasures of these treats were magnified by cups of delicious coffee that our attentive and friendly-but-not-overbearing waiter refilled from a silver coffee decanter throughout our meal. 

My review would not be complete without a nod to Paris Bistro's ambience.  This is an intimate place that exudes the refined but welcoming nature of a true French bistro.

Are you reading this, Hubmeister?  Soft French music, delectable French food, fine French wine, quaint French atmosphere.  It's perfect for Valentine's Day.  How timely! 

Verdict:  A praiseworthy bistro, aptly named.  C'est merveilleux!

Restaurant Info:
Paris Bistro
216 North Park Avenue
Winter Park

Paris Bistro on Urbanspoon


  1. Dont Go!!! Worst food, and the owner is extremely rude!!!!
    This was our third trip. Previously we had stopped for dessert and on another occasion we had ok food.

    Our adult children were out with us checking out where we might want to eat lunch. We frequent Park Ave restaurants, but they thought they would try something different.

    As we passed Paris Bistro, they had a handler outside trying to drum up business. We were all unsure if we wanted to eat there. The handler specifically stated to my Attorney daughter, who seemed really reluctant to chose their establishment
    " I want you" " You are the one I really want" " I got your lunch today" When my daughter still said " I don't think so" He continued on and said," I got your lunch today, I'll pay." This was in front of 4 additional adults, 2 business men, and 2 additional business women, one with a Masters in Business!

    With that everyone decided that we would have lunch. This was a BIG MISTAKE!!.

    We each picked a different type of entree. My husband and I shared a chicken crepe, which was accompanied by potatoes au gratin, one daughter chose a waffle, one a goat cheese salad, and my son-in-law chose a chicken dish.

    Shortly after ordering, we thought we should make sure our server knew about the free meal. He did not. So the owner came out and asked us about the free meal, and we explained. Instead of saying ok, I''m glad you decided to join us and leave it at that, she thought it was more appropriate to tell us she was going to get her handler. He then came back and said that she was to get a free lunch if she was not happy.(NOT TRUE)Then he continued, "But I'm glad to buy you lunch and I will fix this IF YOU REALLY WANT ME TOO". How nice to try to make the customer feel guilty, and embarrassed, after you did your double talking to get the 5 of us to eat at your restaurant. So after he continued on to try to have my daughter feel bad for him and change her mind, he finally backed off and told us not to worry about it. He would take care of it.

    The owner never came out again to apologize. Oh by the way, why does she have rub the backs of the men at the table. The second time at the table, my daughter pushed her hand off my son-in-law. That was his second massage so far. One more thing to make us uncomfortable.

    So now that we are all unfomfortable and regretting our choice, out comes the food. The waffle was terrible, luckily it was free. The salad was tasteless, and the goat cheese was in a croissant, instead of the goat cheese being on the salad. The chicken dish was full of grizzle and cheap chicken. While we knew it was to be the dark meat, which my son-in-law loves, it was probably the cheapest grade of chicken you could buy. Our chicken crepe was the only good dish on the table.

    We were all in agreement the potatoes au gratin were the worst. How do you ruin potatoes!! We now have now renamed them 'POTATOES ARE ROTTEN"

    On to the included desert. Banana crepes and creme brulee. The banana's were unexpectedly very cold, and it just was unimpressive. The creme brulee tasted sour.

    We eat out almost every day. Our family has owed restaurants, and we have friends who own restaurants of various types. Never have we been treated so rudely, as at this restaurant. We will never spend another penny at this establishment.

  2. Wow! Just when I was getting bored with blogging...this gem appears.

    What I find most surprising: All those "geniuses" in the group and they still fell for the old free-lunch routine.