Best French Restaurant (2001)

Sophie's: A French Bistro

French food has always been considered special treat fare, and with opulent names like poisson ou fruit de mer à la discretion du chef, croque monsieur and les frittes à la Parisienne, it's no wonder. Sophie's, though, brings flights of fancy down to earth, with fantastic food that, once we know what it is, feels like an old friend. That poisson thing? It's the catch of the day, and if we're lucky, it's seared tuna in a marvelous peppery crust. Croque is no crock -- it's a broiled shaved ham and Gruyère sandwich that puts a new spin on upscale deli dining. And frittes? How about French fries, and not your everyday spuds but glorious crispy shoestrings served in a bowl so huge that McDonald's supersizing looks like fluff.

Sophie's serves the classics, of course: les escargots traditionnels (Burgundy-style snails in herbed garlic butter), soupe à l'oignon des halles (onion soup), salade niçoise, quiche and crepes. But there's none of the stiffness associated with French dining here, just a cozy little cottage with hardwood floors and lace curtains and, on weekends, live baby grand piano music.

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