Located on a pretty average American avenue is La Châtelaine, a French bakery and restaurant. From the outside, the façade seems to be faithful decor of a traditional restaurant in the French countryside.
Once we pushed the barrier of the terrace, a boy set the tone by turning toward us and saying “Bonjour” (Hello) with a strong American accent.
As a French and American duo, we decided to try La Châtelaine to get a transatlantic perspective on the restaurant. Here are our opinions of the food we had.
Isabel (American): Spaghetti à La Gigi, Pommes Frites & Fresh Herbs and Mille-feuille ($21.85)
As someone who only has knowledge of French culture through stereotypical American portrayals, this restaurant was my first experience of the French lifestyle.
The restaurant legitimately felt French to me. There were French flags, most of the writing was in French and what sounded like French music was playing.
As a college student on a budget, the high-priced menu items stuck out to me. I considered a chicken dish, but ultimately decided to go with “Spaghetti à La Gigi,” a cheaper option that claimed to have Gigi’s “homemade specialty sauce.”
While ordering, I was given the option of soup or salad with my meal. I decided to go with the tomato basil soup. It had a comparable taste to any other soup I’ve had at a restaurant, but the croutons and cheese given on the side for the soup were delicious.
Next, we were served pommes frites & herbs — these were just French fries covered in herbs, with ketchup and an herb sauce as dipping options. I didn’t care for the herb sauce, for I felt the combination of herb fries and herb sauce was overwhelming.
My spaghetti looked just like any other spaghetti I’ve had, and the taste confirmed my thoughts. The so-called special homemade sauce was just marinara with meat. The meal was of average taste with a high price tag.
I got thirsty during my meal, but there was no designated place to get water. I eventually went to the counter and was given a small glass and told to serve myself at the soda fountain. It was annoying to keep getting up and walking to the fountain to get water — I would’ve preferred being given a pitcher at the table.
I couldn’t go to a French restaurant without trying a French dessert, so I settled on Mille-feuille after being told it was a traditional pastry. The pastry was definitely the highlight of the meal: It was filling, tasty and everything my sweet tooth could ever dream of in a dessert.
Overall, I would probably not return to the restaurant for dinner, as I can find comparable quality for a cheaper price at other places. However, I do plan on going back to try more of the pastries and some coffee, too.
Tristan (French): Bassa Meunière, Pommes Frites & Fresh Herbs and Mille-feuille ($24.60)
Inside, the restaurant is fairly truthful to a traditional French house with beams on the ceiling, stone walls and wooden chairs and tables.
The employees dressed in striped T-shirts, matching the international cliché of French people, but I felt that nothing justified pushing this stereotype to the extreme.
We made the mistake to sit next to one of the speakers playing alleged French music, which turned out to be an accordion playlist.
The overall service was confusing. It might be a minor detail, but France is not a buffet culture, the customer is king and should not leave his chair once. This awkward mix of cafeteria and proper restaurant without indications was disconcerting.
On a side note, the soda machine is one of the rare elements that betray the French atmosphere, since these devices are banned in France to prevent obesity.
After a few minutes of reflection, I went for a salad for starters but did not get a chance to try the “Chicken Provençal,” as they were out of chicken. I went for a “Bassa Meunière” instead, and we split a “Pommes Frites & Fresh Herbs.”
The salad was basic but good, made with iceberg, arugula and a few croutons. We then got our french fries as a kind of appetizer, which was nice but not amazing. The herbs on the fries were quite confusing as it is not a French thing to do, even though it was nice to try.
The main course itself was disappointing: the green beans were undercooked to the point that they were crunchy, almost raw. However, the fish was perfectly cooked but too greasy, just like the potatoes that came with it.
For dessert, I went for a “Mille-feuille” (Napoleon), one of the most traditional French pastries. The slice was big and the pastry extremely good.
Overall, La Chatelaine is an overpriced but very good French bakery. Its restaurant is OK but not worth its prices, even though the decor truthfully mimics the inside of a traditional French house in the countryside.