While few eateries in Austin can be described as exclusively French, many serve classic French cuisine or France-inspired dishes.
Featuring an ever-evolving seasonal menu, Lenoir buys its produce and meat from central Texas purveyors whenever possible. Popular dishes include the buttermilk rabbit, grilled quail and chickpea panisse. When available, the coho salmon ceviche -- with melon and avocado puree -- is a must-have.
Located in a little old house, Lenoir is an excellent choice for a first or fiftieth date. 1807 South 1st; (512) 215-9778
2. Chez Nous
A peaceful respite from nearby 6th Street, Chez Nous is a French restaurant without the attitude -- even though many of the waiters are actually French. Opened in 1982, the casual bistro is reasonably priced, but the food is consistently top-notch. For starters, try the escargot with mushrooms and the veal pate. Can’t-miss entrees include the duck confit and salmon with crab remoulade. Chocolate mousse is the dessert of choice. 510 Neches Street; (512) 473-2413
At the opposite end of the attitude scale from Chez Nous is Justine’s. To be fair, though, the attitude here is mostly hipster-derived -- not French. Despite the disadvantage of being located in far east Austin, the little restaurant has gained a seriously loyal following. The space is so intimate that many diners prefer to eat outside when the weather’s nice.
In addition to escargot and sea bass, you’ll find a little Austin cheekiness on the menu: The Royale with Cheese. Despite the goofy name, it’s one fine burger and fries. Note to parents: Don’t visit Justine’s website with kids in the room; the site immediately begins playing a vintage softcore porn film.
4710 East 5th Street; (512) 385-2900
A casual French cafe and bakery, Arro is known for its decadent croque-monsieur, steak tartare and roasted duck. For those who don’t mind consuming amphibians, the frog legs usually earn high praise. For dessert, don’t miss the Chocolate Pot de Crème. Which is pretty much what it sounds like: a chocolaty pot of cream. A simple, clean decor with floor-to-ceiling windows gives the restaurant an open, airy feel. 601 West 6th Street; (512) 992-2776
One of the few French restaurants in Austin with a truly stellar wine list, laV also has a helpful sommelier to help explain it all. For a fresh starter, opt for the beet and watermelon salad (when in season). One of the best entrees is the lamb T-bone with eggplant. For diners who like a little slither with dinner, the octopus with risotto is a winner. For a dramatic ending, try the opera cake with hazelnut dacquoise and chocolate crème. 1501 East 7th Street; (512) 391-1888