Think French restaurants are out of your price range? Let me introduce you to Le Central in LoDo, Denver. The food is great, the prices are right, and it’s a charming building in a charming neighborhood (parking kinda sucks during the week, but it’s Denver).
Le Central opened in 1981 with the mission of bringing authentic Provençal food to the little people (my wording, not their’s). They have their own in-house bakery, make their own paté and sausage (eew), give cooking demonstrations the last Tuesday of every month, cater weddings and host small parties in the restaurant, offer special menus for holidays and Prixfixe menus as well as a constant menu that’s huge, and…and…oh, you’ll just have to visit the website. It’s too exhausting to list everything they do. Suffice it to say that if you live nearby, you could get away with never cooking again.
I have had brunch and mussels for lunch (yes, mussels have their own menu). I’m glad that I live over an hour away or I would be very fat by now.
For brunch, the egg section of the menu (Oeufs) can’t be beat. For $7, you’ll get so much food you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day. Oeufs Sardou is a take on Eggs Benedict, but with succulent braised artichoke hearts in lieu of meat and tangy Béarnaise instead of Hollandaise sauce. (The Benedict is also delish.) Each dish is served with a heaping pile of mashed potatoes and a roasted potato. Try not to fill up on the beautiful, perfectly crisp outside, fluffy inside homemade bread they bring when you first sit down or you might not make it. The mimosas and Bloody Marys are also $3 on Saturdays. This place beats Yolk in Chicago, and that’s saying a lot.
Oh, I also got escargots en brioche at brunch. Beautifully garlicky and buttery, my only complaint is that the perfectly nice bread that came with the escargots was not quite as amazing as the bread that came in the basket.
The mussels I had for lunch (this was on a different day--don’t worry) come in a big bucket--more beautiful garlic and butter, more perfectly chosen herbs and spices (really, check out the menu; the choices are mind-boggling). And if you didn’t love Le Central enough for giving mussels their due on the menu, every order comes with unlimited pommes frites--thick-cut, golden, rich and crunchy--need I say more?
Oh, I can say more. The atmosphere is cozy and welcoming, the service (always French waiters, it seems) is impeccable, and I dream about eating there every day. Le Central teaches us about the best aspects of French culture: good food and drink, good manners, and joie de vivre!