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Great Bistros of Provence

Guy Bouchet A frame of blossoming jaspine adds to the appeal of the bistro's organic menu

Photo: Guy Bouchet

Bistro de France

Apt

For me, this is the quintessential town bistro. Its individual elements (Formica tables, Naugahyde banquettes) may not be particularly attractive, but those motley parts add up to a beguiling whole. The restaurant was spiffed up a couple of years back with a marbled trompe l'oeil façade, but it remains humble at heart. According to owner-chef Jackie André, the Bistro de France is one of the oldest bistros in Provence, built where a bicycle shop and a café stood back in the twenties. The meals here are good the way the best home cooking is: fresh, unadorned, and generously served. There are black truffles in the winter, melons in the summer, and cèpe mushrooms in the fall. With its seasonal specials and menu classics such as crespéou, a layered Provençal omelette with herbs, spinach, and zucchini, and old-fashioned blanquette de veau—the ultimate bistro comfort food—the Bistro de France always plays to a full house. The crowd chez Jackie is a congenial mix of local businessmen, happy tourists who chose well, and real estate agents dragging along potential clients to show them a bit of local color. There is a daunting rush for tables after Apt's sprawling Saturday morning market, and disappointed shoppers are often turned away. Reserve! 67 Place de la Bouquerie; 33-4/90-74-22-01; lunch for two $60; closed Sunday and Monday.

Linda Dannenberg is the author of New French Country (Clarkson Potter). She has written for the New York Times, Departures, and House & Garden.

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