French bread 

Say what you will about the French. No, seriously, just go ahead and say it. Get it out of your system. 

Are you done? Good. Because while I will let you defame the entire nation, I will not hear a word about their food, unless that word is “More?” And at La Baguette Bistro, Oklahoma City’s oldest and most beloved French restaurant, my answer to that word will always be, “Oh, God, yes. Please.”

Whether you’re looking for Sunday brunch, a drink at the bar or a full-on French feast, La Baguette is the place. But let’s start with breakfast, because that’s how all my days begin.

My favorite has always been the croque madame ($12), which is a ham and Swiss sandwich, topped with béchamel sauce and grilled, with two sunny-side-up eggs piled on for good measure. It’s absolutely decadent and would make a good breakfast for anyone who needs to build a barn and then bare-knuckle box 10 men and a horse.

For something slightly lighter, but no less tasty, I think the Bonjour Paris ($8) with ham and scrambled eggs, bacon and Swiss cheese on a toasty croissant is pretty wonderful. Both dishes come with breakfast potatoes and fresh fruit.

While those are exclusive to breakfast, the quiche Lorraine ($10 for breakfast, $10 or $12 for lunch and dinner) is available any time and has never let me down. This dish is what happens when a magician decides to make eggs. It is both solid and fluid. The crust is buttery and flaky. Your fork can hold it, but it melts on the tongue.

I always love quiche, but there are few quiches I love as much as this one.

I told my mother that I was getting beef tartare ($13), and she audibly cringed. But while I will always love her, it is clear our tastes have diverged for the better. Because beef tartare is an absolute delight of chopped rare beef tenderloin, mixed with onions, capers and sauce and served with toasted baguette slices. Tart, tangy, rich and savory — it’s one of my favorite French creations.

Now would be a good time to give some love to the little-loved French waiter, whose reputation for snootiness is unearned, at least at La Baguette. Our waiter was a friendly man
hell-bent on helping us pair our meals with a great glass of wine. And
before you accuse him of padding the bill, he chose the cheapest glass
on the menu for me, and it was a perfect match for both the tartare and
my filet of orange roughy special.

My wife was also quite taken with his recommendations, which she said played perfectly off the duck breast ($23). Glazed with orange and sherry, the duck breast is cooked to your liking — I’d steer toward medium rare or medium. It is served with risotto, tomato, haricots verts (fancy green beans) and topped with a roasted sunflower.

If that seems too exotic for you, the filet au poivre ($30) may be more up your alley. It’s a filet mignon prepared the way all filets should be — with lots of fresh black pepper, seared, flambéed and topped with a bit of veal glaze and cream. This was the steak that first awakened my love of the filet, and I’ll bet it can do the same for you.

That said, if you go to La Baguette and only get dessert, I will not blame you. The chocolate mousse cake is, by far, my favorite way to get diabetes. A six-inch cake will run you $16, and there might not be a better way on this planet or any adjacent planets to spend that money.

La Baguette is an experience and one I think everyone should have. You can eat there on a budget and still walk out satisfied, or you can spend to your heart’s content and roll out the door elated. I think you can guess which one I prefer.

Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.

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