39 Rue de Jean
Entrées $15-$20
Downtown. 39 John St. 722-8881
Lunch and Dinner
Widely known simply as 'Rue,' this John Street hot spot became an instant classic, thanks to great house-made pommes frites, an impeccable menu, a big-city inspired interior, and the 'see and be seen' crowd. It manages to be both a fun bar and a good restaurant, which is a very difficult balance to maintain. And maintain it does, in its fifth year.

Brasserie des Amis
Entrées $20 and up
Downtown. 68 Wentworth St. 534-9054
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Brasserie may be the best surprise of 2005 for us. It's a hotel restaurant located in the Renaissance Hotel on Wentworth Street, it serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and it is outstanding, due largely to chef John Therres. Crab cakes, grouper on white beans, frisée salad, tiramisu -- literally everything we've tried here is a delight. Service is among the best we've received anywhere in the world. While the dining room is a bit sterile, it does a fine job of not making one feel out of place at 8 a.m. or 8 p.m. This is a restaurant that really deserves more attention.

Coco's Cafe
Entrées $10-$15
Mt. Pleasant. 863 Houston Northcutt Blvd. 881-4949
Lunch and Dinner
Chef Alain Saley and his sidekick François Rivalain produce a huge classic house salad and a braised lamb shank that are wonderfully consistent and affordable, all in a warm bistro atmosphere that never fails. The prix fixe lunch is equally dependable and delicious, and includes a glass of wine and two courses for just $10. Coco's is a great candidate for twice-a-week dining for Mt. P residents who don't like to cook, and the new expansion provides cozy partitioned sections that give privacy for a wonderful group dining experience.

G&M/Fast & French
Entrées $5-$10
Downtown. 98 Broad St. 577-9797
Lunch and Dinner
As always, G&M is the spot for lunch that makes us feel like we should be in black turtlenecks and berets, smoking Gauloises and chatting at the community table about the issues of the day. The Boucheron salad, with raisins, goat cheese, and sesame vinaigrette is a perfect addition to any of the cheese and bread 'snacks,' the cheese plate, or the entrée of the evening, which is posted on a sign on the front Broad Street sidewalk. They recently won a bid to purchase the building they've occupied for the last 20 years from the county, and thank god. Capitalism be damned, we need to hang on to all the character we can.


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