If the charming dining room of Cafe Marmotte doesn't win you over from the moment you walk in, the creations of chef/co-owner Mark Reggiannini will. The menu is French to the core but displays originality in execution. For example, the French onion soup isn't the standard brown broth topped with soggy toast, but is presented as a light and frothy purée with a single deep-fried square of Gruyère floating on top. Coq au vin is stained deep burgundy from its red-wine bath and sits atop bacon mashed potatoes that somehow remain light and airy. Duck — as breast and confit of leg — comes with tart kumquat jam and berry agrodulce, both of which cut right through the rich duck fat. For a special night out, Marmotte's wine list goes deep, but you can also go cheap if you grab a stool at the four-seater bar; there you'll find coq au vin and a glass of wine for $25 nightly. A great deal? Mais oui!
Readers' Choice: Bistro Vendôme