A French Twist: Happy Hour at Bouchon Bistro

Bouchon Bistro is a world away, but just down the street

When you think of Bouchon Bistro, you’re probably thinking about traditional French dishes like steak frites, escargots de bourgogne, and soupe à l’oignon. And you would be accurate — one of the missions of acclaimed chef Thomas Keller is to deliver the kind of authentic French cuisine you would find in a café on the banks of the Seine River.

You might also be thinking about the restaurant’s 40-page deep wine list and their immense cache of vintages — and, of course, the fin-de-siècle decor that transports you to the finer parts of Hemingway’s Paris. But this brainchild of French culinary virtuoso Keller is probably not your first choice for drinks. Perhaps it should be.

Happy Hour at Bouchon

Even though Bouchon just recently unveiled a happy hour menu with a selection of $12 cocktails, it’s already been one of the best places to escape the sometimes-hectic happy hour crowd for an after-work drink. Sit at one of the eleven seats at the bar for an intimate, relaxed experience and wind down from your day with a nice cocktail or glass of wine. Bouchon does have a full bar, so yes, you can order a margarita. However, we suggest asking the bartender for a recommendation, or ordering a classic French cocktail off the menu.

We tried the French ‘75 ($18) with Beefeater gin, champagne, and a lemon twist; the Sidecar ($22) with Hennessey cognac, Cointreau, orange liquor, lemon juice, and a sugar rim; and a delightful off-menu gin-cucumber concoction the bartender suggested. The French ’75 — named after the 75-millimeter mobile artillery piece made famous in the First World War — matched its namesake: light but with a strong kick. The Sidecar is a more sophisticated balance of sweet and sour, blending the richness of the cognac, the acidity of the lemon and Cointreau, and the sweetness of the orange. Magnifique! And the gin-cucumber combo is always refreshing.

Overall, the cocktail pours are generous and well-made, and augment the small plates, which will run you anywhere from around $8 to $34. We opted for the Oeufs Mimosa ($8), four delightfully deviled eggs topped with fried capers; the Tartare de Boeuf ($21.50) with radishes, cornichons, frisée, horseradish, and crème fraîche, served with grilled bread; and the truffle pommes frites ($19) — French-style French fries, for you Anglos. There is also a wonderful selection of oysters and other shell fish on ice, reminiscent of Le Zinc in Paris.

Bouchon recently arrived in the Gables in the restored, historic La Palma building across the street from Alhambra Towers on Galiano, just up from Alhambra Plaza. It might create the impression of being a little haute for the average citizen to just drop in, but it’s an approachable, warm, and aesthetically pleasing place still new enough to be undiscovered by most. Get there before it gets too busy and take a trip to another time and place. Outdoor seating in the courtyard is also available. Voulez-vous une Gauloises with that ’75?

Bouchon Bistro
Happy Hour: Tues. to Sun. from 4 to 6 pm
2101 Galiano St.