When you walk into the Belden-Stratford luxury apartment building on Lincoln Park West, you’re offered an Alice in Wonderland crossroads. Turn right and you enter “Intro,” a restaurant that embodies everything trendy with quarterly rotating chefs and a prepaid ticketing system. But we’re ambi-turners, so let’s take a left to Mon Ami Gabi, a restaurant that instantly takes you to a lovely French bistro in the 1950s.
Because of its location in the lobby of an apartment building, Mon Ami Gabi gives you a comfortable neighborhood feel while maintaining an upscale French ambiance. It’s the kind of place you could easily see Ernest Hemingway pounding whisky at the bar or Eloise braiding Skipperdee’s ears in a nearby booth. What you’ll actually see is bar stools manned by affluent, bougie couples and fur-clad ladies with their second husbands. This is a place for people who enjoy the finer things in life.
The food is classic French with go-to’s like steak frites and chicken grand-mere. They’re solid, expected dishes that are heavy on the butter, onions, and cheese. Be still our beating hearts, literally, because this stuff is heavy. The service is typically fantastic, and the staff is incredibly helpful with wine options, food recommendations, and general pleasantries.
Restaurant concepts often feel manufactured, especially one as overdone as “French Bistro.” It’s easy to try too hard and tip the scales too far in one direction. But Mon Ami Gabi doesn’t have servers in stripe shirts and berets. And they aren’t strutting by in Coco Chanel stills with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. Instead, Mon Ami Gabi gives you the French vibes while maintaining a feeling of authenticity.
Vous botter les fesses, Mon Ami Gabi.
Every table gets bread, and it’s a standard loaf of French bread. Why make a note about the bread? They bring it to you in a paper bag, which means you can tear off a piece without getting all handsy on the bread itself. It’s the simple things we appreciate.
A great starter with bacon and a soft poached egg. Pro tip: let the waiter know you’re splitting this with your date. They’ll portion it out and give you each your own egg.
Baked with a hearty layer of gruyere cheese. It’s wonderful. If we could, we’d order this every day of Chicago winter, all 265 days of it.
Small scallops on a plate of homemade spaetzle (compact, lumpy little noodles) with an earthy mushroom cream. The spaetzle has a gnocchi like consistency, and the sauce is rich. It’s hard to polish off an entire plate on your own, but it’s great to split.
We like to go classique, meaning ample amounts of butter and juices with a side of fries, but you’re welcome to step it up a notch with various sauce options and cut upgrades. The steak is delicious, although the fries are simply ok.
A large portion of thick, tender short rib with hearty root vegetables. This is a Monday night special that you should snag before it sells out.
You’re so full, but thank God you saved room in your other stomach. Your dessert stomach. This lemon brulee isn’t overly sweet, and like everything else, the portion is big.
Profiteroles never hurt anyone either.