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Le Refuge, French Country Bistro in Old Town


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Is anyone familiar with La Refuge, in Old Town? My wife is taken with a yarn store down the street, and I may truly need a refuge while she sits and knits on Saturday afternoons. The menu looks good, but is this a place where a guy can go with a good book to sit for a couple of hours with a bottle of wine and some good bread to while away the time?

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If longevity is any indicator of food quality, Le Refuge has some of the best in Old Town. But Jake is right, it is not a place where you can go sit, sip some wine, catch a few rays, etc. It is a French bistro and while I don't know what their hours are, they probably open up at dinner time. There is no bar that I am aware of (trust me, if there was a bar, I would be aware of it).

The ideal place for you would be the bar at Eve but they don't open on Saturdays until dinner time. Majestic, when it opens next month might fill your bill.

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It's not a "cafe" in the sense your question is implying. There are precious few of those anywhere, especially in Old Town. Do you drink beer? Because Murphy's is a more than adequate pub, and it's very close to Eamonn's for sustenance :blink: .

Murphy's and I are old pals from my younger, wilder days. What little I'm able to remember about that place is good. Good beer, good music, good food, good friends. And you're right, it's just around the corner from the yarn store.

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It is a French bistro and while I don't know what their hours are, they probably open up at dinner time. There is no bar that I am aware of (trust me, if there was a bar, I would be aware of it).
Le Refuge is open for lunch on Saturdays (11:30 - 2:30) and is a pleasant enough place for a meal. More info here, including their menu. I was in for lunch with a friend a few months back and it wasn't too crowded. I'm sure you'd be comfortable spending an hour or two there with a glass of wine and something to eat. And no there isn't a bar, so maybe Murphy's or O'Connell's is the better spot for your needs.

I've also been for dinner a few times. As stated above it's not haute cuisine, but the dining room is a cozy (intimate is the word used on their website) spot, with a decent cassoulet during the winter. I don't go there regularly, but it is a nice choice to have within walking distance. It's probably my favorite of the French bistro/cafe places in Old Town (Le Gaulois and Bistro Lafayette being the others that come to mind).

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We're headed to Le Refuge for the first time on Friday for my husband's birthday. He's noticed that they've had soft shells on the menu recently as we've walked past on our nightly strolls. He loves them sauted rather than breaded and fried. He hates cream sauces, however. Are we headed for disappointment?

Any recommendations for a first timer? I think the rack of lamb (or leg of lamb) looks interesting. Perhaps one of the filets. Obviously, I am the meat eater in the family. Thanks!

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I'll take the atmosphere of Le Refuge over the vast majority of restaurants. Right off one of the busiest intersections in Old Town, it's a relaxed French country bistro where people don't merely eat; they dine.

Pâté de Campagne Maison ($6.95) seemed a bit refined for a homemade version, but our charming server Anne-Claire, whose family owns the restaurant, assured me it is made in-house. I wish they had better bread in the basket, but the pâté itself was fine, served with a few cornichons and a tiny, well-dressed salad.

And speaking of well-dressed salads, entrees here come with the diner's choice of house salad or Caesar salad, and I recommend the Caesar. Much more than an afterthought, it's served as a separate course, with fresh romaine, good homemade croutons, and a light application of dressing, perfectly nuanced with the flavor of anchovies in the background.

I'm a sucker for old-school French cooking, and the Saumon en Croûte ($16.95) looks exactly like what you see here. Yes, the fish is overcooked, but the vegetables inside are beautifully julienned, and the Champagne cream sauce is just perfect with the terrific flaky croûte. This charming presentation is what you'd expect to see (and pay for) at L'Auberge Chez François.

While I'd happily return for the salmon, I can't recommend today's Gigot d'Agneau a l'Ail et au Thym ($14.95), mainly because the leg of lamb was overcooked - we asked for it medium-rare, but I'm pretty sure it's done in a roulade so there isn't much play in the meat. The menu said it's served in a "light garlic sauce," and I'm glad it wasn't a full reduction - it was more of a broth. Like the salmon, it came with very well-executed vegetables - a little piping of squash pureé, and a spoonful of pommes de terre gratin.

The wines here are a touch pricey by the bottle, but thoughtful and well-chosen, with lots of humble Vins de Pays thrown into the mix. A 2005 Chateau Les Amoureuses Côtes du Rhone (imported by Laurent Givry at Elite Wines) is available for $38.95 a bottle, but also offered by the glass - it paired well with everything on the table, including the salmon.

I know that Le Refuge isn't very trendy, but it's relaxing and civilized, and everyone I saw today was enjoying their lunch. There's a very good reason this restaurant has been here for twenty-four years and is still thriving today.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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My wife and I went to this place over the summer on Julia Child's 100th birthday. It was a toss up between this place and Bastille but we picked it becuase we had been their before a loooong time ago and wanted to re-check it out.

When we sat down, the waitress* asked if we've been here before and said yes, but it's been about 18 years. Her reply was and abrupt, "well, nothing's changed". The rest of the service was along the same lines. We sort of felt like we were imposing on her day off by simplying ordering some dinner. And we ordered 2 apps, 2 entrees and 3 or 4 glasses of wine so it wasn't a light bill. When asked, what do you recommend/what are your favorites?, her answer was, "it's all good". Thanks! That's so helpful!! Every interaction we had with her seemed like she was just one notch below open hostillity. And we didn't do anything weird like ask to be moved to a different table or have any subsititutions on dishes or anything. We just sat down and ordered off the menu.

Anyhow, the meal was just ok. My wife liked her dish much more than I liked mine. I don't remember what she got, but I got the frogs legs and they weren't great. I only ate about half the order which I never do. I usually eat my entire dish and part of my wife's!

I don't remember much specifically about the meal other than thinking I could wait another 18 years before I tried it again.

* Our waitress was blonde and not the person (daughter) pictured on the website. I wish would have had someone in the family serve us.

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My wife and I went to this place over the summer on Julia Child's 100th birthday. It was a toss up between this place and Bastille but we picked it becuase we had been their before a loooong time ago and wanted to re-check it out.

When we sat down, the waitress* asked if we've been here before and said yes, but it's been about 18 years. Her reply was and abrupt, "well, nothing's changed". The rest of the service was along the same lines. We sort of felt like we were imposing on her day off by simplying ordering some dinner. And we ordered 2 apps, 2 entrees and 3 or 4 glasses of wine so it wasn't a light bill. When asked, what do you recommend/what are your favorites?, her answer was, "it's all good". Thanks! That's so helpful!! Every interaction we had with her seemed like she was just one notch below open hostillity. And we didn't do anything weird like ask to be moved to a different table or have any subsititutions on dishes or anything. We just sat down and ordered off the menu.

Anyhow, the meal was just ok. My wife liked her dish much more than I liked mine. I don't remember what she got, but I got the frogs legs and they weren't great. I only ate about half the order which I never do. I usually eat my entire dish and part of my wife's!

I don't remember much specifically about the meal other than thinking I could wait another 18 years before I tried it again.

* Our waitress was blonde and not the person (daughter) pictured on the website. I wish would have had someone in the family serve us.

I believe your story, and absent a response explaining what happened, shame on her. Everyone can have a bad day, and everyone is entitled to be crabby, but when asked about it, it's nice to get an answer. People are more forgiving than they're given credit for. "I'm sorry, I wasn't feeling well" goes a long way, it truly does.

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