(Lynn, Bruno, and Jeff at Chez Bruno in Dijon.) 

By Jeff Maisey

In last month’s issue of Veer, I wrote solely about one of my favorite dining experiences in Paris, the majestically unique, warmly welcoming Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole. 

I was heartened by the response from readers, several of whom called and emailed telling me they were traveling to the City of Light this spring and made reservations at the restaurant after enjoying the article. 

By coincidence, I was actually back in France for a winter break with Lynn when I received the correspondence from readers. In fact, one reader texted me just as we were ordering dessert at Au Vieux.  

Since the pandemic travel restrictions eased, Europe, as you may have read in a wide assortment of news coverage, is experiencing over-tourism. 

When I discussed the topic with travel guru Rick Steves, he agreed by saying he has witnessed this as well. Steves also advised if there is an attraction or favorite restaurant you wish to visit, reservations are essential. 

In late March, a month I’ve never had trouble with in the past in terms of getting a seat inside a restaurant, we found some of our go-to spots had no tables available. I share this for those planning to visit later this year, especially during the Paris Olympic Games in late July and August. Everyone it seems has the travel bug — including hordes of Chinese tourists, something mentioned by taxi drivers and cafe waiters when conversing on the topic of post-pandemic visitors. 

As a side trip in March, Lynn and I headed straight to Dijon, a 90-minute train ride from Paris’ Gare de Lyon. The Burgundy region had been high on our to-visit list as the epicenter of elegant pinot noirs and gastronomy. Our two-day stay in Dijon and extension to Beaune did not disappoint.

In Dijon, we selected Grand Hotel La Cloche Dijon as our accommodation for its convenient location — two blocks from the train station and at the entry point to the delightfully walkable Old Town.

In short, picturesque Dijon is an ideal short stay with historic buildings, narrow Medieval streets, mustard and wine shops, museums, ancient churches, and cafes to explore on foot. During the afternoon, enjoy a glass of wine at Place de la Liberation while gazing across the squirting water fountain at the Palace of The Dukes of Bourgogne, and have a regional beer as you embrace the sun beaming on the outside cafe chairs of Au Moulin a Vent with the Carrousel de Dijon Bareuzai circling and serenading in a most relaxed setting. 

The highlight of our brief time in Dijon was the dining experiences. 

After our Day One trans-Atlantic flight, connecting high-speed train ride, and meandering walk through the city, Lynn and I opted for our hotel restaurant, the highly reputable Les Jardins de la Cloche. As it turned out, the artfully designed restaurant featured many the culinary musts of Burgundy cuisine with a wine list to match. Pinot noirs and Chardonnays by the bottle ranged in price from $50 USD to several thousand.  I selected a reasonable ($87) 2021 bottle of Joseph Drouhin Chorel-Les-Beaune that was delightful. 

For main courses (Les Plats in French), we were impressed with the Filet de canette rôti (roasted duck, 39 eros) and Filet de bar à la plancha (grilled sea bass, 39 euros). Cheese (fromage) in France is often considered a dessert choice and simply put our variety of five was most savory.  

The next evening — note the French generally eat dinner between 8 PM and 10 PM — we had reservations for La Maison des Cariatides, a highly rated restaurant housed on the first floor of one of Dijon’s most cherished buildings featuring a Renaissance-like facade with stone soldiers and caryatids ornately positioned between exterior windows. 

With 45 minutes to burn, we spied a snug wine bar across the street and what a find it was — Chez Bruno.  

Seated at the curved bar with a friend was Bruno himself.  They were indulging and discussing a bottle of pinot noir.  

When I looked to the chalkboard of wines to order a glass of Burgundy rouge, the bartender politely said the handwritten wine options were out of stock and pointed towards Bruno. 

Sensing French was not our first language, Bruno warmly welcomed us to his bar. He inquired about our tastes in wine and expectations before instructing his bartender what to pour.  

The bar is tight on seating in part because there are so many cases and individual bottles scattered everywhere. It is a wine lover’s dream come true. 

Bruno said many of the winemakers from the region come in for a drink and conversation in the early evenings. His establishment is also notable for its selection of regional cheeses and thinly shaved charcuterie. 

Bruno poured us several glasses from different bottles including a 2018 Pernard-Vergeless Les Belles Filles. He charged us for one glass. Talk about a generous spirit. 

By the time we needed to walk across the street to dinner, Lynn and I were hardly hungry. Still, we managed and I must say the dining experience at the modern, chic La Maison des Cariatides was culinary artistry.  

Each course at the Michelin-starred restaurant was a work of art. At the rear of the dining room the chef and cooks gathered around the working table as they prepared each dish. There’s no barrier, a fully transparent view of how the food is prepared. 

Lynn and I both ordered a poached cod plate — out of this world delicious. Impressive wine selection — no surprise. 

From Dijon, we spent a wonderful day in the wine capital of Burgundy — Beaune, an extraordinary experience I’ll share another time.  

Since most of you reading this column will be spending time in Paris, I thought I’d share a few tried and true dining choices. 

French President Emmanuel Macron is said to favor La Rotonde, a plush, red velvet decor built in the late 1800s serving traditional menu items served by waiters clad in suit and tie. The lunch crowd is mostly business types from the Montparnasse neighborhood and smartly dressed locals. Give French your best try here because English is somewhat regarded as an adversary tongue. Still, it’s very French and enjoyable people watching. 

The poached Haddock I ordered was served in a lemony, light sauce worth a second taste when next I’m in Paris. 

Less traditional in design, Les Editeurs has become a repeated lunch and dinner choice for me. The contemporary vibe is warmed by red leather, padded seats and black bookshelves. Given the name of the restaurant it is little surprise it draws a local literary clientele; the upstairs dining area is often closed due to book publisher gatherings and meetings. You won’t find many tourists here, and that’s a big plus along with the dependable quality of food, wine and service. 

I’ll leave you this month with a place Lynn and I begin each visit to Paris — dinner for two at La Rotisserie d’Argent, on the Left Bank looking across the Seine at the residential buildings on the Ile Saint-Louis. 

The flavors and flavor of the French countryside take center stage with red/white checkered table cloths, grilled duck, chicken, beef, lamb, and fish.  I order their sommelier selected house pinot noirs under the Tour d’Argent label, served as a “pot” glass bottle that nicely amounts to three glasses of wine.   

The service has always been friendly, informative, and yet not stuffy. 

Bon voyage!