Chez Napoléon | New York Magazine | The Thousand Best

Enter octogenarian chef Grand-mère Marguerite Bruno’s maison, Chez Napoléon, et voilà: 1960s France. It was opened in the summer of 1960, and nearly every inch of the bistro’s aged mustard-yellow walls are covered with vintage Gallic kitsch bric-a-brac and Bruno family memorabilia. Édith Piaf croons in the background. Two modest dining areas are adjoined by a petite one-stool bar tucked in the back and manned by bartender-grandson Guillaume. Fellow diners may include pretheatergoers and English- or French-speaking neighborhood revelers, all of whom can be heard making guttural oohs and aahs over their meals. No wonder: grandma cooks to please. The menu is classic Provençal food presented in a properly no-fuss, rustic fashion. It’s chockablock with faithfully prepared standards; the Frenchiest-sounding ones — sweetbreads, half-duck confit with crisp skin — usually pay off the most. Escargot de Bourgogne — six sizable, chewy yet tender snails drenched in rich garlic butter are served piping hot in ceramic faux snail shells. But French comfort food at its finest comes in the form of cassoulet, a spicy tomato-based stew combining creamy white beans with hearty morsels of tender duck, lamb, pork cuts, and garlic sausage. The poufy Grand Marnier soufflé is big enough for two and makes for a seductive finale. But order it when you sit down — it takes up to an hour to prepare.