A gentleman of my acquaintance and I agreed to go out to lunch. When he picked me up, he suggested we go to Etienne Brasserie, the new French restaurant on Broad at the corner of Jackson (311 Broad St.).
"Maybe it will be less expensive at lunch than dinner," he said.
"It sounds lovely," I said.
It was an unbearably hot day and we had to find a parking space and walk there in the middle of the day. I was glad to see that the restaurant was very busy, even though it only recently opened.
Everyone loves to scope out a new restaurant! We saw a judge and a lawyer, as well as many other people, seated at lots of small tables with sturdy utensils, plates and glassware. There is a line of two-person tables along one wall, crammed in, reminiscent of similar places in Paris.
The long bar looks very appealing, if you are looking for a place to hang out in the evening and have a drink, which may or may not turn into dinner. I saw a table of well-dressed middle-aged women, one with a foreign accent and allure, maybe even French!
Surprisingly, the menu had three different hamburgers, a not very French offering, although it may work for Athens. Otherwise, there were lots of interesting French-sounding things on the menu: salads and mussels and duck pate and onion soup. I was tempted by the mushroom burger, and my companion had a croque-monsieur (a fancy French grilled cheese and ham sandwich).
The service was quite slow, but that was probably due to the restaurant being so crowded. While we were waiting, we were happy to have a basket of French bread brought after 20 minutes or so. It was a little too chewy, but we appreciated it. It may have been reheated. (I'm sure it's hard to get perfect French bread in Athens, Georgia.) There was real butter on the table in little dishes, one of my favorite things to have with bread.
It might have been another 20 minutes before our food came. An excellent, juicy burger and real French fries. My friend liked his sandwich, too. (We did think it was a little unhealthy to have so much bread in one meal.)
For dessert, I had creme brulee, maybe the best I ever had in a long life of tasting creme brulee, and plenty of it. They told me the same chef makes the dessert for La Dolce Vita, the Italian restaurant upstairs. Etienne means Stephen in French. Stefano is part owner of both Etienne and La Dolce Vita. Coincidence? No!
Our table was up front in the window, which we thought would be fun for people-watching. That day it was way too hot. The waiter closed the shades, but we were still very uncomfortable and my friend had to move his chair away.
I was a little bothered by the casual waiters, in sneakers. They didn't seem to go with the elegant tablecloths, although I understand they are trying to have a relaxed atmosphere. We will have to go back in the evening, when it is cooler, and we can have some French wine--although it was less expensive to eat lunch there (about $30 for two).
Etienne Brasserie summary: Good atmosphere, good service, excellent food.
French food: hamburgers, steak, salads, appetizers. Bar, good for romance or other twosomes or groups of four to six.
Patty’s picks: hamburger aux champignons with French fries, creme brulee. (healthier options available)
The restaurant says that vegetables are locally grown.