Marking Time

Figaro Cafe keeps us waiting...and waiting

Figaro Café was Le Paris Bistrot for several years. It tanked. Owner Jean Michel Sakouhi blames it on the freedom fries syndrome: the point in time after the start of the Iraq war when the French were getting drunk on anti-American condescension and Americans were pouring Bordeaux down the bidet. "Food is food. I'm not selling politics," Sakouhi frets. So he turned the restaurant into Savory 12, a mere blip on its evolutionary timeline on account of the "cease and desist" letter Sakouhi got from the owners of Savory on Abrams Road. We missed these seminal moments. We also missed the point when this "charming" and bright dining room became Figaro Café, a couple of rungs down on the status stepstool from Le Paris Bistrot to the place where burgers and pizza toil. Determined not to miss another point of significance along this progression, we organized the details of our visit on our own timeline, neatly written on several cocktail napkins.


Saturday, 7:50 p.m. We arrive at Figaro Café as walk-ins, assured by the gentleman on the other end of the Figaro phone that reservations are not necessary, unless you are a group of four or more. We are a safe group of three. We scan the dining room, a cool place (temperature-wise) with bright red and deep yellow walls. One of the golden walls contains a large, empty picture frame, squaring off a section of the textured drywall. These folks must be very proud of their wall paint, though not proud enough to put a price tag in the lower right corner of the frame, which the photos of Paris scenes have. There's not much going on inside. Only a handful of tables are taken. In fact, the staff seems to outnumber the guests. Because of diligent campaigning by one in our group, we move to the patio. Just two tables are taken: one with a couple wearing flip-flops, the other with four middle-aged men in brown loafers. We take the table next to the loafers. The men talk of Vipers and Jaguars (the cars, not the critters). One of them announces that he forgot his reading glasses, so the man sitting across the table from him holds his menu up and moves it back and forth. The man who forgot his glasses squints. They think this is very funny and laugh heartily. I need a drink. The host tells us that he will be with us shortly to take our drink orders. He deposits the menus on the table.

8:05 p.m. Still no sign of a server. No, that's not true. There's a couple of them scurrying over on the other side of the patio, dropping off drinks, picking up dishes. But none wander off to our lonely wing. This is distressing because those men are starting to talk about golf. I really need a drink. I re-enter the restaurant and ask how long it will be before someone drops by to take our order. "Immediately," I'm assured.

Figaro Café's rotisserie chicken is worth the wait. Not much else is.
Tom Jenkins
Figaro Café's rotisserie chicken is worth the wait. Not much else is.

Details

French onion soup $4.95
Tomato mozzarella salad $8.95
Pâté plate $7.95
Rotisserie chicken $12.95
Steak frites $18.95
Escargot $7.50
Shrimp pizza $9.95
Figaro burger $7.95
Closed Location

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8:10 p.m. A busboy arrives and serves us ice water, which does nothing to relieve the stresses of golf conversation. We decide to pass the time by observing the kinds of cars the valet across the street at the Hard Rock Café has to park.

8:13 p.m. The host/manager finally shows up to take our drink order. Convinced he will be sucked down an air shaft just after he drops off our order at the bar, we load him up with appetizer and entrée orders to boot. We're horrified to realize we neglected to order dessert as he leaves us with our ice water. I note the fourth Mustang pulling into the Hard Rock valet.

8:20 p.m. Drinks arrive at the same time a Ferrari 360 Spider rolls down Routh Street. The men stop talking about golf, so I suppress the urge to chug.

8:30 p.m. One of my dining companions wonders when her soup will arrive. French onion soup. This is an odd thing to have on a patio when the temperature is 87 degrees. The question is not when, but why. I also notice all of the convertibles that pass by--be they Porsches, Beemers or Mustangs--have their tops up. Is it hotter than 87 degrees?

8:35 p.m. The men start talking about stiff joints (not the kind you light). We need drink refills fast. No one is in sight. I wander off again to track down a server, sensing the conversation may veer into prostate health. I find a busboy. He nods and mumbles. I pray my gesturing doesn't confuse him into bringing more ice water.

8:40 p.m. Our appetizers arrive, including the French onion soup. It is a fine soup, delivered in a shallow white bowl floating slices of toast tarped with gooey sheets of cheese stained amber from the broth. The broth is sweet, just slightly so, with a distinct layer of pepper. It's clean. Also in this delivery is a mozzarella salad with slices of juicy tomato shingled with stark white mozzarella drooled with pesto. The salad is fine, though the mozzarella is a little dull, most certainly not buffalo.

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