Although trying to pronounce the name of this restaurant takes me back to my horrid experience with French in college, a recent trip to Ghyslain has made me yearn for more. Located at 721 East Market Street, the former home of a funeral parlor, Ghyslain is part patisserie, part chocolate shop, part French cafe.
Presented in true Parisian style with soft blues, deep browns, and faux-marble, the ambiance, especially the al fresco seating, transported be instantly to France. Even my 3 and 6 year-olds became a little more sophisticated once seated. Plenty of umbrellas helped to keep the patio cool and relaxed, tucked away from the bustling downtown street.
My family ordered from the lunch menu: a traditional French dip with au jus and a side of leek scalloped potatoes ($11), the Parisian Baguette with ham, brie and spinach with a side of beet salad ($12), and the kids split a Croque-Monsieur ($10) with a side of fruit. By far, the Croque-Monsieur blew us away with the lovely combination of gruyere, ham, and béchamel sauce. Even my reluctant son said, "This is the best sandwich I've ever had," then inhaled it in four bites (so much for the sophistication, so un-French). The Parisian's bread was perfect, crisp on the outside, and the brie and ham combo was quite tasty. It paled in comparison, however, to the beet salad. Perfectly balanced oil and vinegar with beautiful purple beets--I didn't even want to share and will go back just for this side in the future. The French Dip was a little disappointing: the meat salty and overcooked. But overall, the menu was impressive and intriguing.
Next time, I will try the French onion soup, a glass of wine, and I had serious food-envy at a nearby table when I caught a glimpse of the Mediterranean Platter-- stacked with fresh mozzarella, tomato, avocado, hummus, ratatouille, tatziki sauce, and pita bread. It was a work of art. Breakfast including fresh baked croissants and pastries, eggs and cheeses, and fruit and granola is also available each morning.
As far as service, the counter service works well for take-out, but full-service would have been helpful for dine-in. The staff did not seem overly friendly or happy to be there, maybe the opportunity to earn gratuity would help that. Many tables outside remained dirty while we dined outside with no clear system as to who's job it was to clear them. I saw a people turn away for lack of clean tables.
This is the restaurant's third location, the other two are in Indiana. There is definitely a need for fresh, casual French bistro fare in the city. Although a few kinks need ironing, Ghyslain is a delicious addition to the breakfast, lunch, or casual dinner options in our town. Bon appetit.
Photo courtesy Ghyslain