To many Americans, a French restaurant is, ipso facto, a pretentious restaurant. Spend a few days in Paris, though, and you will discover a wealth of unpretentious, even humble, cafés, bistros and brasseries. These tend to serve the French dishes true gastronomes fall in love with: cassoulet, duck confit, steak frites. And the pâtés — oh, the pâtés. Now to the mood Gerard Craft captures at Brasserie by Niche. This is no hushed inner sanctum of haute cuisine. It lacks the contemporary cool of Niche, Craft's flagship restaurant in Benton Park. Brasserie is a busy, boisterous place, as likely to attract the rumpled after-work crowd as the business-suited and the trendsetting. The food isn't meant to wow you on first sight — there is nothing artful about a hunk of steak and a handful of frites on a plate — but to satisfy your belly. Indeed, Brasserie by Niche is the exact opposite of snooty, a place where those whose cherish fine Bordeaux, those who just want a bowl of onion soup and those whose idea of Heaven is a peasant dish of unmentionable pig parts can eat and drink together in a spirit of fraternité.
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