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Philadelphia Phriday – Parc Brasserie, A Bit of Paris on Rittenhouse Square

by Suzanne Fluhr on April 19, 2013 · 48 comments

Ferrari outside Parc Restaurant, Philadelphia, Rittenhouse Square

We have a First World problem at our apartment. Our refrigerator is broken. The repair guy came out, ordered a part and declared it fixed — except it wasn’t. He came back today and is ordering another part. I figure if he just keeps replacing parts, eventually, we’ll essentially have a new refrigerator; and hopefully, it will it work. In the meantime, we’ve been eating out more often than usual although I confess that when you live on or near Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, there’s always a temptation to eat out.

outside seating at Parc Restaurant, Philadelphia, Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia

You can bring your canine friend to the outside seating at Parc

By early evening last Sunday, Mr. Dr. Excitement and I were starving (also in the First World sense of the term.) Dr. Excitement  had a better excuse than I did. He had actually been taking care of sick people all day and had not stopped for lunch. He had a craving for mussels. I, personally, have never had a craving for mussels which I blame on my mother’s admonition (at the mere mention that one was even thinking of consuming shellfish) that one might as well play Russian Roulette.

View from our inside table at the Parc Brasserie, Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia

View from our inside table at the Parc Brasserie, Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia

It was a beautiful early spring day. The trees were finally flowering on Rittenhouse Square and it seemed that everyone and his/her dog were out reveling in the chance to be outside without outerwear. The dogs seemed especially happy not to be made to wear ridiculous (but admittedly cute) dog coats.

Steve's moules-frites

Steve’s moules-frites

If he can’t be in Brussels (i.e. the vast majority of the time), Steve’s favorite place for mussels is Parc Brasserie, a French bistro on Rittenhouse Square. Parc is one of three restaurants on the east side of the Square with outside seating. We were hoping to score an outside table facing Rittenhouse Square. Not happening. Too many people (with their dogs) had the same idea before we did.

Bar at Parc Brasserie, Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia

The Bar at Parc

No worries. You can eat mussels inside too. Parc is a fairly large restaurant with a pressed tin ceiling and old tile floors. When it’s full (which is quite often), the decibel level can be unpleasant. (OMG, I have become my parents!) But, at 5:30 on Sunday evening, we could converse, even with a table next to the bar. If we couldn’t sit outside, at least we had a view through the front windows across to the flowering Square.

Parc Brasserie is one of the “stars” in Stephen Starr’s restaurant empire which consists of 22 themed restaurants in Philadelphia, four in New York City, three in New Jersey, two in Florida and one in Washington, D.C. However, if you didn’t know there was a single mastermind behind all these restaurants, you would never realize you were dining in part of a constellation. The Stephen Starr restaurants don’t look like each other and the cuisine in each is distinct. More importantly, in Philly, they each have a good to excellent reputation. I would classify Parc as moderate to moderately expensive. Currently, the most expensive dinner entre is a New York strip steak served with garlic spinach for $33. Steve’s moules frites (mussels in a white wine, shallot and garlic broth with a small pail of French fries) rang in at $17.50. (They don’t call them “French” fries in France. There they are just frites.)

Beet salad at Parc Brasserie, Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia

The Parc beet salad is an interesting mix of arugula, beets, grapefruit and ricotta

Since I had not earned a hunger as ferocious as Steve’s, I ordered a beet salad which consisted of beets (duh), grapefruit, arugula and “house made” ricotta. At $13.00, the greens were chilled and fresh, the flavors interesting and it was robust enough for the two of us to share, especially because every table is also provided with a truly excellent bread basket with three types of bread, including baguettes baked on the premises, and a ramekin of enticing butter. While Steve happily dove into his moules, I had onion soup for my main course for $11.50. It was served in a crock and I wanted to love it. I was eating French onion soup in a French bistro for goodness sake, but I found the broth not to be sufficiently full bodied. I prefer the onion soup I make at home—and I have never come close to declaring myself anything other than adequate in the kitchen. The cheese was appropriately gooey, but even with Steve’s help, I didn’t finish the crock.

Onion soup at Parc Brasserie, Rittenhouse square, Philadelphia

My onion soup at Parc Brasserie

Our server was professional, pleasant and knowledgeable. When the wheat beer we wanted was not available, she recommended a substitute that we liked better than what we originally ordered. The Belgian beer, Duchess de Bourgogne, looked like Guinness in color, but tasted like a smooth hard cider. At Parc, you can be serious about drinking beer, the numerous beers on offer having their own menu. If you are intending to drink wine, the least expensive bottles on the extensive wine list were priced in the $30’s or you could really impress your date and go for the $600 bottle of 1999 Pessac-Leognan ‘Premier Grand Cru”. Then, there’s always the house chardonnay or merlot for $16.00 for a 12 ounce half carafe. Bingo.

Beer at Parc Brasserie, Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia

Duchess de Bourgogne Beer at Parc

Even Steve wasn’t craving a French dessert by the end of our meal ($9.00 price average). We bid Parc adieu and headed over to the other side of Rittenhouse Square to our favorite low fat Italian yogurt place, Yogorino. We strolled back to the the Square, finished our yogurt on a park bench and then, feeling full in a multi-national sort of way, Mr. Dr. and Mrs. Excitement called it a night and headed home.

(P.S.: If this post has made you hungry for more blog posts about memorable food  (pun soooo intended), head on over to the blog round up on the subject on Traveling with MJ.)

Have you ever eaten at Parc Brasserie? If so, what was your opinion? If not, would you consider trying a French bistro in Philadelphia?

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Lorraine Marie Reguly April 19, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Here’s to BHBs! I like the humor used in your writing, and hope you get your fridge fixed soon! I hate mussels, but love French onion soup (which looked good). too bad it wasn’t up to par. Beet salad? Never had it. Sounds okay, thought. Beet soup (borscht) is good. Ever try it?

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 19, 2013 at 9:58 pm

Whenever I am confronted by shellfish, in addition to my mother’s warning that floats into my head, I also think about the comment of one my husband’s colleagues when offered some mussels, “I don’t eat viscera.” Beet salad? If you like beet soup, give beet salad a try.

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avatar Debra Yearwood April 19, 2013 at 11:03 pm

I laughed and salivated in equal measure through this post. Good fun and good food. I now have to add this to my, “When next in Philadelphia” file. Thanks. (BHB)

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 19, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Seriously, you need to come. Who woulda thunk — a Paris bistro in Philadelphia.

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avatar Beth April 20, 2013 at 6:50 am

We also like Parc but mostly for the ambiance. (Peter likes to sit outside and pretend he’s in Paris.) We feel the food is good but not exceptional. Our favorite French Bistro in Philadelphia is Bistrot La Minette. While Parc has a stronger Parisienne atmosphere, La Minette’s food is far superior.

As always, Suzanne, I enjoyed your post!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 20, 2013 at 11:12 am

Thanks for the tip on a different French restaurant to try in Center City. I read the Yelp reviews–mostly positive.

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avatar Roz Warren April 20, 2013 at 7:50 am

I’ve never had a craving for mussels either but this looks like a great place to take Tom and Amy and their dog Jack the next time they’re in town. I gather that it’s okay to dine with your dog if you can score an outdoor seat?

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 20, 2013 at 10:57 am

There always seem to be plenty of dogs dining outside. I think they take reservations, but I’m not sure that includes the outside seating.

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avatar Lucretia Coleman April 20, 2013 at 10:08 am

I’ve never eaten at the Parc but I’d definitely consider dining there. By the way, mussels is one of my favorite meals and I, too, LOVE eating at sidewalk cafes.

Nice review, Suzanne!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 20, 2013 at 10:58 am

Let us know when you want to go and I’ll watch you and Steve play Russian Roulette 😉

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avatar Delaney April 20, 2013 at 11:08 am

You score a TEN, Suzanne — on your lively storytelling and on your descriptions of edibles. And on your accompanying photos. I am planning to go to Paris in May 2014; maybe I’ll scratch that and go to Parc instead. Bon appetit! D.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Uh, Delaney, don’t skip Paris! A Paris bistro outside of Paris is just a bistro trying to be a Paris bistro. 😉 PS: I know you are only kidding.

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avatar Sandra April 20, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I adore mussels and your photos really caught the feeling of almost being in Paris. Have you been to the new Barnes Museum? What do you think about them moving it? Does it have the same flavor.Coming to you from BHB!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 20, 2013 at 4:59 pm

I’ve been to the old Barnes Museum, but haven’t yet made it to the new one—even though it’s walking distance from our apartment. You know how sometimes one tends to neglect the good stuff closest to home. (I wonder how many Philadelphians have never been to the Liberty Bell). It also requires timed tickets which makes it harder to say, “Let’s go see the Barnes Museum”, on the spur of the moment. From what I hear, they’ve done a great job with it, including trying to keep Barnes’ idiosyncratic groupings of the paintings.

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avatar Cathy Severson April 20, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I’ve only been to Philadelphia once and didn’t get a cheese steak sandwich, so clearly, that’s top priority. You make is sound so fun. Isn’t it nice when something like a bum refrigerator FORCES us to go out and enjoy the neighborhood?

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avatar Just One Boomer (Suzanne) April 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm

There’s another Starr restaurant, Barclay Prime, half block away from Parc. There you can get a cheese steak sandwich for — wait for it—-$100. I don’t think that’s the kind you have in mind. After reading the Barclay Prime menu and prices, I might have to reassess my take on Parc’s prices and call them “moderate” instead of “moderately expensive”. Either that, or we need a new category for Barclay Prime’s prices—“outrageously expensive”.

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avatar Madaline Fluhr April 21, 2013 at 2:05 am

Steve (Dr. Excitement) should check out when Sabrina’s (restaurant around the corner from Mom’s) is serving mussels. Last time Eddie and I were in town we ordered up mussels at Sabrina’s one evening and they were truly delicious. They were served in a delicious garlicy broth and, as you can tell, were memorable – and, if I recall correctly, plentiful. I will check if that is a regular or specialty item on their menu when I’m in town and will report to El Doctor.

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avatar Leora April 21, 2013 at 8:55 am

Sounds like you had a nice outing. I liked your comment on BHB about ripping yourself from the Boston news; I was also more than a bit distracted last week.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 21, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Thanks, Leora. Somehow when people are killed and injured in a terrorist bombing, restaurant reviews seem kind of frivolous. But, for those of us who are blessed to have life go on—–I guess we have to eat.

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avatar Gino April 22, 2013 at 9:14 am

What a hilarious and brilliantly written post. I came across the blog from a linkedin thread. Brilliant, definitely going in my reader for future posts! 🙂

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Gino, you are most kind.

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avatar Mary Slagel April 26, 2013 at 2:13 pm

The description sounds delightful. I found you on LinkedIn so unfortunately I don’t live in Philadelphia and won’t have a chance to try them, but perhaps if I ever make it up that way I will have to check out the square.

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avatar Leigh April 27, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I’ve never been a fan of mussels either but a big yes to beet salads. I understand that one of the Canadian travel media conventions will be in Philadelphia next year and if I go I’ll have to pick your brain for more great dining suggestions.

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avatar Just One Boomer (Suzanne) April 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm

A Canadian travel media convention — in Philadelphia? If you decide to attend, please do get in touch

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avatar Susan Cooper April 29, 2013 at 7:42 pm

What a great place to visit. I will be coming this area sometime this summer. I am putting this on my list of places to visit with my French friends. Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

PS: I will be using your info to help guide me around Philly. Yea!!!

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avatar Just One Boomer (Suzanne) April 30, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Susan, please feel free to contact me before you arrive with your French friends. I’d be happy to come up with some suggestions based on their (and your) specific interests.

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avatar Franca May 1, 2013 at 2:54 am

The beet salad sounds delicious to me, I love everything that was in it from the arugula, the beets, grapefruit and ricotta. Yummy! The onion soup might be another dish I’d order too. Good choices! 🙂 Now I’m craving for some fresh ricotta 🙁

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 2, 2013 at 2:50 am

Thanks for your comment, Franca. I also tend to free associate about food. 😉

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avatar Randy (Mr. TWS) May 2, 2013 at 5:37 pm

It looks like it was a beautiful spring day in Philadelphia; sorry you didn’t get to sit outside. Thanks for sharing about Parc. I had just finished lunch when I read this but I still got a craving for mussels; onion soup and beer too. But the one that I find myself craving frequently is beets (only the last few years, not sure what caused it) and I almost never pass on a beet salad if one is on the menu. I liked the pics.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 2, 2013 at 5:58 pm

I hope you and Mrs. TWS 😉 come visit Philly some day. We will find you lots of beets!!

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avatar noel July 10, 2013 at 2:25 am

I love French food and brasseries, looks like you guys had some of the delicious favorites there…boy I’m famished!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr July 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Noel, you wouldn’t find any of the Parc delicacies at a Hawaiian luau. Everything there is about as far from poi as you can get 😉

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avatar Irene S. Levine July 10, 2013 at 8:32 am

So nice when you find a place you love so close to home!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr July 10, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Irene, one of the benefits of living on Rittenhouse Square is that there is no dearth of dining out options. Our current favorite is actually a hole in the wall, basement, Afghani restaurant.

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avatar Jackie Smith July 10, 2013 at 11:29 am

Oh, that Onion Soup makes my mouth-water! What a great place this appears to be!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr July 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Jackie, I’m afraid the onion soup looked better than it tasted—to me, anyway. But, the beet salad and the bread made up for it!

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avatar Marcia July 10, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Smiling as I read this, Suzanne. Will have to check out Starr’s restaurants in NY – until I make it to Philly. I love mussels but I’d probably try the beet salad, especially today as it’s HOT!!!

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) July 13, 2013 at 1:04 am

Some people treat Phillyv as a bedroom community for NY. There’s good train and bus service between them, do come on down!

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avatar Irene S. Levine August 9, 2015 at 11:00 pm

So nice when a restaurant is reminiscent of one in Europe. We had refrigerator problems last week. Very unpleasant even if it’s a first-world problem!

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avatar Anita August 10, 2015 at 4:48 am

Mussels, my absolute shellfish. Now, here we are in a month without an “R”, and I get to enjoy them vicariously with your post. Thank you!

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avatar Donna Janke August 10, 2015 at 8:32 am

I get a craving for mussels from time to time and these look great. The beet salad also looks pretty good. I would certainly visit Parc brasserie if I were in Philadelphia.

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avatar Suzanne Stavert August 10, 2015 at 7:56 pm

I do not like mussels…however I love a French Bistro. Roast Chicken, Onion Soup, Salad and a lovely glass of wine. I think its fun that you can take your dog and sit outside too.

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avatar Carole Terwilliger Meyers August 10, 2015 at 8:12 pm

Oh my, your meal at Parc Brasserie looks delicious! I have an allergy to mussels, so no to that item, but I think I’ll have the beet salad and onion soup, please.

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avatar Mike January 24, 2016 at 10:23 pm

Delicious post, Suzanne! I enjoy eating outside if the setting is right overall. I’ve had mussels and enjoyed them. I already told you I would have would be trying the onion soup. You are absolutely right if they haven’t spent hours building a strong soup base and our trying to get away with the show of melted cheese. Shame on them. Maybe it’s better now 3 years later. And here I was soooo hoping for a photo of Dino eating out with Mom and Dad.

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