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Le menu pour les locals

Shauna Farnell
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EDWARDS -A stroll through Paris will quickly reveal how not every customer at the corner bistro is sitting down to a five-course dinner.The sight of people eating salads, small steaks and even fare with Italian flare like paninis and pizza inspired Frites restaurant owner Jon Walsh to add another component to his menu.”This was the missing piece of the puzzle,” Walsh said if Frites’ new Lite Fare menu, on which the restaurant offers 17 light meals for under $13.

“I don’t want to be just an upscale restaurant,” said Walsh, who opened Frites in Edwards’ Riverwalk Center in November 2004. The restaurant offers several French-style seafood and steak dishes and appetizers, exotic martinis and a large dessert selection, including ports, alcoholic coffees, crème brulee and profiteroles. The entrees range in price from $17 to $25.The restaurant has taken off, especially among downvalley residents, Walsh said. And its to this demographic that Walsh and Frites’ head chef, Roland Coulombe, catered their new menu.”The menu was designed with the local in mind,” Walsh said. “We want locals to dine here all the time, not just during specials. We don’t want to be a second home-owners’ restaurant.”Coincidentally, Frites is currently running its regular off-season special, wherein hungry patrons can choose almost any entrée accompanied with a first and third course for $21.95. To Walsh, both this temporary special as well as the ongoing Lite Fare menu are ways to allow locals to sample a portion of Frites’ offerings, and hopefully encourage them to come back for more.

“We want to give a discount to people so they can experience our restaurant,” he said. “And it’s not like a tapas menu. It’s not bar food. All the items are made in the same way as any of our other entrees, and you still walk away full.”The Lite Fare menu includes a smaller portion of Frites’ prime sirloin steak, served with a choice of butter, Roquefort cheese or Bordelaise sauce and the restaurant’s famous frites (strips of potato), all for $9.95. There are three different sandwiches on the menu, a burger with Gruyere or Roquefort cheese, a pan-seared tuna burger with wasabi mayonaisse and a shrimp PO’ Boy, all for less than $11. The menu offers dinner salads – chicken and portabella mushroom, calamari or grilled salmon and goat cheese – and five different paninis, including chef Coulombe’s favorite, the steak and frites, which mixes the restaurant’s prime sirloin steak with provolone cheese, caramelized onions and peppers.”It’s our French version of a cheese steak,” said Coulombe, who worked for many years at a French bistro in Manhattan, which offered a similar menu of lighter meal items as the one Frites is introducing.



“We really thought the Edwards-Vail area needed a casual French bistro,” Coulombe said. “We want everyone in the valley to know that Frites is a comfortable place where they don’t have to break the bank. And our food is easily compatible with other fine-dining places in the valley.”Knowing that Frites, in its young life, was already meeting the same repute as other fine-dining establishments in Vail and Beaver Creek, Walsh and Coulombe took a trip to Paris a few weeks ago in hopes of gathering a piece of distinction.”A typical bistro in Paris is a one-stop shop,” Walsh said. “We’re walking around Paris, and people are sitting in bistros everywhere eating paninis and baguettes. We were thinking these were things to put on a lower-price menu.”Walsh and Coulombe agreed that people often draw certain associations to the word “bistro,” automatically categorizing it as a stuffy, expensive restaurant which requires deep pockets.

Frites is trying to alter that myth.”People would say, ‘I love the food here, but sometimes I just want to get a sandwich.’ We asked our staff, and they said their friends come here sometimes for appetizers and a drink, so it would be nice to offer a lighter menu,” Coulombe said. “It’s important to us to cater to the locals.”



Shauna Farnell can be reached at [ mailto:sfarnell@vaildaily.com sfarnell@vaildaily.com, or at 949-0555, ext. 14632.Vail, Colorado


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