Le Poulet Rouge is a comfortable downtown hideaway tucked inside the historic Pioneer Building at Sixth and Main. Its exterior walls are made of hefty sandstone blocks that were quarried from nearby Table Rock a century ago. Notice them as you pass through a paved patio that is pleasantly shaded by the fern-like foliage of a tall pair of honey locust trees. Inside, the restaurant's ceilings are double height, the framed artwork is oversized and the open space is a warm palette of red and yellow.
When the restaurant first opened about a decade and a half ago, it served French bistro cuisine. But a series of ownership transfers, closures and re-openings have reshaped the menu into one that now offers hearty American breakfast and lunch fare. The chalkboard on the wall behind the deli counter says it all: Guest favorites include the corned beef hash for breakfast and the corned beef and pastrami sandwich for lunch. Is it a coincidence that corned beef is the main ingredient in two of the restaurant's most popular dishes? Not when you consider that owner Frank Plummer cooks the corned beef (as well as the turkey breast and chicken) in-house.
"People ask if they can buy it by the pound all the time," he says of his turkey and corned beef. Whenever meat is cooking in the oven, people follow the aroma to its source. Plummer, who took ownership of Le Poulet Rouge in October 2006, recently earned the 2008 award for "Best Omelets and Best Potatoes" from the Independent Restaurant Association.
In addition to five kinds of Reuben sandwiches, the lunch menu at Le Poulet Rouge features fare like salads ($5.90-$8.25) with homemade dressings, stuffed baked potatoes ($4.95-$5.95) and 37 different hot and cold deli style sandwiches ($4.90-$7.95), including three cheesesteak and five vegetarian varieties. I visited Le Poulet for both breakfast and lunch and was not disappointed.
"The corned beef hash is amazing," said waitress Maggie during our morning visit. That's pretty high praise for a humble breakfast dish that, in my mind, resembles a canned Fido-friendly meal. Curious, I went for it and was the victim of a paradigm shift. Today the mention of corned beef hash ($7.50) brings to mind Le Poulet Rouge's succulent slices of corned beef served alongside beautifully cooked fried potato slices—golden and crisp outside, tender and creamy inside—and two eggs cooked to your liking.
During our lunchtime visit, the Reuben sandwiches ($7.50) were recommended by waiter Trent, so I ordered two and shared half of each with my husband. We also ordered a bowl of homemade Boston clam chowder ($4.25), which is only available Fridays. The creamy, not-too-thick soup turned up diced potatoes, celery slices and a lot of tender clams in every spoonful. The sandwiches—No. 25 "The Traditional" and the No. 27 "Reuben"—arrived warm and lightly toasted. The good ol' No. 25 was stuffed with thinly sliced corned beef, Swiss cheese and tart sauerkraut on dark rye bread. The mild-flavored No. 27 was composed of corned beef and pastrami, Thousand Island dressing, and crunchy, slightly sweet coleslaw—also on rye. Side dish salads were included with our meals, so my husband opted for the chunky potato salad, while I chose the refreshing Greek salad of diced cucumbers, tomatoes and feta. If you're looking for breakfast or lunch at a downtown location that feels like it's off the beaten path, try Le Poulet Rouge for its comfortable setting, homemade American fare and shaded, hideaway patio.
—Jennifer Hernandez was grateful to acquire the last available ticket to Lyle Lovett.