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Cropichon et Bidibule
A Little Bit of France On Mass Ave

There is a little bit of France now on Mass Ave with the opening of Cropichon & Bidibule on the eastern end next to Mesh. It is a genuine, unapologetically French bistro and crêperie owned by a family of French musicians transplanted to Indianapolis. This is the real thing, and while we don't usually review a restaurant without having eaten dinner there, we think two excellent lunches and more food than we should have ever have eaten is enough for an endorsement. The restaurant is a bright and welcoming space, reminiscent of a Paris bistro. It has white tile floors, red banquettes and red cushioned cafe chairs along with whimsical wine-glass themed chandeliers and a grand piano featuring a model of the Eiffel Tower that complete the atmosphere.

On both visits, the enthusiastic and friendly staff, a little different than Paris, provided excellent service and enjoyable conversation. This is not fancy French dining...this is a bistro and crêperie at its most well-done fundamental. The lunch menu differs only slightly from the dinner menu, and features charcuterie and cheese plates, crepês, galettes, along with authentic French salads, onion soup, quiche and classic steak frites with plenty of aioli and Dijon sauce to go around. On our first visit we began with the very authentic French onion soup, topped with melted Gruyère over French bread croutons, which was certainly better than anything we have ever found in Indianapolis. And if you can judge a restaurant by its bread, the portions of warm, crunchy French baguette brought to the table with unsalted butter was easily as good as what we bake in Zionsville. We followed the soup with a classic croque madam for me, a wonderful pan fried sandwich of ham and Guyère topped with a fried egg on buttery brioche, with a hole cut out in the top slice to accommodate the yolk. It was served, of course, with frites and aioli...delicious. Linda opted for the combination plate that featured a half croque monsieur, a madam without the egg, and a slice of quiche Lorraine that was truly an authentic Alsatian tart. Again, delicious.

On both visits we enjoyed the Sables D'Azur, a delicious Provençal rose priced at $38 for a bottle. The wine list is very tight, mostly French and mostly fairly priced. Hopefully, over time, it will expand to include more selections. Maybe more Rhônes, since they pair so well with the food and there are currently so many excellent wines available at very reasonable prices. (Maybe they will call their RNDC rep and ask to taste the Eric Solomon imports.)

On our second visit we brought along our nephew, Zach, so we could further explore the menu. We began with a shared charcuterie plate, served on a 12-inch slate tile, that featured pork sausage, salami, cured beef, duck rillettes and jambon de parme Italian ham served with crostini, stone ground mustard, horseradish and a delicious tomato relish...a serious bargain at $12 and more than enough for three people. Actually, we think that a party of two could order the Charcuterie and Fromage (cheese) plates and call it a meal. Zach and I could not resist the steak frites that featured perfectly cooked medium-rare pieces of seared beef, plenty of frites and a Dijon mayo, we also asked for the garlic aioli, knowing how good it was from the previous visit. Linda opted for a galette roulé. Galettes are the savory buckwheat flour crêpes that originated in Brittany. Hers wrapped a combination of ham, guyere and a fried egg, also served with frites...she could have chosen greens, but this is a bistro and frites are good!

We finished by sharing two crêpes. Each presented with a pair of folded crêpes the first drizzled with lemon cream and raspberry coulis, and the second adorned with caramel sauce and diced hazelnuts. Neither were too sweet but perfectly satisfying and the jury was out on which was best. Did I mention we ate too much food?

At least the bill was easy to handle since the pricing is more than reasonable with crêes at $6, and nothing else on the menu over the steak frites at $15. At dinner they add four more entrees, including a fish, pork and duck entree, and the classic, beef Bourguignon.

This a new, bright spot in Indianapolis' culinary expansion, and the only authentic French bistro experience we've had south of Chicago. This is traditional casual French restaurant cooking, and a refreshing change from the "nose to tail," ultra-hip, current dining experiences. Sometimes, traditional is good.

And don't bother plugging Cropichon & Bidibule into your Google translator, the words are pet names the couple have for their two young children...

Cropichon et Bidibule

735 Massachussets Ave
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 737-2772