Cote Sud appears to have closed for good. Please see Ed Bedford's update of Monday, May 9.
For posterity's sake, here is the review:
"You sit next to Eva,” says Carla. “Then we won’t bump elbows.”
“No,” says Eva. “I’m left-handed. His elbow and mine will be colliding every mouthful.”
Wow. Nice to be wanted. Three of us are trying to settle in at this crowded Sunday lunch-brunch. We’re celebrating Eva’s visit (from, like, three blocks away, but since she got her hotshot high-tech job, it might as well be Mars). Old buddy of Carla’s.
Eva sighs. “Okay, I’ll sit next to him, but I have to be on his left.”
“See that, Bedford?” says Carla. “Some of us are problem-solvers. Others are problems, waiting to be resolved.”
“I ain’t waiting to be resolved,” I say. “I’m waiting to be fed.”
We’re at this new-to-us French bistro (there used to be a different French bistro here, called St. Tropez, but this looks like a fresh take), and I’m thinking I should be able to handle things, dinero-wise, if we don’t go crazy. Reckoning 50 buckeroos, trusting the restaurant’s slogan of “great food at a fair price.”
We met up here in Hillcrest ten minutes ago, gathering outside a little maroon-canopied patio bathed in sun and crammed with people, all hanging out, drinking beers, coffees, mimosas, red wine. And eating, of course. Worried, though, to see china plates and real cutlery. “Fair” might mean “fairly expensive.”
Inside, it’s just as crowded — a big open space with curved wrought-iron railings that corral people into table-clumps of chomp and chat. Salmony tile floor, creamy walls. Three vaults in the ceiling are painted with clouds and birds and pine trees reaching for blue skies. Really cool.
Felicia, the waitress, finds us a table. Tells us the chef-owner comes from the Côte d’Azur, Provence, South of France. So this is southern French cooking, which usually means lots of tomato and rosemary and mess-ups like bouillabaisse (basically a big fish stew).
In the corral next to us, a group of students yaks away, drinking mimosas (a deal: endless on Sunday, for $6 plus entrée). A couple are writing essays, surrounded by laptops and books.
I check the menu. Glad we’re not here for dinner. Then it’s $13–$16 for a main. But on Sundays, you can have breakfast till 4:00 p.m., or brunch or lunch. Right off, I see that, mostly, this means ten bucks.
In the breakfast department, they have an Eggs California (poached eggs, tomatoes, avocado, hollandaise sauce) for $9.50. Omelets, such as the ratatouille (another southern French item, made with zucchini and eggplant) go for $8.95. But there are cheaper items. The breakfast egg (two eggs with sautéed potatoes, fruit, and baguette) is $6.50, and the breakfast sandwich (two scrambled eggs in a croissant with the same sides) is $7.50.
Coffee, for Carla and me, runs $2.50 each, with refills. But Eva’s looking at lunch, and she’s thinking wine. I go for that, too, just to keep her company. Elbow to elbow (heh), even though Carla mutters, “Coffee and wine? You’re weird.” I get a chard ($5), Eva takes a merlot ($6).
Carla knows what she wants: breakfast, Eggs Benedict ($9.50). I’m undecided. Lunch is soups, salads, and sandwiches. I could go straight to the Marseille, a grilled baguette with luscious ratatouille and melted Swiss ($8.25), or maybe I’ll get the chicken-curry croissant (also with Swiss, $8.75).
Eva takes a glug of her merlot. “Monsieur,” she says, kinda sexily.
“Oui?” I say.
“No,” she says. “That’s what I’m going to have. The Croque Monsieur. Not the Croque Madame.”
“You realize it’s just a ham-and-cheese sandwich,” I say. (It’s $8.25.) “At least the Croque Madame’s got fried egg on top.” (It costs 50 cents more.)
“Exactly,” she says.
Now I’m thinking I want a dish that’s sunny, like the day. I end up with the Salade Niçoise ($9.25). It’s big, with romaine, plenty of tuna, red onions, boiled potato chunks, boiled eggs, olives, red peppers, and other veggies in a “red-wine vinaigrette.” Only thing is, I’d like more of the vinaigrette. Oh, and maybe some mayo and anchovies to kick it up.
When I mention this, Eva says, “You’re the only person in California who likes anchovies. They’d be out of business if they tried that here.”
I take a taste of her Croque Monsieur. It’s good, but for me, a ham-and-cheese sandwich by whatever name is just that. It does come with large slices of pineapple and melon and lots of salty sautéed potatoes.
The bill comes to $49.48, with tax. How’s that for coming in under the wire? ’Course, gotta tip — say, $7.50. I ask Felicia for a box for what’s left of my Niçoise.
“You wouldn’t do that where I’m from,” says Szilard, a student who’s with the mimosa group. He’s Hungarian but was born in Slovakia. “There, they have a hole in the middle of the restaurant floor. You scrape your plate into it. There are pigs in a pen below, and they become the bacon. It’s the ultimate recycling.”
Wow. Is he joshing me? Hope not. Because that’s too cool. Talk about sustainable.
“Bumping elbows could be dangerous there,” Eva says.
Carla says, “’Specially if you’re a man sitting between two women…oops.” ■
The Place: Côté Sud Bistro, 3805 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest, 619-497-0297
Type of Food: French/American
Prices: breakfast egg (two eggs, sautéed potatoes, fruit, baguette), $6.50; eggs California (poached eggs, tomatoes, avocado, hollandaise sauce), $9.50; Marseille (grilled sandwich with ratatouille, melted Swiss), $8.25; chicken-curry croissant, $8.75; Croque Monsieur (toasted ham, cheese sandwich), $8.25; Salade Niçoise (with tuna), $9.25; dinner items more expensive
Hours: 9:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m., daily (closed Mondays)
Buses: 1, 3, 10, 11, 120
Nearest Bus Stops: University and 5th