I’m just going to get to the point today. I love La Buvette in the Old Market, and you should, too. It’s a gem. You can choose your own adventure there, whether seated inside amongst the wine and groceries or outside on the patio under greenery that provides a bit of shaded exclusivity in the summer.

The Old Market is the neighborhood that almost wasn’t. If it weren’t for the foresight of the Mercer family, everything from the river to the cop shop would look like a combination of the ConAgra campus and the Mid-America Center. Sure, the brick streets can get a bit askew in some areas of the Old Market, and parking can be a challenge. Having walked these streets off and on for a couple of decades now, I’ve broadly seen the changes.

It’s probably difficult for some to believe, but there was a time when the Old Market had an air of danger to it. Not everyone had a shopping agenda, there were squatters in abandoned warehouses and skittish parents wouldn’t want their younguns walking around its once dimly lit streets. Maybe that was just me and mine, though. Rubes, you know? It didn’t have the palpable feeling of imminent victimization you get in New Orleans, of course. It’s difficult to quantify scientifically, but dial the Big Easy paranoia down about 90% to 95%, and that was the Old Market feel in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

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Today, the Old Market is the closest thing a local can get to the Old World feel that some larger, older cities thrive on, and La Buvette is the closest thing one is going to find to a taste of Europe inside a 50-mile radius. If you’ve never had a chance to get a little piece of France on the continent, then go to La Buvette.

La Buvette is easily one of my favorite places for a first date. It does half the work. It’s casually impressive, and all diners can really have their own positive experiences. It’s chill, it’s sophisticated, it’s authentic, a good sort of provincial and often quite busy. All the things you want a date to think you are. It’s also a test. If your date doesn’t appreciate La Buvette, then it’s a foregone conclusion that a relationship is unlikely to ensue.

I was doing double duty reviewing and dating — pretty successfully I might add. (Thanks, La Buvette!) Not an inexpensive one, mind you, but that had more to do with my consumption from the bar’s great list of wines. There are 29 wines on tap, at current count, ranging from $4.25 per glass of Frontera chardonnay from Chile up to $15.95 for a glass of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut champagne.

The handwritten menu reads like a novella. In addition to wine, there are daily kitchen specials like braised rabbit, taramasalata and chicken liver mousse. Regular offerings include gravlax, bresaola and assorted charcuterie. Check the website and the chalkboard out front for updates.

I hope to see you there.

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