La Côte d'Or Café - Classic French | Washington DC

France is as close as Arlington

Paris style pops up in bistros all across town.

But for cassoulet and French countryside, travel along the Orange Line to the enduringly charming La Côte d'Or Café on the border of Falls Church and Arlington.

Restaurateurs Raymond and Lynne Campet opened their rustic retreat in fall of 1992, and have been tirelessly improving things ever since.

The main dining room remains a favorite of dapper retirees, and starry-eyed couples canoodle in the lustier glass-enclosed sunroom.

Doting waiters preface every course with an earnest "bon appétit," be it over saucy garlic-punctured escargot ($9) or Dover sole ($27.50), an elegant lemon-wisped special that appears on Mondays.

Merguez with frites ($21) is rustic meat and potatoes, marrying crisp fries with the zesty bravado of grilled sausages in tomato sauce. Seafood crêpes ($17) summon a tender sea party of shrimp, mussels and scallops into a light pancake with butter, cream and cheese. The sausages and duck of Cassoulet Toulousain ($25) are a tribute to Southern France.

Finish with the caramelized apples of a classic tarte Tatin ($9). It takes 15 minutes or more to prepare, but guests who have dined here for 20 years know it's worth the wait.

La Côte d'Or Café, 6876 Lee Highway, Arlington; 703-538-3033 or