For some people, dining at a French restaurant might seem as comfortable as a trip to the dentist.
But one downtown business owner is trying to change the perception of French dining by utilizing a combination of Parisian style and Southern charm.
Parts of Paris, a chic eatery rich in Old Florida grace and dripping with European flair, is the creation of longtime restaurateur Chris Orrung, who says he had no reservations about building such a bistro in town.
“It was a lifelong dream to open my own place," the Stockholm native related. "I always loved this area, so when I saw this beautiful little house was available, my business partner and I bought it right away."
“We completely gutted the place and restored it to the original grandeur of the house," he added. "It’s a Parisian restaurant meets Old Florida charm.”
Orrung, who was born in Sweden but spent many years living in New York, has been in the business since 1986.
After working in establishments in Miami, the Bahamas as well as New York and France, he knows what makes a restaurant successful.
He’s also savvy enough to realize that a formal five-star French restaurant probably wasn’t going to fly in the Harbor. So he took the best parts of all the places he’s seen and combined them into one cool and comfortable spot.
“My wife did the interior decorating, inspired by many of the French restaurants we have visited in New York and Paris,” he explained. “The bar is a very typical French bar, with the dark wood, the wine bucket and glasses out and the cappuccino machine in back.”
“But just because we have tablecloths doesn’t mean you have to dress up. I mean look at me, I’m wearing shorts and sandals!”
Of course there’s more to a great restaurant than atmosphere.
According to Orrung, the food at Parts of Paris meets the high standards of French fare, with a menu of freshly prepared items including staples like fois gras, bouillabaisse, escargot and steak tartare.
But for those who might be fearful of frog legs, they also offer filet mignon, New York strip and beef stew, along with a nice selection of craft beers and a wide variety of wines by the glass.
The entire package works to create an elegant yet inviting dining experience, a place where you can celebrate a special occasion with a partner or grab a drink with friends after work.
“We are very open to people coming in to check us out for an espresso, a dessert or a beer, sit on the patio and read the paper with a cappuccino,” Orrung said.
“We want people to relax and enjoy themselves while dining in a little bit of style. There’s no reason to be intimidated by a tablecloth.”
Address: 146 4th Ave N.
Hours: Mon - Thu, 5pm - 10pm; Fri, Sat, 5pm - 11pm; Sun, noon - 8pm