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Omaha Magazine

A Taste of France: A “Billet-Doux” for the Old Market

Feb 24, 2023 10:05AM ● By Sophia Ridge

Mixed Meat and Cheese Plate.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

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You’ve likely seen the Instagram-worthy patrons of Omaha—effortlessly cool, charmingly cosmopolitan—post about La Buvette. The scene features clinking glasses over the warm but dimly lit patio; wine-blushed cheeks framed by shelves of European vintage. 

My intrigue for La Buvette, translated into English “The Refreshment Room,” was initially sparked by the praise of its artsy, fervent cult following—the authentic, intimate eatery and wine shop seemingly inseparable from the lexicon of Old Market Bohemians. However, when peeking into the windows, you’ll notice families sharing memories, couples indulging in the romantic atmosphere, and friends of all backgrounds catching up over a glass (or three) of wine.  

Speaking of which, I ordered a glass of the Chateau La Grange Clinet Red Bordeaux—and could not recommend it enough. I typically don’t go for reds, as they pack a bit too much of a dry punch for my taste, but this glass was velvety smooth with hints of ripe berry sweetness. One of my dining guests enjoyed an ambrosial red of their own—filled with full-bodied notes of blackberries—when they ordered a glass of the Arnoux & Fils Cotes du Rhone Vieux Clocher. Our waiter was quick on their feet and had an eagle’s eye for a dry wine glass, and we were never left longing for another generous pour.  

Brie and Paris Ham Gallette.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Not only did I see many guests eating and drinking at La Buvette, but a good many visited to pick up their favorite bottle of vino and head for the comforts of home, as the restaurant doubles as something of a specialty grocery store. On the other hand, my dinner guests and I decided to give ourselves completely to the Hallmark-Christmas-movie-ambiance, so we dined in with appetizers, drinks, and entrées. For the appetizer, we devoured the Feta Plate, complete with sheep’s milk feta, olive oil, miniature pickles, tomatoes, onions, and pitted black olives, served with their unlimited house-baked bread. Portions of the bread had olives baked into the loaf as well, which was a pleasant surprise. It didn’t take long for the fluffy and herbal mounds of feta, coupled with the yeasty, delicate bread, to disappear.  

For my entrée, I ordered from their handwritten Saturday specials menu and went with the Blanquette de Veau; a veal stew considered a staple in France. The veal was melt-in-your-mouth tender while the stew recalled a rich and briny gravy, yet managed to maintain a silky quality free of imperfect clumps. The dish is typically served as an all-white statement piece, devoid of contrasting colors—an inclination for many classically trained chefs. 

Hazelnut and Chocolate Tort.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

However, the recipe at La Buvette called for carrots in the Blanquette de Veau, which is considered a bold move in the culinary world. I personally would have enjoyed the dish much more without the carrots, as they were cut into hefty chunks and still quite tough and firm. Yet, as the carrots rested in the stew, they began to soften and transform into morsels of juicy crunches that contrasted delightfully with the texture of the veal. Overall, it was a pleasant meal and worth the experience, though not terribly filling.  

As for my guests’ choices, the Carrot and Turnip Soup satisfied their vegan appetite, and the dish was described as very seasonal with an atypical yet enjoyable flavor. The Roast Chicken had another one of my guests scraping the plate for every last bite of the succulent chicken, replete with crispy skin and a compliment of creamy mashed potatoes—the most sizable portion of all the orders. Lastly, my dinner partner, who like me, wanted to immerse themself in the l’humeur of La Buvette, ordered a decidedly French dish of juicy sausage, sauerkraut, and savory rice with tangy Dijon mustard: the Choucroute and Boudin Blanc. Though my guest was not dazzled by the Choucroute, as they stated the flavor was lacking, they still enjoyed the texture of the dish.

Keep in mind, even with a tenacious wait staff, you’ll likely have to sit tight for a table, as a seat at La Buvette is highly sought after. The restaurant makes the most of their compact space, but the venue can only seat so many people at a time, and a line meandering outside the door is a common sight. My advice is to make the most of your time and google the pronunciation of the dishes on the menu while you wait. Also, when waiting for a table, try not to judge those who are taking their sweet time laughing heartily with their loved ones while slowly sipping their wine. With patience, this portrait of Parisian leisure will be yours, too—an Omaha dining experience well worth the wait of commission. 

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This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To subscribe, click here. 
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