Best Bistro (2007)

Mama Lila's Bistro

In France, a bistro is a homey (and often family-run) everyday eating/drinking place, serving down-to-earth fare at prices that match. Unfortunately le bistrot has lost a lot more in translation than the final "t." Today's American bistros can be almost anything, including pretentious and pricey. At the three Valderrama sisters' friendly neighborhood place, however, the "bistro" part of the name is as genuine as Mama Lila (their Peruvian grandmother, and inspiration). In the kitchen, head chef Elisa and sous chef Lili turn out honest, eclectic fare that's basically contemporary American, with influences from the Mediterranean, Asia, and Mama L. Standout dishes include jalapeño, chicken, and cheddar soup ($3.95/5.95); and Lila's chicken salad, a succulent, nut-crusted chicken breast sliced on a mix of greens, grapes, and muenster cheese, with a tangy-sweet onion dressing ($9.95). In all dishes, everything is house-made, from the imaginative salad dressings to the luscious mayo on the sandwiches. And you get a lot of food for little money. Out front, sister Rosa's welcome makes everyone feel like regulars, and something from the small but thoughtfully selected and well-priced wine list induces a similar warm glow. French it's not, but a real bistro it is.