French bistros and café au lait without the airfare

There’s something about winter nights in Portland, the rain drumming on awnings and splattering on black sidewalks, that conjures thoughts of Paris ― at least, the Paris of my imagination.

In this mood, shy of catching the next plane out, I find it helps to rent an old French movie or two ― say, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg or Ma Nuit Chez Maude ― after a bite at one of my favorite Parisian, that is, Portlandian, haunts.

At the edge of the Pearl District is Le Bouchon: comfortably crowded, warmly welcoming, and delicious, from the onion soup to the lamb shanks. But it doesn’t duplicate the look and feel of a Paris bistro like Carafe, which could have been lifted whole from a leafy Left Bank avenue, with its banquettes and zinc bartop, its croque monsieur and cassoulet. (Bring your own French accent.)

Then, in the morning, I may head down to St. Honoré for café au lait and a buttery, sweet pain au raisin from the brick oven. And maybe a loaf of walnut bread to go ― no telling how long the mood will linger. Carafe ($$; lunch Mon-Fri, dinner Mon-Sat; 200 S.W. Market St.; 503/248-0004); Le Bouchon ($$; lunch Tue-Fri, dinner Tue-Sat; 517 N.W. 14th Ave.; 503/248-2193); St. Honoré Boulangerie ($; breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily; 2335 N.W. Thurman St.; 503/445-4342)

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