This establishment's old, battered, peeling café sign is the first hint that Rive Gauche is ignoring every known food, décor and bar fad, to offer European-steeped, traditional meals and a Sunday champagne brunch — plus one of the warmest, friendliest neighborhood bars in Southern California. Sometimes it's just you and the bartender — and a bar-food plate of apple chunks, grapes, Brie, Roquefort and fresh, sliced baguette. The bar has comfy sofas and a romantic little fireplace but also enough room to hold a last-minute Friday-night bash with 10 or so friends. Ironwork tables are arranged outside for warm-weather dining in a sweet little vine-covered passageway, from which you cannot see or even imagine nearby Ventura Boulevard. Just across from this leafy passage is the European-style café that the owners are often pressured to “update” — we urge them not to — and which is described by one patron as “elegant farmhouse style.” The café, said by some to serve the best French onion soup in town, is beloved for its coquille jacques, smoked-salmon benedict and even sweetbreads. Service is French, meaning slow and unapologetic. Prices are perhaps 20 percent below typical French fare on the Westside. Have brunch, then zip over to Bloomies just two minutes away. 14106 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 990-3573 or (818) 990-7331.
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