If Fabien Chaigneau looks familiar to you, it’s not just because he has one of those faces.
The owner of Sips Bistro & Bar, the upscale French restaurant that opened Friday on Bridge Street, comes to the borough from posh Jersey resort the Bungalow Hotel; which he managed when it was featured on the late Bravo series 9 by Design.
But now back in the borough, and off the small screen, the Frenchman is focused on bringing a similar upscale dining experience to his adopted hometown—at a price that isn’t prohibitive.
“I’m going to be a real traditional French restaurant. Like where I grew up. A place you can come with a date, with a friend to have a good time, but is cheaper than [restaurants of similar quality],” Chaigneau, 32, said days before the opening of his first restaurant.
Sips’ entrees—which are prepared by former Great American Pub chef Jerry Petrus and include, to name a few, duck confit, bouillabaisse, and banzino—run between $17 and $24. The objective, Chaigneau says, is to be less expensive than the nice places and nicer than the less expensive ones. In other words, bourgeois quality at proletariat prices.
Chaigneau added that Sips will have a kids menu and, for particular eaters, he emphasized he carries vegetarian options and is able to alter dishes to accommodate most food allergies.
“American diners will look at a menu and try to make their own dish,” he joked, “but I’m trying to make people experience something new.”
The venue itself is of a piece with that goal. The 118-year-old building seats about 100; including a brick courtyard in the rear that holds 40 and a 15-seat original bar at the front of the house. Sips also has a 25-spot parking lot.
When Chaigneau is able to begin serving alcohol—he is still waiting on a liquor license from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, but is allowing customers to bring their own bottles in the interim—he will carry an all French wine list, a unique docket of cocktail offerings, and a few choice craft beers.
The owner promises specials seven days a week and a daily happy hour, but emphasized that Sips, name notwithstanding, is a restaurant first and foremost.
“I’m not a beer and a shot place. I’m not carrying Coors Light. I’m not carrying Miller Lite. There are places here where you can get Guinness. Where you can get a Miller Lite and sit outside," he said.
"I’m trying to catch somebody else here."
A guess: he’ll catch plenty.