Amidst the hustle and bustle of Sixth Street, with its never-ending chain of bars, live music pounding from open windows, and bright neon signs, is a restaurant that is quiet, cozy and feels like home. Our home. For that’s exactly what Chez Nous, the name of this French bistro off Sixth Street, translates to: “our home”, or “our place.”
How can such a cozy family restaurant operate in the Dirty Sixth district? Let’s rewind back to the late 70’s when three friends, Sybil Reinhart-Regimbeau, Robert Paprota, and Pascal Regimbeau, arrived in the capital of Texas from Paris, with hopes of introducing unsuspecting Austinites to the cuisine of their homeland.
Introducing Austinites to Authentic French Cuisine
Back then, Austin–and Sixth Street in particular–were vastly different. “Thirty-five years ago it was a sleepy little town. No traffic. Very little going on at night, apart from Sixth Street. At that point, it was the only lively part of Austin,” shared Cameron Barber, Chez Nous’ manager.
Not only was Austin a sleepy little town, but its culinary scene wasn’t as developed as it is now. The gastronomic paradise we know today, with celebrity chefs and hundreds of dining options from around the world, wouldn’t arrive for a few more decades.
In 1961, Julia Child introduced American women to French dining in her timeless cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Although Americans were slowly becoming familiar with French food, the general perception was still stereotypical, and often included loads of cream and butter.
Most of the restaurants in Austin at the time served either BBQ or Tex-Mex. “As abstract as Texas might seem to a foreigner, French food was even more abstract to Texans. They had no idea what to expect,” said Barber.
“I feel that Chez Nous educated people about what French food was, especially in the first years. That it’s more about the quality, the care, and the approach than about any specific preconceived ideas or commitment to extravagancy that people associate with French cooking.”
-Cameron Barber, Chez Nous manager