WILKES-BARRE — Le Manhattan Bistro offers seating in a dining room off the bar every Monday where customers can eat a three-course meal during a French film with English subtitles. The bistro’s $20.15 Monday movie night special is also available in the restaurant’s main room to patrons who prefer their food without a side of cinema. This level of cultural immersion and accessibility are reflective of Le Manhattan’s goal.
“Here we have the possibility to share with people — show them a different quality of food and different way of seeing things from time to time,” said Le Manhattan co-owner Jean Baptiste Moreau. “We know we do something different and propose something different with our knowledge, from Paris to New York.”
Moreau and Chef Gwen Le Pape met while working at a restaurant in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood and opened Wilkes-Barre’s Le Manhattan Bistro in November 2014. According to Le Pape, Le Manhattan’s goal is to offer authentic French cuisine with an inviting atmosphere. That’s what prompted him and Moreau to run weekly specials like “Two for Tuesday” and their Thursday wine and cheese nights. Their Monday dinner and a movie special was inspired by Le Pape’s experiences as a child.
“That’s something that I got inspired for from when I used to be a kid in the town I used to live in,” Le Pape said. “Movies were always half off on Monday and my parents used to take me and my sister on Monday because it was half off. We would never go to the movies on Friday or Saturday, even though we didn’t have school on the next day.”
Along with cinema and cuisine, Baptiste is also passionate about becoming a part of his surrounding community.
“We decided to stay because we love the people here,” he said. “We love the fact that you can give service and when people leave, they leave with a smile. We don’t want to come and go; we want to stay for 20 years. South Main Street is in the process of being renovated. I see the push to make something different and new for the city and we want to participate in that.”
Le Manhattan’s menu and aesthetics are extensions of its owners’ desire to be accessible while offering an authentic French experience. The restaurant serves traditional French dishes like escargot alongside burgers and salads in a casual bistro atmosphere with servers in jeans, chalkboards on walls and mismatched bistro napkins at each table.
The owners shy away from tablecloths at their establishment, opting instead for the natural look provided by the bistro’s wooden furniture. They’re hoping their decisions provide a welcoming environment for Wilkes-Barre residents to try something new and, according to Le Pape, it’s working — the decline of their former best-selling Caesar Salad has been met with a rise in sales of traditional French dishes.
To track Le Manhattan’s Monday movie schedule, Two for Tuesday options and Thursday night wine and cheese selection, like the “Le Manhattan bistro” page on Facebook or call the restaurant at 570-706-9588.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121