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U.S. Restaurants Say ‘Vive la Révolution!’

Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

It could be connected to the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, or the surprise success of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Or maybe it’s just that the French keep insisting their food and wine choices keep them skinny. The reasons why are vague, but U.S. restaurants are convinced diners are hot for everything France, and to prove it they’re celebrating Bastille Day — today — with a flurry of promotions.

“It is kind of funny that we didn’t do a promotion for July 4, but here we are doing it for Bastille Day,” said Brandi Babb, VP for training and franchise relations at pizza chain Zpizza, in Nation’s Restaurant News.

Zpizza wasn’t the only restaurant to pass on Independence Day, as many eateries consider it a backyard-BBQ holiday. But from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, NRN contends, these days, “nothing stirs the cash register for American restaurants” like La Fête Nationale.

For its part, Zpizza’s choice of Bastille Day was based mostly on practical reasons: because it “falls on kind of a quiet week,” Babb said. “There’s nothing really going on, except the women’s World Cup soccer.”

Some may argue with her “quiet week” assessment — among other things, there’s the Tour de France, which a French cyclist was leading as of this morning. That aside, the chain, which has no clear connection to France but does use the word “revolution” in its tagline, saw Bastille Day as “an opportunity to reach out to guests” with free samples of its “Provençal pizza.”

In Seattle, a city never far from its next change-spurring protest, dining establishments are offering deals on plates loaded with oysters, French cheeses, baguettes, and roasted meats of all kinds. To promote its “awesome” July 14 party, Michael Mina’s downtown hot spot RN74 turned to Twitter; Francophiles who tweeted hashtagged info about the event were entered to win a free wine dinner.

Other restaurants are featuring French-themed specials, prix-fixe dinners, and “traditional Bastille Day activities,” from petanque (French bocce ball) tournaments and waiters’ racers to Revolution-era costume contests.

In New York, Artisanal plans to comp outstanding Marie Antoinette impersonators with bottles of Veuve Cliquot champagne. In Santa Monica, La Cachette will host direct-from-Brittany guest chef Pierre-Loic Denichou for an evening of made-to-order crepes.

And then there’s Mimi’s Cafe, the quick-casual restaurant chain owned by Bob Evans Farms, which is counting on Bastille Day to remind patrons of its “gallic roots” with the launch of its series of French regional menu supplements, beginning with the “Tour de Provence,” which includes Old World classics such as cinnamon brioche French toast, Le Grand Bleu burger, and chicken Provence. The chain is also running a “win a trip to France” Facebook contest, and offering free Bastille Day chocolate mousse muffins.

What may be the greatest Bastille Day promotion of all isn’t tied to a specific restaurant, but it is food-related. This Saturday, July 16, French-ish revolutionaries plan to storm the main wall of Philadelphia’s “Bastille” (actually, the historic Eastern State Penitentiary) and drag Marie Antoinette to her fate at a real guillotine — ignoring her screams of “Let them eat Tastykakes!” while 2,000 assorted pâtisseries from Tastykake’s kitchens are flung from the prison’s towers.

But what of that handful of snack-seeking Americans not on the Bastille Day-dining bandwagon? There’s a little something for them, too, no excusez-mois necessary, thanks to Dunkin’ Donuts’ newly launched promotion for Captain America.

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