Michel Baudouin

When you see French chef Michel Baudouin, ask him his nickname for Asheville. Neither the content of his answer nor its charmingly accented delivery disappoints. “I call it Funky Town because it’s got a lot of character,” Baudouin says. “The businesses are very, very diversified.”

Baudouin heads up a popular French establishment, known as Bouchon, in “Funky Town.” “We try to offer diners a quick trip to France,” he says. “When people go out, they want more than just food; they want an experience.”

At Bouchon, the experience revolves around comforting bistro fare — chicken cordon bleu, steak au poivre, beef bourguignon — and a wine list that is chic, French, and unpretentiously priced. The restaurant offers a local favorite: the all-you-can-eat mussel nights Monday through Wednesday. (The record is about 350 mussels and their accompanying herbed fries.)

Baudouin says his restaurants benefit from a combination of fun food (no nouveau cuisine here) and unusual architecture.“The layout we’re in — the old buildings, and hidden bricked walk-ways,” he says. “It reminds me of a little square in any French town.”

Baudouin attributes its quirky architecture to Asheville’s slow recovery from the Great Depression. The city spent decades (until 1976) repaying its debts, and downtown became a time capsule from the 1920s. “When there is no money to build, there is no money to demolish, and that’s why the town has kept a lot of its old charms,” Baudouin says. “That’s what makes it interesting.”

Michel Baudouin | Bouchon

Michel Baudouin | Bouchon