The pandemic brought the Calmels family together and allowed them to move on.
Pierre and Charlotte Calmels are selling the South Philadelphia space that housed Bibou, their cozy French restaurant that spent more than a decade atop critics’ best-of lists.
The couple shut down the dining room in April 2020 at the outset of the pandemic, and later offered charcuterie in a market setting.
Bibou, which opened in 2009, could be counted as a casualty of COVID-19, but the upheaval “brought us together in a way that would not have happened otherwise,” Charlotte Calmels said.
“We didn’t have to go to bed at 2 a.m. every day,” she said. “We spent more time with our children [now 17, 15, and 10]. We could do things a different way. I think it pushed us in a good way.”
“I’m not getting any younger,” Pierre Calmels, 51, the chef, said. “I couldn’t see myself doing this for another 10 years.”
The buyer will not get “Bibou,” certainement. The restaurant itself, at 1009 S. Eighth St., lives on only in hearts and minds. The listing from Sari Pollock at Keller Williams offers the condo space for $399,000. Also for sale, at $245,000, is a separate residential condo behind the restaurant that the Calmelses used for storage and office space.
“We’re not selling the name and we’re not selling our customer list,” Charlotte Calmels said. “Whoever is going in is going to have to recreate its own identity and its own style.”
She said she and her husband did not want to maintain the space and lease it to another operator. “We’re happy to move on to something else. I mean, you have to be young to run restaurants. I’m excited with the change. The family life is so much better. We actually have days off, believe it or not, and we do have days off together.”
Pierre Calmels is now executive chef for the private Philadelphia Club in Center City. Charlotte Calmels consults, does social media for a wine company, and handles the club’s private events.
Before opening Bibou, Pierre Calmels had spent eight years cooking for Georges Perrier at Le Bec-Fin, the last five as the executive chef. Charlotte was a front-of-the-house alum of Brasserie Perrier and Bistro St. Tropez.
Bibou replaced Pif, also a BYOB serving similarly rustic French cuisine, that chef David Ansill operated from 2001 to 2007 with his wife, Catherine Gilbert-Ansill.
From 2013 to 2018, the Calmelses also operated Le Cherí, a larger bistro with a liquor license, inside the Philadelphia Art Alliance off of Rittenhouse Square.
“We had famous people, we had weddings, we had so many engagements,” Charlotte Calmels said of Bibou. “We had people going out for the first time with their newborn, bringing the baby there so I could take care of the baby while they ate. You know, Eloise was kind of born there [in 2012]. Three days later, I was back in there with her.”
For his first review, Inquirer critic Craig LaBan awarded three bells to Bibou, calling it “a genuine throwback … to the long tradition of mom-and-pop bistros of France.”
“There’s a reason wine-lovers enjoy Calmels’ food,” he wrote. “It isn’t fussy or overcomplicated. But compared with the numerous wannabe French bistros that have recently cropped up, the flavors here are in pitch-perfect register, with such polished confidence in the execution, ingredient pairings, and sauces that at times it seems effortlessly good.”
» READ MORE: Craig LaBan announces the end of his bell ratings
Three years later, LaBan elevated Bibou to the rarefied four bells, the tops on his then-rating system. “Calmels is the rare chef with the polish and feeling to make the oldies seem fresh and new,” he wrote.
“That could mean transforming a peasant staple — pig ears — into ethereal translucent noodles tucked inside a flaky phyllo rectangle. Or channeling Escoffier elegance with black bass rolled around tarragon fish mousse over a retro sauce Joinville blushing with lobster butter and black truffles.”
LaBan suggested then that the recipe for a great Philadelphia BYOB was “one hardworking chef in the kitchen, one charming wife running the 30-seat dining room, and legions of devoted regulars who toast their favorite gem with glasses of their own grand cru wine. We’ve seen this ingredient list before. But rarely has it achieved the magical, marrow-shined luster that is Bibou.”
Was Bibou.

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