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June 21, 2024

Bistrot La Minette owner says he's closing the Queen Village restaurant because he 'needs a break'

Peter Woolsey says he looking to do 'something a bit different' after running the French dining establishment since 2008.

Food & Drink Restaurants
Bistrot La Minette closing Provided Image/Bistrot La Minette

Chef Peter Woolsey opened Bistrot La Minette in 2008. After 16 years, the French restaurant is closing on July 31. Woolsey says he needs a break from the restaurant industry.

After 16 years in business, Bistrot La Minette in Queen Village will close on July 31. 

Owner Peter Woolsey said is choosing to shut down the French restaurant on Sixth Street because he needs a break from the restaurant industry. He said he had made the decision some time ago, but only announced it earlier this week.  

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"You can imagine if you have a very close family relative who's terminally ill and it's taking a very long time, you do your mourning partially through it," Woolsey said Thursday. "When you get to the end, it's not the same, but you mourned the whole time. That's the only way I can describe it."

Woolsey opened Bistrot in 2008 when he was 30 and went on to open two more restaurants in Philadelphia – La Peg and Gabi, which both closed in 2022. Closing Bistrot is a sad but necessary end of an era, he said, and Woolsey plans to take some time off before coming back to work. He said whatever he does next, it will involve cooking. 

"I'm tired. I've been at this a third of my life, and I need a break and I'm looking to do something a bit different," Woolsey said. 

Before opening Bistrot, Woolsey trained as a chef in France and married his wife, Peggy, a French woman. Woolsey said he wanted to serve food that couldn't be found elsewhere in the city. But as someone who grew up in Philly, he said he also knew the food needed to be palatable to people in the area, noting some French foods would not find much favor with local diners. 

The restaurant underwent plenty of changes over the years, including an eight-year span when Woolsey was no longer serving as the restaurant's chef but remained its owner. Bistrot was mostly closed during the pandemic, though he and Peggy opened it every few weeks to offer a singular menu. He did all of the cooking while she handled service. 

"There are lot of people who have had very direct relationships with the restaurant, people have been married here and engaged here, we've hosted birthdays and memorials," Woolsey said. "It's a swath of life. You see things coming and going."

Over the next six weeks, Bistrot's full menu will be available, and Woolsey expects the restaurant to be busy until its closing date. Bistrot also will host dinner events aimed at clearing out the restaurant's wine inventory and selling some of the decor. 

Woolsey said he's not sure if there's anything that will take the place of Bistrot for French food lovers in Philly. The restaurant serves traditional French bistro dishes like escargot and foie gras along with braised rabbit and duck. But, for better or worse, it's a scene that's constantly on the move and evolving, Woolsey said. 

"For the type of food I was doing, I don't think there's someone in Philadelphia really quite doing that right now," Woolsey said. "Hopefully someone else will take up the mantle and go at it."