Once touted as the best food city in the world, Paris started getting a bad rap in the early 90s with accusations of being stuffy, outdated and expensive. At the same time, the rest of the culinary world was making innovative leaps and bounds, surpassing the city of lights with thoughtful, local, ingredient driven cuisine. Even the French began to turn on their beloved capital, favoring cities like Copenhagen, Barcelona, Tokyo, New York and even (the horror!) London as top dining destinations.
Parisian chefs were forced to re-evaluate what both they and their customers wanted. They began closing their Michelin-starred restaurants only to open smaller, casual, pared-back dining establishments. This trend was called bistronomie: a combination of the French words bistrot and gastronmie. Gone were the starched white linens and silver service staff, leather bound menus and exorbitant prices and little by little, these bistros with chalkboard menus and prix fixes, small, locally sourced menus, organic wines and casually dressed staff began to win over the hearts and stomachs of not only the French, but food lovers all over the world.
There are so many excellent, well-priced dining options in Paris these days, the dilemma is no longer where to go for a good meal, but rather which restaurant to choose. Here is a list of tried and true favorites:
Chef Gregory Marchand first got the nickname “Frenchie” from Jamie Oliver when he was head chef at Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant in London. The name stuck and when Marchand came back to France after a stint at The Gramercy Tavern in New York, he used it for his first restaurant. Although it may take weeks to get a reservation at Frenchie to sample Marchand’s beautiful, market fresh food, fear not, as Marchand has since opened two other restaurants, all on the same little street, Rue de Nil, in the 2nd Arrondissement. Frenchie Wine Bar opens nightly and is first come, first served, with pared-down plates to share and plenty of amazing wines. Or, for a small bite at breakfast or lunch, Frenchie To Go is Marchand’s take on a New York style deli with bagels and lox, pastrami and pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs, lobster rolls and quite possibly the best fish and chips in Paris.
Le Verre Volé Bistro
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to eat in the middle of a boutique wine shop? Le Verre Volé’s cozy space offers up a unique experience where you can peruse the wines around you and select a bottle right off the shelf for your meal (minus the usual restaurant mark-ups). What’s more, their very limited menu is always changing and only offers what the chef found that morning at the markets. Don’t let the rickety tables and chairs fool you – this Canal St-Martin bistro packs a real gourmet punch and makes it one of the best wine bars in the city. If you can’t snag a table, pop in to pick up a bottle of wine and head over to the nearby canal with a baguette and cheese in true Parisian style. Reservations are highly recommended.
Located a bit off the beaten path in the 20th Arrondissement, Le Baratin is worth the trek. Run by partners Raquel Carena and Philipe Pinoteau, Carena heads the kitchen while Pinoteau runs the front of house and is always on hand to offer a great wine recommendation or pairing. This classic French bistro serves incredible comfort food with a focus on freshness and flavour. With mains hovering around €25, Le Baratin is a favorite among chefs, winemakers and locals alike, making this a well-loved institution that is sure to win over even the most discerning diners. Reservations are a must – call +33 1 43 49 39 70.
Run by two sisters, Tatiana and Katia Levha, what was once a gritty coffee shop in the 11th Arrondissement is now a very pretty bistro filled with tons of natural light and a big, open kitchen overlooking the 40-seat room. Tatiana’s Filipino roots influence her style of cooking, serving dishes like clams with Thai basil, lacquered pork belly on a bed red cabbage, or quail with spicy cucumbers and peanuts. Katia takes care of the front of house and oversees a noteworthy natural wine list. With well-known chefs like David Chang already singing Le Servan’s praises, this could possibly be the hottest low-key restaurant in Paris right now. Call +33 1 55 28 51 82 for reservations.
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