At New York City’s best French eateries, diners can enjoy a classic taste of France as well as French fare with a slant. Ranging from a mid-century institution specializing in traditional fine dining to a contemporary chicken spot, here are the best French restaurants and brasseries in New York City.
Restaurant, French, $$$
The 56-year-old La Grenouille is famous for its clientele, which once included icons such as Sophia Loren. Today’s diners can enjoy the same mid-century charm as Loren and company via La Grenouille’s signature flower arrangements and old-fashioned “Pretheater” menu. Dishes including pike dumplings with caviar and floating meringue islands for dessert taste timeless.
Grub Streetonce accused this restaurant of taking its poultry “almost too seriously.” While Le Coq Rico’s practices are uncommon (the chef, Antoine Westermann, visits all of the eatery’s farms twice yearly and employs a three-hour baeckeoffe slow-cooking method), its quirks pay off. Everything from eggs to giblets to whole birds is executed here expertly and best accompanied by Corsica-style oven-baked potatoes and bright ratatouille sides.
At La Sirène, guests can enjoy upscale French food in a cozy atmosphere. Here, foie gras is made in-house using a family recipe, and a rich, Toulouse-style cassoulet comes with the following warning: “Don’t take it if you can’t bear it.” Tip: The SoHo staple recently opened an Upper West Side location, now offering brunch.
This highly awarded restaurant (three Michelin stars and the most James Beard Awards of any New York City eatery) is beloved by critics. At Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert breaks from French cuisine’s meat-heavy traditions in favor of over 10 fish and shellfish entrées, including sautéed Dover sole with lemon-potato mousseline and seared langoustine with a foie gras crouton. For a fresh French dining experience, there’s even a vegetarian tasting menu.
Austrian chef Markus Glocker’s Bâtard bills itself as a “Modern European restaurant.” However, its classic French menu items, such as beef tartare and foie gras and pork terrine, shine brightest. The Michelin-starred spot’s traditional Brune Landaisefor twoand Paris-Brest dessert are among the city’s best French dishes.
For generous portions of homestyle French cooking, there’s bakery and brasserie Lafayette. Here, dry-aged strip steak frites with béarnaise butter, rotisserie chicken Grand-Mère, and French onion soup with beef shank taste just like maman’s. Tip: Find quick comfort in excellent croissants and pain au chocolats from Lafayette’s to-go bakery.
At French bistro Buvette, you can practically hear “La Vie en Rose” playing in the distance. Sinfully creamy steamed eggs come dolloped with goat’s cheese, and raw chopped beef is topped with cornichons. Also, wine is plentiful at this Francophile favorite, which attracts enthusiastic eaters, Instagram-users, and nary a dieter in sight.
A lively, low-key French bistro, Raoul’s is now more than 40 years old (it’s been around since long before SoHo became cool) and is still as popular and beloved as ever. The steak au poivre remains a must-try dish, and the burger—available only if you’re sitting at the bar—gets top marks as well.
The buzziest new NYC opening in recent times—and deservedly so—Le Coucou represents a return to classic French dining in a room that’s elegant but not at all stuffy: taper candles and white tablecloths, yes, but with a prevailing sense of whimsy. Go for a killer date or a special occasion, and don’t miss the quenelle de brochet in lobster sauce or the stunning three-dish tout le lapin.
Balthazar is a staple SoHo haunt that has a classic European restaurant attached to a French bakery. To start the weekdays off right, go for the eggs, waffles, or French toast from the menu, or opt for a full English breakfast if you’re feeling hungry. For something a little lighter, the bakery offers a selection of delicious pastries, as well as a bread basket option if you want to try a bit of everything.