It used to be that you had to travel to Paris for good brasserie or bistro cooking. But nowadays, the lines between the bistro and brasserie have blurred and we have plenty of both stateside with top notch food. Whether you’re craving the timeless brasserie setting or something as classic as escargots on a Williamsburg rooftop, the city is your oyster. Bon appétit!
Address: 135 N 5th St between Berry St and Bedford
Phone: (718) 388-9222
This charming bistro in Williamsburg has excellent French food and plenty of character. And when the weather permits, guests can dine on a romantic rooftop terrace. The menu features broiled escargots, croque monsieur, salmon tartare, and a butterscotch pot de creme. As you’d expect in this hipster hood, vegetarian options abound, including a wild mushroom strudel and a warm cauliflower salad. I’ve never had a Parisian hot dog, but the one here, which comes smothered with gruyere and béchamel, is definitely worthy of attention.
The New French
Address: 522 Hudson St between W 10th St and
Phone: (212) 807-7357
I adore this quaint, West Village bistro for its unpretentious vibe and straightforward cooking. One of our favorite dishes is “The New French” salad with grilled salmon or the steak, served on a bed of radicchio, pear, manchego, olives, green beans, beets, potatoes, caper-berries and egg (phew). At dinnertime, there’s classics, like chicken liver mousse or mussels with fries as well as more globally influenced dishes, including vegetable green curry and pastrami sandwich with slaw and horseradish aioli.
Address: 255 Columbus Ave between W 70th and W 71st Sts
Phone: (212) 579-3966
This laidback atmosphere at this Upper West Side bistro (with a second location in Long Island) belies the serious French cooking here. There are plenty of French kitchens in the city, but few that turn out escargot with a garlic-butter sauce, crepes filled with mushrooms and creme fraiche, onion soup or a proper Quiche Lorraine. If you’re nostalgic for Paris, order the steak au poivre, duck confit or sole meuniere.
Address: 80 Spring St between Broadway and Lafayette
Phone: (212) 965-1414
As close to a Parisian brasserie as they come stateside, Balthazar is Keith McNally’s masterful ode to French bistro fare. There’s so many reasons to love this Soho stunner, starting with the elegant, sunny yellow dining room with red leather banquettes and twirling ceilings to the zinc bar and faded mirrors along the walls. Like any proper brasserie, the kitchen is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and there’s even an adjacent brasserie for a mid-day pastry or a take-away tarte. Sample the bread basket with croissants and pain perdue at breakfast, a salade nicoise or steak tartare at lunch and the steak frites, frisee with lardons or roasted poulet fermi (roast chicken) for dinner. No matter what time of day, always save room for a fantastic French pastry or seasonal tarte.
Address: 92 Madison Ave., at 29th St
Phone: (212) 889-7100
When most people think of a brasserie, they conjure up images of rich meats with heavy wine reductions and creamy sauces or stocks, but Lauren Manrique’s Millesime defies that expectation. Millesime is a seafood brasserie with an impressive raw bar, three types of fish tartare and plenty of light, fresh seafood dishes. In keeping with the seafaring, French nature of the menu, the servers are dressed in yellow, fisherman’s aprons and the tables have Eiffel Tower salt & pepper shakers. In addition to a half dozen mussel preparations, there’s a terrific selection oysters, a terrific tuna tartare, mingled with dates & mint, and plenty of simply grilled fish with your choice of sauce and a lobster “pot au feu.”
Address: 411 Park Ave., at 28th St; 15 John St near Broadway
Phone: (212) 679-4111; 212-285-8585
If you’re dining alone but don’t feel like being alone, try the bar at either Les Halle outpost. Like any good bistro, Les Halles is always bustling and ideal for people-watching. Start with a martini or a glass of champagne and definitely get the steak tartare, which happens to be one of the best in the city, and an order of French fries on the side. The menu is peppered with hearty, French fare, like beef stew and coq au vin. For breakfast, they also serve a killer pan perdu (brioche French toast).
CAMAJE Bistro and Lounge
Address: 85 MacDougal St near Bleecker St
Phone: (212) 673-8184
CAMAJE is all about good, affordable food. With its MacDougal location, it’s practically obligated to cater to the NYU crowd and it offers some of the best deals in town. At lunchtime, three-courses will set you back just $15 and the same deal at dinner is $35. One of the best things on the menu is the hangar steak sandwich, served on crusty bread that’s smeared with a garlicky aioli and brightened with a bit of dressed arugula. Save room for dessert: In addition to build-your-own crepes, there’s a seasonal fruit tart that easily holds its own against some of the best in the city.
Address: 227 E 67th St near Second Ave
Phone: (212) 794-4950
For the last 20 years, L’Absinthe and chef Jean-Michelle have been serving classic French food to a decidedly, Upper East Side clientele. But this isn’t your typical, brasserie fare and it doesn’t cater to a conservative crowd. Instead, there’s starters, like blood sausage with sautéed apples and pigs trotters with foie gras. The shellfish platter has unusual options, like whelks and razor clams. The poularde truffee (chicken in a black truffle broth) has been on the menu since the restaurant opened and still a bestseller.