10 best French restaurants in Paris

10 best French restaurants in Paris

Because we know what you want when you come to Paris -- real bistros, real chefs, real French food

Down-market food trucks and pop-up restaurants are invading Paris.

But when looking for the best French restaurants in Paris, we want the kind of classic tables that make French dining a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Item.

To find the most memorable Paris dining experiences, we turned to Meg Zimbeck, brainchild behind the extensive online food guide Paris by Mouth.

Zimbeck and her colleagues lead walking tours in the French capital, and have been seeking out the best tables in the city for years. 

With her help, we compiled a list of 10 best French restaurants in the City of Light.

Bistrot Paul Bert

Simple, homey and utterly French -- authentic bistro fare for those looking for a piece of old timey Paris.
“This is one of the restaurants that I always recommend when people ask for a classic bistro experience,” says Zimbeck.

Located in the east section of the city, the bistro has a lively atmosphere and serves delicious steak frites and apple tart.

Also worth checking out: the owner recently opened up a modern version, Le 6 Paul Bert, just down the street.

€35-50 (US$40-66); 18 rue Paul Bert, 75011; +33 1 43 72 24 01; Open Tuesday-Saturday 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m., 7:30 p.m.-11 p.m.; parisbymouth.com/bistrot-paul-bert

Septime

A perfectly poached egg with corn and parmesan at Septime. The no-choice menu changes seasonally.
Eastern Paris is where a lot of the more inventive cooking is happening, and Septime helped set this trend.

A beautiful dining room and open kitchen form the backdrop for carefully perfected innovative cuisine. It can be tricky to get a table -- not surprising for one of the best French restaurants in Paris --  but it’s worth the time and patience.

“Septime's the place where you can go and depend on having beautiful service that makes you feel special and welcomed,” says Zimbeck.

€35-50 (US$46-66); 80 rue de Charonne, Paris; +33 1 43 67 38 29; Monday 7:30 p.m.-10 p.m., Tues-Fri 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m., 7:30 p.m.-10 p.m.; septime-charonne.fr

Chez Casimir

One of the best cheese plates in Paris is a great end to a well-executed bistro experience, a bit off the beaten path at Chez Casimir.


The little brother of renowned Chez Michel, Chez Casimir shares a kitchen with the pricier counterpart, though it serves more affordable fare.

Located near Gare du Nord, it's particularly convenient for Eurostar riders or those looking for affordable dining, and what Zimbeck calls the best cheese plate in the city.

“It’s where the locals go for high-caliber bistro food,” she says.

€20-30 (US$26-40); 6 rue de Belzunce, Paris; +33 1 48 78 28 80; Monday-Friday noon-2:30 p.m., 7 p.m.-11 p.m., Saturday-Sunday open 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; parisbymouth.com/our-guide-to-paris-chez-casimir

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Relais d’Entrecôte

Steak and fries are the only thing served up at this no-reservations institution.


For charm, ease and no-frills food, this no-reservations restaurant offers you one choice: steak frites. Though touristy, it never fails to deliver, with its brasserie-style décor and attentive servers.

Served with secret sauce and crispy fries, the portions seem scant until the wait staff comes around with the much-welcomed second helping. 

Families with picky eaters or those looking to avoid reservations will appreciate the restaurant’s three locations.

Price €25-30 (US$33-40); 20 rue Saint-Benoit, Paris; +33 1 45 49 16 00; Monday-Friday noon-2:30 p.m., 7 p.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday noon-3 p.m., 7 p.m.-11 p.m.; www.relaisentrecote.fr

Chateaubriand

Chateaubriand's menu is playful and modern.


Hipster gastronomes will love the daring and innovative dishes that come with this no-choice menu.

“They take the ingredients that morning and put them together in interesting ways,” says Zimbeck.

Reserve a table, if you can, but unless you plan far in advance, you’ll have to join the crowd on the sidewalk waiting for a spot in line. The small room and portions don’t make for a relaxed meal, but one that will surprise and excite.

At least a contender for one of Paris' best French restaurants.

€60 prix-fixe menu (US$80); 129 Avenue de Parmentier, Paris; +33 1 43 57 45 95; Tuesday-Saturday 7:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. with reservation, 9:30 p.m. and on without reservation; www.lechateaubriand.net

Verjus

An American twist on French cooking.


Opened by the innovative American couple behind the now-closed private dining club Hidden Kitchen, this romantic restaurant is exclusive without being pretentious.

Tucked away behind the Palais-Royal, the top-notch food features fresh, seasonal flavors, not to mention one of the best fried chicken dishes in the city, available at the wine bar.

This winter, they opened a sandwich table at their wine bar for lunch. 

“There's a lot of engagement and conversation,” says Zimbeck.

€60 tasting menu (US$80); 52 rue de Richelieu, Paris; +33 1 42 97 54 40; Monday-Friday 6 p.m.-11 p.m.; sandwich station hours: Monday-Friday 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m.; www.verjusparis.com

Semilla

Marinated portobello mushrooms served tapas-style at this industrial-chic dining room with an open kitchen.


A relative newcomer in the tourist-laden roads of St-Germain, this modern eatery features an open kitchen with a distinguished M.O.F. chef, the highest French honor for craftsmen.

With wine sourced from the nearby Dernière Goutte wine shop, Semilla offers small production vintages alongside a large selection of full or half-sized plates.

You can get out of the three-course meal rut, says Zimbeck, with “comforting, healthy, bright flavors.”

€35-50 (US$46-66); 54 rue de Seine, Paris; +33 1 43 54 34 50; 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m., 7 p.m.-11 p.m. (until 10 p.m. on Sunday); parisbymouth.com/our-guide-to-paris-semilla

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L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon

The counter feels a bit like a sexy sushi bar. Go for the tasting menu.


If you're looking for the best French restaurants in Paris and haven't yet come here, do so.

Legendary French chef and restauranteur Joel Robuchon operates two restaurants in Paris, and if Michelin stars are on your itinerary but you never got around to making a booking, this is the best bet for a last-minute table. 

The food is better than the ambiance. Small delectable plates of suckled pig or caviar with smoked eel potatoes won’t break the bank. Or splurge for the nine-course tasting menu. At €199, it’s no bargain, but it’s good value.

“It’s relatively affordable for a Michelin star restaurant,” says Zimbeck.

€199 tasting menu (US$265); 5 rue de Montalembert, Paris; +33 1 42 22 56 56; closed Christmas Eve, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.-midnight; www.joel-robuchon.net

Les Papilles

A young talented chef's take on the classic French bistro.


This wine shop doubles as one of the city’s most charming restaurants launched by Bertrand Bluy, who gave up a three-Michelin-star post for something more casual in the Latin Quarter.

A copious four-course fixed menu features a main dish served family-style out of a copper pot and usually a plate of cheese. The plates change daily.

“A lot of chefs like to go there on their day off because they don’t have to think about it,” says Zimbeck. Call ahead for reservations or go around 7 p.m. to get a seat for an early dinner.

€33 (US$44) fixed menu, €7 (US$9) corkage fee, wines €20-60 (US$27-80); 30 rue Gay Lussac, Paris; +33 1 43 25 20 79; Tuesday-Sun noon-2:30 p.m., 7 p.m.-10 p.m.; www.lespapillesparis.fr

Breizh Café

An authentic Breton crêpe stuffed with ham and cheese goes best with a glass of cider at Breizh Café.


No French culinary experience is complete without the mighty crêpe.

With subtle Japanese touches in the decoration and plate presentation (think salted butter caramel with yuzu), this authentic Breton sit-down crêperie is the authority in Paris.

Try any of their overly stuffed buckwheat galettes made using Bordier butter and wash it down with one of their many artisanal ciders. According to Zimbeck, they’re a world apart from what you’ll find at most street side crêpe stands.

Reservations are required, as ususal, for the best French restaurants in Paris. 

€14-25 (US$19-33); 109 rue Vieille du Temple, Paris; +33 1 42 72 13 77; Wednesday-Saturday noon-10 p.m., Sunday noon-11 p.m.; www.breizhcafe.com

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Bryan Pirolli is based in Paris, covering innovation and travel on an otherwise pastry and wine-soaked scene. He is a freelancer for various media outlets, editing his own blog bryanpirolli.com about experiencing the quirks of Parisian life, running marathons among the French, traveling around, and pursuing a doctorate at the Sorbonne. His byline also appears on CBS’s SmartPlanet, EuroCheapo, and TimeOut.

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