Old fashioned French bistros are a namesake in Paris, however, the new generation of bistros that have opened within the last ten years are really making a name for themselves. In Paris, the bistro is an institution. With a cozy, unpretentious atmosphere and French fare at a modest price, what’s not to love? The local bistros are perfect for getting a bite to eat, having a drink, or just people watching. Most of the French bistros offer free WIFI, so whether you’re willing to take an important business call using skype, do some online shopping with shoppersstop.com, or play a game on skyvegas.com, you can do so while enjoying a hot dish. Here is a list of the best bistros to visit in Paris.
French Bistros are cozy and modest
Afaria is a two-year-old bistro that is the brainchild of chef Julien Duboue, who trained with such top toques as Paris’s Alain Dutournier and New York’s Daniel Boulud. The menu changes often but runs to delicious Basque-Landais dishes such as cold artichoke soup, fried baby squid, and sea bream with a “spaghetti paella.”
Le Bon Georges
Outside, on its storefront, Le Bon Georges proudly displays “a selection of meats, small-boat catch of the day, fresh produce from the market and wines from small producers.” This French bistro celebrates a healthy cuisine. If you happen to visit, try the stuffed pumpkin, Basque duck or dishes with pork from Meignan.
Many locals meet in this authentic bistro of the 11th arrondissement. Led by Chris Edwards, its decor is full-on traditional Parisian, with your basic checkered tablecloths and vintage posters on the walls. The cuisine remixes classic products such as oysters with pickled onion and horseradish, monkfish samosas or breaded boiled egg with cep mushrooms and spinach. When it comes to desserts, you can’t go wrong with the almond financier topped with hot chocolate.
Near Pigalle and Butte Montmartre, Les Canailles sees chef Tetsu Yoshida revamp the traditions of French cuisine, with surprising pairings such as scallops fried with truffles, black pudding with apples and sea bream cooked with blood oranges. The perfectly executed, Grand Marnier soufflé also deserves a mention. The environment of Les Canailles is very warm, calm, and inviting. The staff is extremely friendly and is very helpful with translating the menu to tourists.
Auberge Pyrenees Cevennes
This is a great example of a good old-fashioned neighborhood bistro, with sausages dangling from huge beams overhead and antlers mounted to the walls. You can expect friendly service, reasonable prices, hearty dishes like cassoulet and veal sweetbreads in port sauce, and Lyonnais specialties such as Quenelles de Brochet. This is a favorite of locals, but tourists frequent here as well.
This small, crowded bistro in Belleville, one of the last bohemian neighborhoods in Paris, is a major expedition from the city center, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming the place where chefs like Joel Robuchon and Yves Camdeborde come for a night-off feast of chef Raquel Carena’s fabulous home-style cooking. The menu changes on a daily basis and ranges from oxtail braised with citrus fruits to ragout of cod and shrimp with saffron.
The sepia-toned former grocery store is a favorite among many of the French. The dishes served here exhibits stunning imagination, as in dishes like sea bass with red chicory and lemon creme fraiche. You can only reserve for the first seating at Le Chateaubriand. After that, you’ll have to wait in line from 9pm for a stab at Iñaki Aizpitarte’s no-choice tasting menu, a parade of provocative flavor pairings that has landed the restaurant on San Pellegrino’s 50 Best list for the last several years. This bistro is always crowded with people, as everyone loves the food. You never know what to expect here and that is part of its charm.
Delicious French treats
In French, the name of this popular two-year-old bistro means “in times gone by,” a nod from talented young chef Guillaume Delage to France’s rich culinary heritage. Delage serves up a menu that swings between contemporary French bistro cooking– including dishes like escargots in puff pastry with oyster mushrooms and romaine lettuce, and sea bream in a wasabi cream sauce with sweet potato puree— as well as stalwarts like roast shoulder of lamb with white beans, tomatoes, and black olives. You want to visit here for very fine French dining.
Restaurant du Marche
At the very edge of Paris, chef Francis Leveque has turned this small dining room with bare wood tables and various ornaments decorating the walls into one of the city’s best bistros. The menu changes often, but dishes like baked potatoes stuffed with escargots, grilled pork terrine with a perfect mesclun salad, and a sublime hachis Parmentier (a French version of shepherd’s pie) with duck confit are stunningly good and makes this place worth visiting.
A small, simple restaurant that serves excellent food quickly is more or less what a bistro consists of, Bistros have come a long way from their earlier roots in Paris and now can be found all over the world serving all manner of ethnic food. Bistro’s popularity is that they serve a small selection of dishes, cooked to perfection and using locally sourced ingredients. The menus are fitted around dishes that are easily prepared but are good value for money and simple.
The Start-Up Period
The Start-Up Period
The statistics for any kind of restaurant are not good with 50% failing in the first three years, compared to any other business the restaurant trade is particularly difficult. You need to do your homework before trying to open up your bistro, know the locality you have chosen and the food scene in the area. A bistro fits into a complicated chain of dining establishments and you have to be certain that there is a niche for your type of food.
Many bistro owners fail by not doing their sums correctly and being underfunded, getting any business off the ground always costs more than you originally think and contingency must be built in at the very start. Make sure you are fully funded before you open your bistro doors.
You have chosen a bistro type of food outlet so make sure you hire experienced bistro staff, especially your chef. There is no point hiring a five-star Michelin chef if he is not in tune with your bistro concept, you will have conflict from day one.
Marketing is critical for a bistro to survive, and it is a minefield as advertising and marketing campaigns are expensive. Have a proper marketing plan to suit your business and the locality, make sure your budget covers it and you build in alterations and changes should it not work. Social media is particularly effective in the catering industry and is relatively cheap, use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get your message across. Encourage feedback and interaction on your pages, word of mouth and recommendations are the best form of advertising in the restaurant trade.
Create Your Road-map How to Succeed
A good sound financial business plan is critical alongside a road-map of how the business is going to pan out. Any business plan will keep you focused and on the right path, review it regularly and tweak it where it is not working.Build in your locality, a bistro is often a localized business and serves a local community, it does not mean you cannot serve patrons from further afield, but base your business plan on local diners, these will be your bread and butter. This means target your marketing and advertising to reflect the near vicinity. Perhaps also let this reflect your menu, give your diners what they want to eat and not what your chef wants to explore creating in the kitchen. Source local ingredients and let the local butcher and greengrocer brag about stocking you.
In part two of this blog of how to run a successful bistro business we look at other ways and means of launching and sustaining a good bistro.
Part two of our travel around Paris to find authentic bistro-style restaurants and great traditional bistro food will take us to even more fantastic restaurants that are part of the New Bistro movement that has been so prominent in the last twenty years in France. The first great bistro we visit takes us to Bertrand Aboyneau’s fantastic restaurant on rue Paul-Bert.
Le Bistrot Paul Bert
Le Bistrot Paul Bert
Le Bistrot Paul Bert was opened in the Bastille area in 1977, with a brief to serve classic and traditional bistro type dishes. This restaurant serves authentic Gallic food at its very best, following classic ways of creating and presenting bistro food. The interior also reflects the theme with cracked floor tiles and faded old adverts on the walls. The food served is seasonal and the changing dishes reflect this, marinated herring, terrine de campagne, veal chops and steak tartare.
A simple bistro hidden in the Latin Quarter of Paris, Christophe is simply decorated with bare wooden tables and walls. People come to Christophe for one thing, and that is the marvelous food. Mine host creates great modern French bistro dishes that are simply delicious with a southern French twist. So the dishes often feature fresh lemons, expect classic southern dishes such as citrus mille-feuille, as well as escargots swimming in Provencale butter, and steak accompanied by pureed potatoes.
A tiny bistro but highly popular, so much so that the owner Gregory Marchand is opening a second to cope with the demand. The chef has had superb experience working with Jamie Oliver in London and Danny Meyer in New York. The small bistro has exposed brick walls with factory-style lighting and the atmosphere is buzzing. With his vast experience around the world, Gregory Marchand uses different influences to create his food but there is no doubting his Gallic credentials. Poached eggs with grilled bacon, cream of mushroom soup is an example of what is served here, all with a distinctly French twist.
In a very bohemian part of Paris in the So-Pi area you can find a delightful friendly neighborhood bistro called Le Pantruche. Franck Baranger and Christian Constant are the two chefs’ behind this culinary oasis that is a testament to great French cooking. Do not expect fancy décor or plush fixtures and fittings, but do expect food of the highest quality. Contemporary French cooking at its very best is served at Le Pantruche, delicate, precise and all containing the best seasonal produce.
Recently on the menu, coddled eggs with creamed baby leeks, free range pork chop, and cod baked with Indian spices on a bed of lemon cabbage. The clever fusion of typical French ingredients and methods of cooking together with influences from around the world make the food at Le Pantruche a delight. These fantastic restaurants are a testament how serious that Parisians are about bringing back the traditions and tastes of true bistro cooking. Great dishes that are based on seasonal and local produce cooked simply and very often slowly. These establishments offer a modern version of affordable bistro food as it once was many years ago in Paris.
The term bistro has lost its real definition in recent times, most people around the world regard a bistro as a small informal restaurant serving a particular nation’s classic dishes. So there have sprung up French, Italian, Mexican and all sorts of different types of bistros all over the world. But the original bistros were French and from Paris, and outside France some of their dishes have been largely forgotten. In this blog we look at modern bistros that exist today in Paris where you can find authentic Parisian bistro food, like tarte tatin and coq au vin. Featured in this blog are some outstanding restaurants that are located in Paris that serve authentic bistro classic dishes.
Josephine Chez Dumonet
Josephine Chez Dumonet
A really exceptional restaurant, that takes you back to pre-war Paris. Everything about the décor in Josephine Chez Dumonet reminds you of another time and another place. Strolling through the doors you are transported back to the art-nouveau period. The food served is old-fashioned bistro fare, that adheres to traditional cooking from the old bistro days in Paris. But if you want to taste authentic slow cooked dishes such as, boeuf bourguignon, millefeuille of pigeon or foie gras stuffed mushrooms, then this is the place.
A la Biche au Bois
Situated in a working part of town this bistro is normally crammed with locals who know their food. So, if you fancy some really authentic Parisian bistro dishes then A la Biche au Bois will satisfy your palette. As a good bistro should be the food is reasonable priced and rustic, simple rural dishes such as our mayonnaise, boeuf bourguignon, and hearty cassoulet are served regularly. Expect dishes at A la Biche au Bois to be seasonal, and during the game season the dishes are particularly fantastic and absolutely classic.
Situated in the bohemian Belleville quarter is a great rustic Bistro called Le Baratin. The food at this rather basic restaurant is created from the head of the owner Raquel Carena who was born in Argentina. So, the food is an eclectic mixture of French, South American, Spanish and North African. Delicious dishes such as braised ox cheeks, tuna tartare is accompanied by biodynamic wine which is organic. And do not be surprised to see great Parisian chef’s dining as it is a cool place to hang out.
Quite a charming building with pretty wallpaper and an exposed beamed ceiling it is superbly located right next to the Palais Royal. The chef is classically trained and he brings these influences into his rustic bistro food. Chicken Supreme with basmati rice and Duck Breast stuffed with foie gras are recent dishes on the menu. Although the dishes are technically perfect and have some luxury ingredients, the prices are more than acceptable. The service is also friendly but organized and when all these factors are put together it is hardly surprising that Les Bistronomes is highly popular. These great new modern bistros are part of the great New Bistro movement that has been hitting France over the past twenty years. In part two we look at even more gastronomic delights of other great bistros of Paris.
Classic bistro foods would of course be French rustic dishes, after all the Bistro emanated from Paris and was a form of cheap wholesome food that could be termed as classic French country food.The Bistro’s of Paris made easy to prepare dishes that would last a long time, such as vegetable stews, and cassoulets, these would be made from locally sourced ingredients to old classic recipes. Today the term Bistro has evolved just to mean a small restaurant, and has no real connection to its former meaning. And now there are Bistro’s all over the world, so the term typical Bistro food is really a contradiction, as it would depend what country you are eating in. So, for this exercise we have gone back in time, and have put together some traditional French dishes that would have been served in the Bistro’s of Paris a hundred years or so ago.
A real one pot classic French casserole, in many ways it epitomizes classic Bistro fare. In essence Pot-au-Feu is a beef stew and at its heart is a rich marrow bone imparting a deep meaty flavor to the dish, of course root vegetables are cooked in the same pot. In the classic Bistro way, the large cauldron would be constantly topped up with more ingredients as dishes were served during the day. Accompanied by nothing more than fresh crusty bread to dip into the delicious hearty stock.
Pate-en-Croute is a French version of the famous Cornish Pasty, with of course more Gallic flair and imagination. Often in rural France the dish would have game and perhaps local truffles as a filling topped with a thick crunchy pastry lid. The dish is strongly seasoned and the seasonal ingredients are all held in place by a tasty jelly. This dish could be made days ahead of consuming, and was an excellent item for Bistros to have as a larder ingredient as it would keep for weeks.
French Onion Soup
French Onion Soup
Soups were always a Bistro classic, and there is none better than the hearty French Onion Soup. Onions, garlic, stock are a classic combination for soups and with the addition of crunchy croutons and grated cheese make this a bowl of winter cheer. A cauldron of bubbling French Onion Soup is a delight to see in a Bistro, especially on cold winter days. The thick soup lines your stomach with a satisfying glow that will cheer you up to face the day.
Saddle of Hare
Bistro food is very much seasonal food, dishes that the ingredients can all be sourced locally. And a big favorite is game, rabbit and hare. The saddle is actually taken from the rear of the animal but is a terrific cut and suits long cooking in various stocks. It can also be prepared with hops to impart a delicious flavor to the meat. Served with seasonal vegetables game is a classic Bistro dish. Other classic Bistro dishes would include, boeuf bourguignonne, bouillabaise, navarin d’agneau, coq au vin, duck confit, steak tartare, and pâtés & terrines.