We owe the French a lot when it comes to food. They basically invented the concept of a restaurant and also figured out that baking a layer of cheese on top of onion soup makes onion soup worth eating. Yet somehow, French restaurants today have an unfair reputation for being sleepy and predictable.
But you won’t find mothball-filled dining rooms or dried-out beef bourguignon at any of the places on this guide. These aren’t just the best French restaurants in LA - they’re some of our favorite places to eat in the entire city.
Republique needs little introduction. Whether you’ve lived in LA your whole life or are just in town for a goat yoga intensive, chances are you’ve at least heard of this French restaurant on La Brea. The massive space looks like the courtyard of a church in the Burgundy countryside, and its varied menus (they’re open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner) have everything from croque madames to a very non-French kimchi fried rice that might be the best thing on the menu. If you’re hoping to try some glorious croissants in the daytime, be prepared to wait as reservations are for dinner only.
Petit Trois has been open since 2014 and already feels like an LA institution. Located inside a strip mall at Highland and Melrose, this tiny French bistro is about the size of your bedroom, if your bedroom also had a bar. It’s loud, cramped, and you’ll definitely have someone hovering above you while you eat. But after you try the chicken confit, burger, or omelette, you’ll learn to love the organized chaos.
If you’re under the impression that most French restaurants are predictable and filled with cobwebs, let Belle Vie prove you wrong. On a stretch of Brentwood dominated by bro-y sports bars and a Jamba Juice, Belle Vie stands out above the rest because it feels like a casual wine party that serves really good beef burgundy tacos and octopus. The space is small with red booths and French posters hanging everywhere that probably came from an attic in Provence.
On paper, Melisse looks like the stuffy French restaurant you have always feared. It’s expensive, they have white linen napkins, and everybody’s in suit jackets. But this classic prix fixe-only restaurant in Santa Monica serves fantastic food (you need the egg caviar), and the relaxed waitstaff makes you feel like royalty. Also, there’s a champagne cart.
Papilles has been around since 2011, but has remained a relative secret - likely through a blood wager with a restaurant god. Hiding in a strip mall at the corner of Franklin and Argyle, this small French bistro has a simple space and a $30-ish three-course prix fixe menu that’s one of the better values in Hollywood. The food changes almost weekly here, but if the duck l’orange or fried oysters are available, get them. Also, the French fries are some of the best in town.
For anyone who lives within a half-mile radius of Beverly and Crescent Heights, Marvin is your Cheers. For anyone else, this is a French bistro with food good enough to drive across the city for and an atmosphere that’ll make you wish you had something similar in your neighborhood. Things can a little pricey here, so we recommend coming in with the intention of aggressively snacking instead of throwing down for a three-course meal. Just make sure you’re snacking on any of the toasts.
When Church And State opened in the Arts District in 2008, it was the first real destination restaurant in a neighborhood that’s now dominated by them. But even as bigger and prettier spots have moved in, this casual French restaurant has kept up the pace. The dining space is bright and industrial, but still feels like a sidewalk cafe in Paris. And while the menu is traditional, it’s still exciting - ideal for an important date or celebratory dinner with your parents. The bouillabaisse is our favorite thing on the menu.
One could argue that Oriel is just a wine bar with some food, and you’d probably be right. Regardless, we’re still going out of our way to eat French onion soup and bavette steak at this laidback Chinatown spot any chance we can get. In a tiny space underneath the elevated Gold Line tracks, Oriel feels closer to a high-design diner in Bushwick than a downtown L.A. wine bar which is ideal when you’re looking for a first date spot you haven’t been to a hundred times already.
On the nights when you want a dinner party atmosphere, but don’t want to host a dinner party, book a few seats at Le Comptoir. Located on 6th Street in Koreatown, this tiny prix fixe restaurant is nothing more than a wooden counter and eight chairs and is basically a guy and his two friends cooking you dinner for three hours. The menu changes frequently here, but don’t expect any French classics hitting your table - this is hyper-modern, vegetable-heavy French food (one dish is literally a plate of vegetables from their urban farm) and you definitely couldn’t have pulled off at your own dinner party.
A few years ago, steak frites restaurants were opening up somewhat regularly in LA. Update: they’re almost all gone, save for L’Assieste Steak-Frites. The dinner menu at this somewhat sleepy Melrose staple has expanded over the years to include things like squid ink linguine and salmon burgers, but our order will always be the steak frites. The meat and fries individually are both excellent, but it’s when the juices from the steak start to mix in with the fries that this dish reaches the next level.
In 2015, Trois Familia opened as a slightly gimmicky Mexican/French brunch fusion spot where you could eat things like double-decker potato tacos and churro French toast. While those items still exist (and are still good), this colorful Silver Lake cafe has now has expanded to include a full French-leaning dinner menu that’s reasonably priced and the best you can find on the Eastside. Their steak frites and foie gras burger should be your first orders of business.