The Best French Restaurants In NYC

Casual bistros and special-occasion spots where you can eat butter-based food by candlelight.
A spread of French food and wine on a marble table next to a red banquette.

photo credit: Kate Previte

These days, it seems like every other restaurant serves some kind of frites or au poivre: skate, lobster, bison, even maitake. French food is everywhere (blame Julia Child), and you’ll find at least one spot in each NYC neighborhood with burgundy banquettes and a soundtrack featuring Serge Gainsbourg. For steak tartare, gnocchi parisienne, and pike quenelles, these are the bistros, bouchons, and brasseries to visit.


photo credit: David A. Lee



$$$$Perfect For:Special OccasionsDate NightCorporate CardsPeople WatchingImpressing Out of Towners
Earn 3x points with your sapphire card

Frenchette is sceney, but it’s the rare sceney restaurant where food takes precedence over whatever B-list actors you might encounter. For a celebratory night out that doesn’t feel stuffy, get a booth at this noisy Tribeca spot and enjoy some roast chicken and sweetbreads. The menu features a mix of typical and less-common bistro classics, and you can trust that whatever you order will taste like pure butter. Try the duck frites, or just sit at the bar and have some fries and a martini if you don’t want to spend over $100. For a more low-key option, check out their cafe at The Whitney, which has a full menu of sandwiches and soups that are less expensive, but likely use a similar amount of butter.

photo credit: Teddy Wolff

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightDrinks & A Light BiteWalk-Ins

A narrow space with a pressed-tin ceiling, exposed brick, and a patchwork of Polaroid photos, Le French Diner has been open since 2005, but still feels like a well-guarded LES secret, even when there’s a wait to get in. Sit on a diner stool at the counter, so you can sip a glass of wine while watching the chef deftly prepare things like grilled octopus, or hanger steak with perfect dauphinoise potatoes from a short daily menu. The food is restrained but flavorful, and has a personal touch—as if you’d lucked into a homestay run by a retired cook on your exchange semester in France.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

If you’re familiar with Raoul’s, it’s probably because of the burger. Topped with watercress and fully encrusted with peppercorns, it’s one of the city’s best, and it’s available in limited quantities every night. But even if you don’t care about burgers, Raoul’s is still a must-visit. The Soho restaurant—around since the ‘70s—is always packed, and the scene is one of the most entertaining in Manhattan. Do your best to grab a seat at the bar, where you’ll inevitably wind up talking to a stranger on their fourth martini, or come with a group and sit in the back near the fluorescent-lit fish tank. If the burger is sold out, get the steak au poivre.

photo credit: Kate Previte

You won’t find steak frites or salade niçoise at this West Village bistro, and that’s what we like about it. Instead, the chalkboard menus on the walls list things like oeufs mayonnaise, airy rice pudding, and a saucisse puree in a pool of onion gravy. Occupying an idyllic corner space on Christopher Street with big windows, Libertine plays the part of Neighborhood French Bistro perfectly, with pre-worn tiles, distressed mirrors, and a Serge Gainsbourg poster. Just know they don’t really have casual pop-in prices, so save this spot for a special date.

We love many things about Minetta Tavern: The host’s expression when you ask for a walk-in table on a busy Friday evening. The multitasking waitstaff, who keep up a patter of in-jokes while pouring champagne and changing paper tablecloths between courses. The cozy red leather booths in front, and loud conversations around bigger tables in back. And yes, we love that burger, but for a very special night out, get the cote de boeuf, which comes with salad and a half-portion of fantastically jiggly bone marrow. The menu isn’t strictly French—you’ll find things like truffle mac and cheese and housemade pappardelle—but the spirit is pure joie de vivre.

Why is there an exceptional restaurant across from the rink at Rockefeller Center? No one knows. But don’t complain. Le Rock, from the Frenchette team, is a godsend for anyone planning a special meal in Midtown. With entrees that start around $40, this place isn’t cheap—you may need someone to rub your temples when the check arrives—but that’s the only downside. From the chopped steak and fried tripe to the agnolotti and escargot served under rounds of toast, the food is fantastic. The Art Deco-inspired dining room is also impressive, and you may see someone you recognize from the cover of TV Guide Magazine.

Daniel Boulud is still good at making food. For proof, check out Le Gratin, a FiDi bistro that pays homage to the chef’s hometown of Lyon. In a big, Belle Epoque-style space with flowers painted on the walls, you can eat a plate of deep-fried escargots accompanied by pig trotter croquettes and foie gras. Lyonnaise specialities like the pike quenelle and gratin dauphinois are always worthwhile, but you can also just get some moules frites or a burger. Despite all the chandeliers, this place is relatively casual, and it’s a great last-minute option for an impressive group meal.

Of all the restaurants in New York City, Buvette is the one where we’ve almost poked the most people with our silverware. This West Village institution is a very cute place, but that comes with a cost. Everything is tiny, and there isn’t much room to maneuver. It is, however, very much worth it to squeeze in here at breakfast. The signature steamed eggs are an essential order, and you can get them with either smoked salmon or prosciutto. Buvette is best used for daytime situations, but it’s also open for dinner, when you can stop by for coq au vin or roasted beets with horseradish crème fraîche. The food is great, but portions are tiny, which feels very on-brand.

This Williamsburg restaurant, which looks like the foyer of a renovated castle, has been making consistently good French food since 2019. Order the roast chicken served with fries in a puddle of jus, and round things out with a martini and profiteroles. It's not too hard to get a table here, so if you forgot to plan an important dinner, keep this place in mind. For solo dining or an impromptu meal with a friend, grab a few seats at the bar up front.

In an unsurprising turn of events, this Hell’s Kitchen restaurant serves great steak frites. They offer a few different cuts, which start around $40 and come with thin fries and an intimidating dollop of compound butter. But don’t overlook the rest of the menu. Try the gnocchi gratin or salade lyonnaise with thick lardons and a perfectly poached egg. If you’re looking for a great lunch near Midtown, this is one of your best options. Always lively and decorated like a typical Parisian bistro, it’s also great for a casual dinner with a friend.

Bar Bête is the least traditional option on this list. The menu at this Carroll Gardens restaurant is identifiably French, but it’s more experimental than most, with fun twists like chicken liver served in a parfait glass with prune jam and butter. That liver is reason enough to come here, and the olive oil poached fish that melts in your mouth is worth a trip as well. Come by for an interesting, casual meal, and don’t forget to explore the list of natural wines. Even on a Monday night, the long room with globe lights and marble tables fills out with locals drinking pinot gris.

Despite its central West Village location, Le Baratin isn't a very high-profile place. It has a lot of regulars, so people obviously know about this charming little bistro, but it doesn’t get as hectic as nearby spots like Rosemary’s and American Bar. So if you want to impress someone who thinks they know every good restaurant in the neighborhood, bring them here for some well-dressed steak tartare and intensely garlicky escargot. The little space is very casual, with mismatched chairs, chipped wooden tables, and an interesting assortment of decor that includes sports jerseys, empty wine bottles, and a saddle.

You don’t need us to tell you about Balthazar. Everyone already knows about this perpetually busy all-day Soho brasserie. Is it a tourist trap? A New York City classic? A place for overpriced eggs benedict? A fun spot to people-watch with exceptional fries? Yes, all of the above. Open since 1995, this is still a quintessential NYC restaurant, even if half the people you see here don’t actually live in New York. If you’re feeling nostalgic or need to placate a few out-of-towners, stop by and eat some steak and oysters on a banquette in the large, hectic dining room.

Café Paulette is where you should eat steak frites with your grandma. The neighborhood bistro in Fort Greene is a Certified Relatives Restaurant, so she’ll be able to hear you, and won’t be uncomfortable with how small the plates are. Order as many steak frites as you’ll need (one order feeds two people, or one very hungry person and a grandma), along with a bottle of natural wine, and a few oysters. They also own the wine bar next door, Petit Paulette, in case you’re just in the mood for a pre-dinner glass of wine and funky cheese.

Le Coucou is not an every-day spot. Unless you have a robust trust fund, it’s also not an every-month spot. It is, however, perfect for when you want to eat precise, luxurious French food under a chandelier in a chateau-like space in Soho. For your next milestone dinner, come with a date, and eat some tender chunks of lobster in a cognac cream and peppercorn sauce. The atmosphere is very upscale—tall candles, white tablecloths—but it’s not as buttoned-up as traditional fine dining, so you don’t have to get too dressed up. You may, however, see people in formalwear eating $61 rabbit.

The term “neighborhood restaurant” gets thrown around a lot. If you want the real deal, check out Tournesol in Long Island City. At this tiny place with a tin ceiling and sepia photographs on the walls, you’ll find plenty of families and other neighborhood folks eating endive salad and seared trout a la meuniere. There’s usually at least one order of steak frites on every table, and for good reason. It has an incredible char—to the extent that it’s almost, but not quite, burnt. Bring your kids, or plan a casual date night here.

Chase Sapphire Card Ad

Suggested Reading

a few pastas and other dishes from Roscioli in NYC

The Best Italian Restaurants In NYC

Where to eat Italian in NYC when you aren’t willing to settle.

Where To Get Steak Frites For Less Than $40 image

We promise, you don’t have to stand in a two-hour line.

Rémy Martin

From our favorite places to eat omakase sushi to some top-tier neighborhood spots, here's where to have a big night out.

Infatuation Logo


2024 © The Infatuation Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The views and opinions expressed on The Infatuation’s site and other platforms are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of (or endorsement by) JPMorgan Chase. The Infatuation and its affiliates assume no responsibility or liability for the content of this site, or any errors or omissions. The Information contained in this site is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.


Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store