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Sep 19, 2008 04:34 PM

Best French bistro in NYC??

We're staying in Midtown East but can go anywhere for good food! We love French food and don't mind paying for it, but we don't want tiny portions for exorbitant prices. What suggestions do you have?

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  1. balthazar in soho:
    artisanal on 32nd st between park and madison:

    9 Replies
    1. re: lrbarbie

      2d both of these. More brasseries than bistros, but still good.

      1. re: Lucia

        Balthazar is insanely loud when crowded, which is most of the time.

        1. re: scoopG

          but that tells you how good it is =). everyone wants to be there!

          1. re: lrbarbie

            i love Balthazar but i only go there on weekday mid-afternoons, or very late at night...all the salads are wonderful (esp the roasted beet one, the trout/spinach, and the Balthazar salad) and the oysters are always stellar...

            two smaller bistros to also consider: La Lunchonette (film noir-ish very quiet and rustic vibe on 10th Ave/18th, very reasonably priced for things like coq au vin in a little copper pot, stewed rabbit, etc) and Lucien (loud, crowded East Village hipster vibe but w/ nice filet mignon, grilled salmon, endive salad)...

            Artisnal for cheese, and/or go to the bar at related and fancier place Picholine just for cheese&wine...

            1. re: lrbarbie

              What does everyone recommend at Balthazar? I have always wanted to eat at that joint.... The duck confit, steak frites, burger all sound great. Also how is their sister restaurant Pastis? Their steak sandwich looks amazing.

              1. re: steakrules85

                Several years ago, someone on CH recommended the Cote du Boeuf at Balthazar. It was wonderful! Since then I have recommended it to others, including the renowned "Mr. Cutlets," who agreed it was one of the best steaks he has had in town.

                So I recommend it to you. The steak frites at Balthazar are terrific for lunch, but when you want a really good piece of beef, the Cote du Boeuf is the bomb.

                It is served for two, so bring a hungry pal or take the remainder home (great the next day as a steak salad). The server shows you the meat before it is cooked. It comes with delightful haricots verts, and Balthazar onion rings.

                I think my deathbed meal just might be Balthazar's French Onion Soup, cote du boeuf, and profiteroles... washed down with some fine champagne.

                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                  Trish I have been meaning to try to Cote at Balthazar, however at $84 it is a bit steep for a meal that is not a special occasion. I definitely would shell it out, but I will be dining with my parents who are treating and I doubt would splurge on it for just a regular dinner.

        2. re: lrbarbie

          Balthazar is more of a brasserie -and i can't stand it! the food is fine, i have no compalaints about that, but the service and the atmosphere are not worth it. and the reason why it is crowded is b/c its in every tour book. the last time i went there (and it will be my last time) i don't think one person there was a NYer. I've heard its more tolerable for brunch though.

          1. re: Renguin

            I just went to Le Bateau Ivre earlier this week and was shocked and so surprised at what a hidden gem this is! Lovely host, sat quickly. The location is off the main drag on East 51st, but was packed with so many people at the tables you knew this was a secret spot.

            I had the croque madame and it was the best I've ever had. Definitely more a bistro than a brasserie, but it is oh so so good. Check it out!!!


        3. Not really a bistro, but otherwise fulfilling your requirements, is Gasgogne.

          2 Replies
          1. re: JoanN

            Gascogne most definitely is a bistro -- small and charming with one of the loveliest gardens in the city. The menu focuses on the cuisine of that eponymous regions, and the food is delicious.

            1. re: JoanN

              As a recent NYC visitor had a fabulous evening at Gascogne, a warm late summer evening in their intimate garden. Outstanding on all counts: menu, wine, meal presentation and flavor, flawless service, intimate garden (indoors looked atmospheric as well). I'll look for a chance to get back on a future trip.

            2. I had lunch again this week at Artisinal and it was just delicious. I had the Tuna Nicoise sandwich with the graniche sauce... oh my, it was so good and and it was a big size. Go for it.

              1. i love balthazar too, but the waits are intolerable. like others said, you have to go for breakfast, very late, or at odd l/d hours to avoid waiting.

                the raw bar is great, and so is the balthazar salad. their chicken sandwich is quite good, along with their mussels. i think it's the most enjoyable to sit at the bar, engage with the bartenders, crack a hardboiled egg or two/munch of cheese crisps and eat oysters or brandade or something easy.

                i agree about lucien -- the food is wonderful, and the vibe is just right. artisanal's cheese is uniformly excellent but that place lacks soul for some reason. i went by last night and had the same feeling again.

                bar boulud on the uws has really good terrines and charcuterie.

                2 Replies
                1. re: applem

                  Bar Boulud is on my list to try, as it's about a 2 minute walk from my new home...i've walked by a couple times and not sure about the seating...some tables look comfy, other sections look hellishly like a hectic airport it an ok place to dine solo at the bar?...i'm curious how it's best approached, as the entry and vibe from outside-looking-in is slightly off-putting...

                  1. re: Simon

                    lots of solo diners at the communal table, simon. you won't feel uncomfortable.

                2. Payard on Lex and 74th. Food is great. It can get loud. You can get breakfast at the patisserie when you arrive so you have something great for the morning and remember your meal. There is also a French "tapas" place on 1st Ave and 7th St called Bar Solex. It is grown up for the area

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: btsqnyc

                    sad news, btsqnyc, Payard has SHUT! There was a rent dispute with the owner. He did set up a small space at some jewelry store on madison ( I am sure some chowhounder will know the name!) with a limited pastry,chocolate and macaroon selection. MARDISK: the other option which is even closer for you is Financier. There is one on I think 1st and about 53rd or so with great pastries/croissants, salads, croque monsuiers, etc. It is nowhere near as elegant as Payard but perfect for breakfast/light lunch. For dinner, I've always had good luck at Jubilee which has great moules frites/steak au poivres and profiteroles. It is a neighborhood place and tucked away on 54th between 1st and 2nd