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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: balthazarny.com
    artisanal on 32nd st between park and madison: artisanalbistro.com

    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 lounge...is 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

                  2. I am not an expert but I've enjoyed both Balthazar and Artisnal. The cheese plate at Artisnal was delicious. Artisnal was expensive for me (teacher's salary) but I thought the portions were good, service attentive and not snooty at all. The pri fixe brunch was very good. It's a little noisy, but you could bring your children there comfortably. They could eat the grilled cheese and chips/fries. Enjoy!

                    1. Try Brasserie Cognac on 55th and Broadway. I work near there and have lunch there often. A nice, manageable menu, nice wines by the glass/bottle. Never been disappointed.

                      And the gougere are great (but aren't they always?)

                      1. Near the top would be La Sirène on Broome at Varick

                        1. Le Bilboquet on the Upper East Side is a small little French Bistro with decent food. Chat Noir on 66th between Madison and Fifth has good food as well but don't expect too much of a "scene" there (if that's what you're looking for as well) as it attracts local Upper East Side clientele. For some reason I prefer Pastis over Balthazar but that's just me personally (both are owned by the same owner, Keith McNally).

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: alessandroacq

                            Wow you really do like the Euro trash sites. e.g. Le Bilboquet

                          2. La Mangeoire. There is no question about it. Christian Delouvrier, a very well regarded, starred chef, is in the kitchen now. It is an authentic, lovely restaurant with traditional French & Provencal cuisine, and the decor is unmatched in the city. It's on 2nd Ave near 53rd St. Check out their website...photos of the place as well as the menu. It is a total delight.


                            La Mangeoire is a restaurant. Not a bistro, and not a brasserie. Balthazar, Pastis, Artisanal...those are brasseries.

                            "In general terms though, a Brasserie will be open long hours, usually be quite spacious and have a large menu most of which will be served all day.

                            A Bistro is 'usually' smaller and more intimate with a smaller menu often with a regional bent. Often though you will find any restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere referred to as a bistro.

                            A true Restaurant will be more formal and have set opening hours for lunch and dinner and usually have separate lunch and dinner menus. "

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: gutsofsteel

                              Four of us had a late, leisurely lunch at La Mangeoire yesterday, thanks to your mention of it here, and I had the best choucroute (a special) I've ever had--ever, anywhere. It must have had six different kinds of sausages in it plus oxtail, pork, and a meaty piece of fatback. It could very easily have served two. The crispy brandade fish cake was also outstanding. I was sorry that two people ordered the mussels. They were very good, but I would have preferred to have been able to sample more interesting--and challenging--things on the menu. Very definitely "a total delight."

                            2. Raoul's = my favorite Bistro in NYC. Classic Soho spot, always a good time. Steak au Poivre probably the best $37 steak you can get in Manhattan.


                              4 Replies
                              1. re: iFat

                                When did the new chef start at La Mangeoire? I was a big fan years ago but thought it was going downhill recently.

                                1. re: mice

                                  Chef Christian Delouvrier took over the kitchen at La Mangeoire about two months ago.

                                  1. re: RGR

                                    At a recent visit our waiter told us it was almost 3 months ago...but close enough.

                                2. re: iFat

                                  Second Raoul's - it's a much more laid-back alternative to Balthazar. Friendly service, delicious food. But I do love Balthazar, if you can get a reservation and want to deal with the crowd. Whatever you do, do not go to Pastis - unsatisfying food, hosts with meatpacking attitudes, and a total scene.

                                3. Jean Claude on Sullivan Street is a warm cozy neighborhood bistro. Very solid food. Unbelievably kind staff. It's a great favorite in my crowd.

                                  1. Minetta Tavern, imho, qualifies as one of the best French bistro in NYC today.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: RCC

                                      One could call that place a lot of things, but a Bistro? French?

                                      1. re: penthouse pup

                                        Have you seen the menu? It's as close to a bistro, afaic.