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Suggestions for Parisian Bistros

Looking for moderately priced, atmospheric old-school bistros in Paria. Preferably on the left bank. fireplace a plus.

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  1. Nov issue of Savoir has a whole article on this

    19 Replies
      1. re: n.o.lover

        Thanks celeryroot and n.o.lover! Perfect!

      2. re: celeryroot

        Man, it's actually a good list! Who knew?

        1. re: souphie

          Yup, I esp like the Quincy rec.

          1. re: souphie

            Does anyone know anything about Le Hide? The food looks really nice, classic bistro. I can't seem to find anything on this board. Looks like it might be a great place for lunch on our day of arrival.

            1. re: n.o.lover

              Hide is Japanese but cooks classically French. Not bad place.

              1. re: John Talbott

                We found it nothing that warranted a return.

                1. re: mangeur

                  If the truth be told, I loved it in spring '08, giving it a 7.0, went back with Colette et al a few weeks later, and have never "thought it warranted a return.". But still not bad, just, well no return.

            2. re: souphie

              It is a good list but without the context this board gives it can be quite a dangerous list i.e. the OP asks for "atmospheric old-school bistros". Whilst some of those on the list are old school quite a few are "moody teenagers". If you want A and you get B it can lead to disappointment.

              1. re: souphie

                You knew Soup, except for you Lobrano is the most graceful, accurate and wonderful judge of Parisian restos there is.

                1. re: souphie

                  It is a good list if you take out a few (about three, I'll let you guess which) and add a few more. The core is indeed not bad. Le Châteaubriand is not a bistrot at all. Chez Dumonet, in a different category, isn't either. Bistrot is not about the setting.

                  1. re: souphie

                    "Best of" anything is SO subjective. And not only subjective, but the places you LUV the first visit might not be the LUVliest on the next.

                    That's what I love about this forum. You get more objective assessments, because usually there are multiple posters who have opinions on almost any place.

                    For instance, Bistro Paul Bert is touted in many circles as "the best," or "one of the best" or "my favorite" bistro by a lot of so-called authorities such as Dorie Greenspan and Patricia Wells. However, here on Chow, it gets no better than a "qualified yes." AND we get to know all the reasons why! :)

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      June, I suspect many of these popular writers (including Lobrano) have an eye on their audience when they write. As result they include some "popular" very accessible places in their lists, places that fit into the stereotype of the typical Parisian bistro, and won't offend the masses. Hence (IMO) the inclusion of La Fontaine de Mars, a bit of a cross checking with Fodors and off they (the one time tourist) go, to return eulogising about the insight of Wells, Greenspan or Lobrano.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        Quite true. Of course, if you write mainstream, you play safe. Still the inclusion of Le Chateaubriand is not only off-topic, it is not particularly safe in this perspective. That is IMO why the list is a mixed bag, between consensual/no risk taken choices like Allard or La Fontaine de Mars, and bursts of self-expression like Le Chateaubriand.

                        What I wrote above about bistrot not being about the setting is really not entirely true. It is, if you want to play safe, as PhilD wrote above. Visually, traditional bistrot settings can be reassuring to the newcomer though the food served in the premises may not be bistrot at all. That is probably how Chez Dumonet or Le Châteaubriand find their way into the list.

                        1. re: Ptipois

                          What category do you put Chez Dumonet in? Bistro luxe?

                          1. re: rswatkins

                            "What category do you put Chez Dumonet in?"

                            Gutbuster

                            1. re: Parigi

                              This is sad. Every place we ate in early December seemed to fall in this category except Rino. I keep planning on booking Dumonet, but when it gets down to the deed I decided that we probably won't appreciate its abundance sandwiched in between all of our other nightly overindulgences.

                              I am hoping that Dumonet's half portions aren't killers, but I understand that they also aren't small.

                            2. re: rswatkins

                              Chez Dumonet is a 'restaurant' in the French traditional sense of the term. Which means it does what most others have ceased to do. And it has been doing it for decades; it never was considered a bistrot.

                  2. At the risk of a major shout-down, Le Coupe Chou meets most of the criteria. Good photo ops might make up for the questionable kitchen.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Oakglen

                      Well, I've now done a lot of snoozing on this issue and concluded that for us, the Repaire de Cartouche and Bistro Paul Bert come closest (no fireplaces, no Left Bank, though).

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        What is this thing with fireplace and Left Bank? Fireplace is an auberge, country-style thing.

                        1. re: Ptipois

                          The OP said a fireplace was a plus; so far my research reveals suchlike at Guy Savoy's and Robert + Louise.

                          1. re: John Talbott

                            Oh, okay. A distant bell rings in my ear about another fireplace in Paris. It might come back to me later.
                            Robert et Louise, why, sure. But it should be remembered that the layout of the open kitchen and backyard makes frequent door-opening necessary so the place is incredibly drafty in cold weather, in spite of fireplace. If you want to sit at the table d'hôte near the fireplace, that is. You won't have that problem in the front side of the room.

                    2. Thanks to all who offered the semantics lesson, but I was actually hoping for a few more recs of places that serve a good coq au vin, steak au poivre, or daube etc. Thanks to those who suggested specific places, I won't be visiting for a few more weeks. Feel free to suggest others.

                      Thanks in advance

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: BernieMSY

                        Well that's what we did all along, all posters here.
                        Given the fact that you're asking for something very specific it was necessary to take out of the Saveur list the places that would not suit you.
                        So we have 6 criteria: old-school, atmospheric, bistrot, moderately-priced, left bank and fireplace.
                        Let's leave semantics for awhile and open up the definition of bistrot to the largest common denominator.
                        Left-bank, old-school, atmospheric: there's Allard and Chez Dumonet but they're not moderately priced. Perhaps Aux Fins Gourmets would do the job. Or la Rôtisserie du Beaujolais. Or le Bistrot d'Henri / Le Mâchon d'Henri. Or Aux Charpentiers. There's Les Papilles but it's not old-school. Neither is L'Epigramme. Le Comptoir de l'Odéon oscillates between eras. None of these places, naturally, has a fireplace. Le Coupe-Chou may meet all requirements except perhaps that of serving decent food and I suppose that counts.

                        Then you've got Chez Robert et Louise which meets all criteria except that it's on the right bank.

                        1. re: Ptipois

                          Pti - you missed Brasserie Lipp....! ;-)

                          It is very atmospheric old-school, very left bank (that may also need definition) and moderately priced given it is left bank.

                          1. re: PhilD

                            Yes but it's a brasserie, not a bistrot ;-)
                            (And the food sucks - aside from the steak tartare -, but it is true that food quality was not among the criteria.)
                            If we are to include brasseries I'll rather recomment the Balzar, where the fare is a little bit better.
                            More suggestions on the left bank: La Ferrandaise, Chez Maître Paul, L'Avant-Goût, Le Buisson Ardent, L'AOC, Moissonnier, La Régalade, Auberge Etchegorri (very atmospheric this one), La Girondine, L'Ourcine, Les Caves de Bourgogne...
                            And more that I forget. There's really a lot to pick from as long as the fireplace is not a must.

                            1. re: Ptipois

                              Yes but since we dumb Amuricans don't differentiate between or among bistros, brasseries, cafes and restos, who cares? I would however endorse Ferrandaise but question when you last tried l'Oursine, since our mutual buddy, the RFC, and I did not do well there last time.

                              1. re: John Talbott

                                I haven't tried the best part of these for ages, except for Les Caves de Bourgogne which is okay. Just suggesting places that might fit the bill.

                                If I were to recommend places I have tried recently, the list would be much shorter I'm afraid. I tend to avoid old-school bistrots in times of lean cows because they're no longer what they used to be (i.e. cheap places) and nearly whatever they cook I can cook better.

                                About differentiation, since I'm getting my fingers hit: I was just trying to help others sorting things out. Then realized it was not that essential.

                                1. re: Ptipois

                                  "About differentiation . . . . Then realized it was not that essential." Maybe not exactly "essential," but nevertheless well informed, well stated, and fun to read. In part, it's these kinds of little diversions that makes this site, and its regular contributors, so interesting to me.

                                  But now, to contribute at least something on point, I'll say: No fireplace, and only "semi-old school" (well, 1950s), but how about adding Chez Rene to the list? We really liked it earlier this year. Nice room, great classic dishes, such as BB, etc . . . .

                                  1. re: Jake Dear

                                    I think it changed ownership quite recently, I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but it was definitely "old school" in every sense of the way.

                                    1. re: QdeBro

                                      It's not right bank, there's no fire place, but it's certainly moderately priced and for me qualifies as a bistro: Le Rubis, in the 1st.

                                    2. re: Jake Dear

                                      Jake Dear/Diminutive pea. I quite agree. These apparently pointless meanderings make this site fun.

                                  2. re: John Talbott

                                    When was your 'last time', John? We have eaten very well there at every visit, but our last was some 9 months ago.

                                    1. re: mangeur

                                      Just another voice adding the love of the 'diversions." Pti, your knowledge that you readily share here always adds to my enjoyment of CH and part of why I read every day even though I only get to Paris occasionally!

                                      1. re: mangeur

                                        It's been a long time.
                                        I have my four fine meals in 2004 recorded but not the last one in 2005 which was a bust.
                                        Maybe it's time to let bygones be bygones.

                                    2. re: Ptipois

                                      Has anyone been to Le Moulin a Vent in the last decade or two?

                                      1. re: Ptipois

                                        "Yes but it's a brasserie, not a bistrot ;-)
                                        (And the food sucks - aside from the steak tartare -, but it is true that food quality was not among the criteria.)" - it is so confusing how do you tell?

                                        Seriously though, I think the food in Lipp gets dismissed too easily. You won't have a great meal there but you can do far worse in Paris and you often do far worse in other Paris (tourist) institutions.. If you exercise caution when choosing from the menu you can get a decent meal i.e. as Pti says the tartare or IMO the choucroute. We lived around the corner so Lipp became one of our regular haunts when visitors came into town because it hit all the right notes for a typical Paris venue (be it a bistro or brasserie) i.e. historic room, classic waiters with attitude, and a bustling atmosphere with the grand dames of the 7eme in their regal splendour. However, it did help that we became recognised and thus were able to land decent tables in the front section.

                                        Interestingly we found Balzar to be less good on our visit with quite disappointing classics.

                                        1. re: PhilD

                                          Well I haven't been there as often as you have, but at Lipp I have generally been served really bad food, including a tiny, stale sole meunière once. My impression at the time was that they could hardly do worse. From that moment I decided I'd seek my bustling atmospheres elsewhere.
                                          Balzar serves average food but at least it is not stale, and if you pick carefully you can do rather well. And the frites are nice.