Down-market food trucks and pop-up restaurants have invaded Paris. But when looking for the best French restaurants in Paris, we want the kind of classic tables that make French dining a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Item.
To find the most memorable Paris dining experiences, we turned to Meg Zimbeck, brainchild of the extensive online food guide Paris by Mouth.
Zimbeck and her colleagues lead walking tours in the capital of France and have been seeking out the best tables in the city for years. With her help, we compiled a list of 10 best French restaurants in Paris:
1. Bistrot Paul Bert
"This is one of the restaurants that I always recommend when people ask for a classic bistro experience," says Zimbeck. Located in the east section of the city, the bistro has a lively atmosphere and serves delicious steak frites and apple tart. Also worth checking out: the same owner's modern version of the cafe, Le 6 Paul Bert, just down the street.
Bistrot Paul Bert, 75011 Paris. Tel +33 1 43 72 24 01
Eastern Paris is where a lot of the more inventive cooking is happening these days, and Septime helped set this trend. A beautiful dining room and open kitchen form the backdrop for carefully perfected innovative cuisine. It can be tricky to get a table -- not surprising for one of the best French restaurants in Paris -- but it's worth the time and patience.
"Septime's the place where you can go and depend on having beautiful service that makes you feel special and welcomed," says Zimbeck.
Septime, 80 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel +33 1 43 67 38 29
3. Chez Casimir
The little brother of renowned Chez Michel, Chez Casimir shares a kitchen with the pricier counterpart, though it serves more affordable fare. Located near Gare du Nord, it's particularly convenient for Eurostar riders or those looking for affordable dining, and what Zimbeck calls the best cheese plate in the city.
"It's where the locals go for high-caliber bistro food," she says.
Chez Casimir, Gare du Nord, 6 rue de Belzunce, 75010 Paris. Tel +33 1 48 78 28 80
4. Relais d'Entrec-te
For charm, ease and no-frills food, Relais d'Entrec-te is a no-reservations restaurant offers you one choice: steak frites. Though touristy, it never fails to deliver, with its brasserie-style decor and attentive servers.
Served with secret sauce and crispy fries, the portions seem scant until the wait staff comes around with the much-welcomed second helping. Families with picky eaters or those looking to avoid reservations will appreciate the restaurant's three locations.
Relais de l'Entrecote, 15 rue Marbeuf, 75008 Paris. Tel +33 1 49 52 07 17
5. Le Chateaubriand
Hipster gastronomes will love the daring and innovative dishes that come with the no-choice menu at Le Chateaubriand.
"They take the ingredients that morning and put them together in interesting ways," says Zimbeck.
Reserve a table, if you can, but unless you plan far in advance, you'll have to join the crowd on the sidewalk waiting for a spot in line. The small room and portions don't make for a relaxed meal, but one that will surprise and excite.
Le Chateaubriand,129 avenue Parmentier, 75011 Paris. Tel +33 1 43 57 45 95
Opened by the innovative American couple behind the now-closed private dining club Hidden Kitchen, Verjus is a romantic restaurant is exclusive without being pretentious. Located behind the Palais-Royal, the top-notch food features fresh, seasonal flavors, not to mention one of the best fried chicken dishes in the city, available at the wine bar.
"There's a lot of engagement and conversation," says Zimbeck.
Restaurant Verjus, 52, rue de Richelieu 75001 Paris +33 1 42 97 54 40
A relative newcomer in the tourist-laden roads of St-Germain, Semilla is a modern eatery features an open kitchen with a distinguished M.O.F. chef, the highest French honor for craftsmen. With wine obtained from the nearby Derniere Goutte wine shop, Semilla offers small production vintages alongside a large selection of full or half-sized plates. You can get out of the three-course meal rut, says Zimbeck, with "comforting, healthy, bright flavors."
Semilla, 54 Rue de Seine, 75006 Paris. Tel +33 1 43 54 34 50
8. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Legendary French chef and restauranteur Joel Robuchon operates two restaurants in Paris, and if Michelin stars are on your itinerary but you never got around to making a booking, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon is the best bet for a last-minute table. The food is better than the ambiance.
Small delectable plates of suckled pig or caviar with smoked eel potatoes won't break the bank. Or you can splurge on the nine-course tasting menu. "It's relatively affordable for a Michelin-star restaurant," says Zimbeck.
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, 5 rue Montalembert, Hotel Pont Royal, 75007 Paris Tel +33 1 42 22 56 56
9. Les Papilles
Les Papilles is a wine shop that doubles as one of the city's most charming restaurants launched by Bertrand Bluy, who gave up a three-Michelin-star post for something more casual in the Latin Quarter.
A copious four-course fixed menu features a main dish served family-style out of a copper pot and usually a plate of cheese. The plates change daily.
"A lot of chefs like to come here on their day off because they don't have to think about it," says Zimbeck. Reservations recommended.
Les Papilles, 30 Rue Gay-Lussac, 75005 Paris. Tel +33 1 43 25 20 79
10. Breizh Caf-
No French culinary experience is complete without the mighty crepe. With subtle Japanese touches in the decoration and plate presentation (salted butter caramel with yuzu), Breizhis, an authentic Breton sit-down creperie, is the authority in Paris.
According to Zimbeck, the overly stuffed buckwheat galettes made with Bordier butter are a world apart from what you'll find at most street-side crepe stands. Reservations are required, as usual, for the best French restaurants in Paris.
Breizh Cafe, 109 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris. Tel +33 1 42 72 13 77
Editor's note: This article was previously published in 2013. It was reformatted and republished in 2017.