For a long time, there seemed to be two types of restaurant in Paris: those on a trajectory toward Michelin approval, and those with casual, unpretentious food that was, above all, reliable. The latter—the all-day brasseries and soul-warming bistros—had all but succumbed to mediocrity.
But about ten years ago, a few ambitious chefs, cost-conscious and averse to Michelin elitism, changed the course of Parisian gastronomy. The neo-bistro movement, or bistronomy as it is commonly known, reimagined approachable dining in Paris with pared-back dining spaces, relaxed service, and an abiding focus on freshness. After decades of traditionalism, defined by rigidity on and off the plate and a myopic, Francocentric view of cooking, Paris continues to be hungry for change. With influences from all corners of the world, that change has come to fruition in a variety of dining formats: From a plant-focused lunch counter to casual caves à manger to barbecue joints, food in Paris has never been more creative and varied. This is a short sampling of the spots leading the "new school" dining charge.
Le 52 Faubourg Saint-Denis
Charles Compagnon is almost single-handedly responsible for reviving the dying brasserie, whose cardinal feature is non-stop service and a laid-back atmosphere. At this neo-brasserie, which opened in the 10th arrondissement in 2014 and is named for the street on which it’s perched, Compagnon offers an eminently affordable, regularly rotating menu of market-driven dishes, like green asparagus prepared with potato mousse and a parmesan tuile; thyme-roasted veal breast with braised lettuce and a miso-kiwi condiment; and coq au vin served with raw and cooked mushrooms and blue-violet potatoes. The menu is quite possibly the city’s best value (mains are in the €18–€24 range). Diners with allergies or finicky dietary needs—long neglected by French chefs—can breathe a sigh of relief: The chef adapts the menu as needed. Compagnon’s other two spots, L’Office and Le Richer, are also worth a visit.
52 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis | No phone | www.faubourgstdenis.com
La Bourse et la Vie
Chef Daniel Rose, an American in Paris for over seventeen years, has been making headlines in New York City with the summer opening of Le Coucou. But his mini-empire in Paris is thriving, too. In 2015, he opened this 29-seat bistro mere blocks from the Palais Royal gardens. Rose may be American, but he trained in France, and his love of soul-warming, traditional French cooking shines at this ode to the traditional bistro. Think high-quality updates on comforting classics, like veal pot-au-feu, steak frites—the perfect balance of crispy and salty makes these the best fries in town—and whole-roasted chickens. The format might not be new, but the execution is wholly revamped.
12 Rue Vivienne | +33 01 42 60 08 83 | www.labourselavie.com
La Guinguette d’Angèle
Paris has never had much to offer vegans or the gluten averse, but at this to-go counter in the 1st arrondissement, naturopath and Délicieusement Green author Angèle Ferreux-Maeght offers casual plant-based cuisine that bursts with flavor. Open for lunch only, options may range from soups (leek, cucumber, and pear) and salads (peach, quinoa, radish, peas, and almonds) to "lunchboxes" packed with mixed veggies, like coconut-vanilla roasted celery, yellow zucchini, fennel and nectarines or pickled radishes with lime-dill guacamole and fresh sprouts. Dairy- and gluten-free desserts like plum-hazelnut tartelettes are thoroughly sumptuous, rivaling their traditional counterparts.
34 Rue Coquillière | No phone | laguinguettedangele.com
Sardinian chef Simone Tondo first earned a following for his spirited and inventive cooking at Roseval, a tiny neo-bistro in the 20th arrondissement (it has since become Dilia; see below). At his namesake establishment, located in the space that once housed La Gazzetta, the restaurant where Tondo got his start, the 28-year-old demonstrates his maturity as a chef with more overt inspiration from Italy. His €60 set dinner menu hews to the Italian format of antipasto-primo-secondo-dolce: A meal might start with homemade foccacia with mortadella aux truffes; progress to cod fish, eggplant, and tomato, followed by pigeon with zucchini and cherries; and conclude with an apricot tart. Whatever the menu, you can be sure of a harmonious mix of high-quality French and Italian ingredients.
29 Rue de Cotte | +33 01 43 47 47 05 | tondo-paris.com
The young Italian chef Michele Farnesi has passed through many of the city’s best kitchens, but it’s in this cozy corner of the 20th arrondissement that he lets his own style come through. Lunch is a simple selection of fish and fresh pasta dishes, generously priced (no more than €20), while dinner is a €60 tasting menu that plays with Italian and French influences and flirts with the sea: think squid with grapefruit and cabbage, raw bonito, and juicy octopus covered with fresh herbs and potato cream. Farnesi’s cooking is invariably precise and creative, never flashy.
1 Rue d’Eupatoria | +33 09 53 56 24 14 | www.dilia.fr
It’s all about the cooking at this bare-bones canteen in the gastronomic paradise of the 11th arrondissement, run by husband-and-wife team Omar Koreitem and Moko Hirayama. The couple’s experience at high-end restaurants shines through in dishes like labneh, marinated tomatoes, and za'atar on toast; roasted kabocha with tahini sauce; and miso sesame cookies. The menu, built around the couple’s Lebanese and Japanese origins, is refreshing in a city that has only recently warmed up to the idea of incorporating foreign flavors into French cooking. The restaurant can be reserved for private dinners at a generous rate of €40 per person (for a minimum of four people).
5 Rue Saint Bernard | +33 09 80 81 82 85 | facebook.com/mokonuts
Why not pair cocktails with a meal, instead of wine? That’s the idea behind this exceptional two-year-old neo-bistro run by Japanese chef Taku Sekine and bartender Amaury Guyot, owner of the popular bar Sherry Butt. From a long, open kitchen, Sekine and his team prepare Asian-inflected dishes like raw mackerel with tomatoes, red berries, shiso sprouts and purslane leaves, while Guyot fashions cocktails that complement whatever ends up on the plate. Though it isn't your typical brunch spot, the chef offers an à la carte menu on the weekend with lighter fare like avocado and fresh vegetables on toast, pancakes with fresh fruit, and Taipei-style boyu (thick homemade noodles marinated in ground pork and topped with fresh herbs). The sporadic ramen weekends, announced on Instagram, are worth the queue.
21 Rue Saint-Nicolas | +33 09 81 01 12 73 | www.dersouparis.com
La Cave à Michel
The lack of seats at this cave à manger (a wine bar–tapas bar hybrid with a special license requiring drinkers to order food) doesn’t seem to stop locals and food industry professionals alike from flocking here. At one end of the long bar, Fabrice Mansouri, Omnivore Guide’s Sommelier of the Year 2015, pours a robust selection of natural wines; at the other, chef Romain Tischenko, Top Chef France winner and owner of Le Galopin, the popular tasting-menu restaurant next door, cooks stunning small plates in the comically tiny kitchen. Dishes like egg-mayo, pollock ceviche, and wild asparagus with smoked feta make great pre-dinner snacks. Good times guaranteed, from Wednesday to Sunday. (If you're particularly drawn to wine, check out our roundup of the best wine bars in Paris.)
36 Rue Saint-Marthe | +33 01 42 45 94 47 | facebook.com/lacaveamichel
Simple and unfussy are the two operative words here. Owner Camille Fourmont has an exquisite selection of natural wines from France, Italy, and Greece that pair beautifully with a short list of snacks you’ll find handwritten on a mirror: fresh burrata with Sicilian olive oil, sardines with smoked salted butter and lemon chips, charcuterie, homemade pickles, and artisanal cheeses. Though this pocket-sized cave à manger fills up fast, the vibe rarely turns rowdy, making it an ideal spot for a laid-back drink amongst natural wine lovers. If you can’t snag one of the few seats or muscle your way to a spot at the counter, ask Camille for her recommendations, and take a bottle to go.
67 Rue Saint-Maur | +33 09 83 56 94 11 | paris.ilovebuvette.com
After climbing the ranks at New York City’s Gramercy Tavern and Eleven Madison Park, Brazilian chef Rafael Gomes came to Paris in 2015 to showcase his internationally inspired interpretations of French fare. The menu abounds in unexpected flavors like manioc—the chef’s root vegetable of choice—maitake mushrooms, and Mexican cucumbers. The contemporary brasserie is slotted into a lovely cobblestone courtyard in the Marais, so if you don’t mind the loud music bellowing from the dance studios above the restaurant, request a table on the spacious outdoor terrace.
41 Rue du Temple | +33 01 58 28 18 90 | www.grandcoeur.paris
You might call it Paris’s first culinary incubator. Fulgurances, a French food magazine, launched this restaurant last year as part of a culinary residency program in which the city’s top sous-chefs get the chance to run their own restaurant for six months. Earlier this year it was Chloé Charles, the former sous-chef at Septime. Until November, it’s Tamir Nahmias, formerly of Frenchie, Yam’Tcha, and l’Astrance, who’s cooking Middle Eastern-inspired dishes. For the diner looking for unbridled creativity and a preview of the food scene’s next potential stars, this is the spot to book.
10 Rue Alexandre Dumas | +33 01 43 48 14 59 | www.fulgurances.com
This is the second, more casual restaurant from American duo Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian, who run the revered tasting-menu restaurant Verjus less than a block away. The menu at lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch is built for sharing, and there’s plenty of New American cooking—the buttermilk fried chicken is the city’s best. Those with a powerful sweet tooth should save room for the malt ice cream with chocolate sorbet and espresso espuma. The sourdough bread, butter, vinegar, cheese, labneh, and charcuterie are all made in-house.
34 Rue de Richelieu | +33 01 42 60 59 66 | www.ellsworthparis.com
From the outside, this bistro, opened in 2015 by Loïc Martin, looks like your average neighborhood hangout, with a sizable terrace, simple wood chairs and tables, and a largely unfinished decor. But don’t be fooled by its modesty—this is the Right Bank’s best casual restaurant in its price range, where stunningly conceived small plates run €4–€12. The menu changes daily, but always embraces a pure, ingredient-driven simplicity: think variations on green beans, ricotta salata, and olives; homemade tagliolini with crab and tomatoes; and sea bream with dried bonito and hazelnut. And there will always be a fresh goat cheese.
24 Boulevard du Temple | +33 01 43 57 82 37 | bar-martin.fr
If you’re looking for a reason to spend the evening on the Left Bank, you’ll find it at this narrow wine bar owned by restaurateurs Juan Sanchez and Drew Harré. Perch on a stool at the bar and tuck into tapas dreamt up by Meilleur Ouvrier de France (the country’s most prestigious title) chef Eric Trochon: sesame soy shiitake mushrooms, falafel, fish beignets with black sesame mayo, Thai-grilled squid, duck hearts, and Corsican ham. With reasonable prices and small portions, don’t be surprised if you find yourself ordering the entire menu.
54 Rue du Seine | No Phone | facebook.com/Freddys
At his Marais smokehouse, Thomas Abramowicz, who has earned praise from leading Texas pitmasters Wayne Mueller and Aaron Franklin for his interpretations of barbecue, cooks up smoked beef rib and Black Angus brisket with sides of braised kale and mac and cheese. On Tuesday nights, his team offers fusion mash-ups: Pot-au-feu with brisket instead of paleron, smoked côte de boeuf, and cassoulet with housemade bacon instead of the traditional petit salé (salted pork). French craft beer from local brewers Deck & Donohue is on tap to wash it all down.
27 Rue Meslay | +33 07 81 02 99 77 | facebook.com/thebeastparis