Paris’s finest bistros and their tastiest meals - Hexbag

Paris’s finest bistros and their tastiest meals


These seven timeless classics, from steak frites at Bistrot Paul Bert to French onion soup at La Poule au Pot, will never go out of style

Paris’s most iconic landmarks are the Eiffel Tower, Moulin Rouge, and cafe. It is also the most practical. Bistro, or bistrot, was founded in the 19th century to feed city workers and is an essential part of neighborhood life and traditional French cuisine. It’s no surprise that Parisian restaurateurs want to make their bistros and café terraces Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage, like the French dinner (since 2010) and the baguette (2022).

Nicola Williams eats for a job, writing Lonely Planet’s Paris city guide and PhotoCity Paris. She enjoys giving her bistro joie de vivre recommendations in Paris, from boeuf bourguignon and devilled eggs to a Grand Marnier-soaked soufflé.


Parisians go to bistro restaurants for economical lunches with coworkers or after-work drinks and supper with friends, making up 18,000 eating addresses in Paris and 10% of all restaurants in France. Neo-bistros push culinary creativity, but many authentic traditional bistros serve smoked herrings, boeuf bourguignon, to-die-for chocolate mousse, and other French classics – some fast-disappearing – in deliciously retro interiors evocative of a bygone Paris.

These timeless favorites are famed for their chefs’ superb execution of a certain signature bistro dish, offering a taste of France’s vast culinary history and unending epicurean enjoyment.


Nicola Williams Bistro Steak with Sarawak black pepper and cream sauce is Paul Bert’s specialty.

According to Nicola Williams, Bistro Paul Bert’s specialty is sirloin with Sarawak black pepper and cream sauce. (Nicola Williams)

1. Best for traditional steak frites: Bistro Paul Bert

Le Bistrot Paul Bert, the city’s most famous restaurant, is unpretentious and allows you to wash your dish with shredded crusty bread. After years in banking overseas, Parisian bon vivant Bertrand Auboyneau launched the cafe in 1997. His goal: to replicate the heartwarming scents, flavors, and foods of his boyhood in Paris.

A minimalist antique interior with zinc bar, sepia-toned walls, and polished dark-wood tables is shown through the crimson floor-to-ceiling door curtains. The haphazard wall collection of pictures, posters, and advertising tin plaques promoting Beaujolais Nouveau, Byrrh, and other old-time French beverages celebrates time rather than fashion.

Both the calf tripe with hot Espelette pepper and the carpaccio of tête de veau (boned, rolled, and roasted calf head) in a punchy anchovy marinade have a refinement you won’t find anywhere. Otherwise, the bistro’s filet de boeuf in Sarawak black pepper and cream sauce with slender fries is delicious. Unless you want royal blue, choose medium.

It’s on the web.

Address: 18 rue Paul Bert, 75011 Paris

Phone: +33 1 43 72 2401.

Instagram: @bistrotpaulbert

2. Best for seasonal specialties: Epi d’Or

Seasonal and everyday changes make À l’Épi d’Or (At the Ear of Gold) in Paris’ ancient market neighborhood a distinctive option.

Bistro advice:

• Many bistros are only open Monday–Friday, certain nights. Call ahead; several only accept phone reservations.

• Some restaurants offer fixed-price lunch menus with two or three dishes. Evening meals are typically à la carte.

Cheese and crusty bread, never butter, are offered before dessert. Espresso is usually served with a digestif liquor after a meal.

Ordering a carafe d’eau (tap water) is usually fine.

Paintings of namesake golden wheat sheaves on 19th-century oak-panelled walls evoke the circular grain exchange opposite (now contemporary art gallery Bourse du Commerce) and the surrounding countryside from which farmers sold their produce at Les Halles market (until the fresh food market was moved to Rungis in 1971).

At the Épi d’Or since 1880, famished market workers ate terrine de campagne, cornichons, bloodied steaks, and riz au lait (rice pudding). Little has changed in the brief menu. Even though Jean-François Piège, a double-starred Michelin chef, owns it, it’s easygoing and affordable.

Eggs-mayo, croque monsieur, and steak à cheval—a bun-less beef burger with a fried egg—are bistro classics. Mondays may include duck confit, Wednesdays blanquette de veau, and Fridays mousse au chocolat. The month’s starters may be pumpkin, endives, or kale. In August–March, you may obtain creamy raw-milk Mont d’Or, served warm and sticky with a spoon.


Address: 75001 Paris, 9 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Telephone: +33 1 42 36 32 96

3. Best fire-grilled meat: Robert et Louise

A lunch at gingham-curtained Robert et Louise shows how Parisian bistro and restaurant may blend. In 1958, Parisian Robert Georget and wife Louise built this “restaurant de feu” (wood-fire restaurant) on rue Vielle-du-Temple, before the gentrification of Le Marais. Pascale, their daughter, runs it now.

The cornerstone bistro’s simplicity and history show through. Dining at aged wooden tables in a rustic atmosphere with exposed stone, 1950s painted flower-ceramic tiles, and 17th-Century ceiling beams is casual. You must book weeks in advance to sit at the top table, a communal table d’hôte for eight overlooking the chef frying T-bone steaks and andouillette (tripe sausage) over an open fire. The basement dining room is substandard.

Begin the meal with buttery garlic snails in their shells, boudin noir, or smoked herring. The beef rib, T-bone, and lamb chops are served on a wooden plate for sharing or eating alone. Can’t fit another bite? Instead of cheese and mousse au chocolat, try Cognac, Armagnac, or Vieille Prune de Souillac, which promote digestion.


Paris, 64 rue Vieille-du-Temple, 75003.

Phone: +33 1 42 78 55 89

4. Best fish and seafood: Le Chardonoux

This 11th-arrondissement café, a 1908 historic landmark, evokes Belle Époque Paris. The polished-wood facade with marble inlays and lavish interior belie its humble origins as a watering hole and eatery for local craftsmen and farmers to sell their wares at market, with a sawdust floor and zinc bar requisitioned by the Germans during World War Two to make ammunition.

In 2008, celebrity pâtisserie chef and French TV personality Cyril Lignac bought the cafe and hired Swedish interior architect Martin Brudnizki to transform it into a chic, modern hangout for the rich. The fluffy lampshades and ceiling frescoed with pea-green and emerald leaves would be garish otherwise, but in the perfectly recreated Art Nouveau ensemble of thick white tablecloths and mirrored boiserie, they remind Paris of yesteryear.

Fish and seafood are specialties. Langoustine ravioli and salt-crusted sea bass are beautifully presented. They’re also little, making dessert unavoidable, a godsend considering Lignac’s outstanding pastry and chocolate. Vanilla mille-feuille with caramelized pecan nuts and smooth vanilla cream will wow.


Address: 75011 Paris, 1 avenue Jules Vallès

Phone: +33 1 43 71 49 52

5. Recommended for truffles and old-fashioned soufflé: Joséphine Chez Dumonet

Joséphine Chez Dumonet is the Left Bank’s classic restaurant, located at the southern end of shop-packed rue du Cherche-Midi in the 6th arrondissement. The Dumonet family has managed the restaurant for 30 years, thus the double-barrelled name on its chocolate-brown awning covering its wood-and-glass exterior. It started in 1898 as Joséphine and was frequented by intellectuals and the literati.

Traditional bistro cuisine with a gourmet twist shine. Any dinner begins with a free amuse-bouche, and bread unusually comes with a slab of creamy unsalted Normandy butter that may be eaten like cheese. Professionals say chef Jean-Christian Dumonet’s thick, earthy beef stew, slow-cooked in red wine and served in a copper pot with handmade tagliatelle, is Paris’ finest. In winter, gourmets like black truffles in omelettes, puff pastry, artichoke hearts, and beef with foie gras.

Paris’ signature dish is the lighter-than-air Grand Marnier soufflé, requested first. The mid-19th-century egg dish, served with Grand Marnier, takes time, talent, and oven space. Prick the golden crust to pour or drink between bites. Either way, prepare for epicurean paradise.

117 rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 Paris

Phone: +33 1 45 48 52 40

6. Bistrot des Tournelles pairs boutique wines well.

In late 2022, clever restaurateur Édouard Vermynck created this traditional café, proving that Gen Z Paris is reviving bistro nostalgia. Walking distance from the Bastille’s new opera theater and the Belle Époque Bofinger brasserie in the vibrant 12th arrondissement guarantees a filled house.

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But the main draw is the clever mix of French childhood favorites made from the best ingredients: croque monsieur with the city’s only salt-cured Prince de Paris ham, chicken cordon bleu with tangy Comté cheese, and skinny fries with rich homemade mayonnaise. Chef Geoffrey Langella, a butcher’s son, excels in his andouillette and daube de boœf à la Provençal (thyme- and tomato-laced beef stew).

The basic yet elegant space has just a dozen tables with ancient bentwood chairs, lighted by candles at night. Wall mirrors disguise its pocket size. Solo diners may crouch at the tiny marble-topped bar and watch Vermynck open corks on rare Bourgogne and Côtes du Rhône reds (many organic or natural) or pour vintage snifters of pea-green Chartreuse, Menthe-Pastille, and other French liqueurs.


Address: 6 rue des Tournelles, 75004 Paris

Phone: +33 1 57 40 99 96

Bistrotdestournelles on Instagram

7. Best for French onion soup and frog legs: La Poule au Pot

This upscale restaurant in Les Halles’ historic market district serves French bourgeois cuisine despite its baby-pink tablecloths, sparkling Art Deco mosaics, and tassel lampshades. It was a butcher’s store until 1935, when it became a cafe. Since 2018, renowned Michelin-starred chef Jean-François Piège and his wife Elodie have run it. Brass plaques above Bordeaux-red banquette seats honor 363 artists, actresses, and rock icons who dined here.

La Poule’s gratinée à l’oignon (French onion soup) is served year-round, even during summer heatwaves. It combines caramelized onions with broth-soaked bread and cheese. Frog legs, snails with garlic-parsley butter, and bone marrow are classic starts. Henri IV (1589–1610), a prosperous French monarch, famously ordered that all his people should be able to purchase a poule au pot on Sunday, introducing it to the menu in 1935. Flambéed steaks in pepper sauce are presented with centuries-old side dishes like mashed potato, buttery spinach, and macaroni in rustic Le Creuset pots or flatware plates. Enjoy a drunken crêpes suzette or île flottante with stunning pink pralines to finish.


Address: 9 rue des Vauvilliers, 75001 Paris

Telephone: +33 1 42 36 32 96

Lapouleaupotparis on Instagram

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