The Hot List

The Buzziest French Restaurants in New York City

Textbook-perfect steak frites, right this way.

7 min read
9/27/2022
claudette

A warm baguette and butter. Steak and frites. Grilled merguez and polenta. And one more iconic duo: you and the hottest French restaurant in New York City. 

A slew of NYC French restaurants have dusted off their fusty reputations while sticking largely to the classic dishes (with some notable exceptions), and locals have definitely taken notice. Which means they’re super hot right now — and also super hard to get into. 

But thanks to Caviar, you can savor the creamy escargot, fortifying boeuf bourguignon, and all the buttery baked goods. Bust out your white tablecloth; you’ve got a date with one of the 18 buzziest French restaurants in NYC tonight.


Frenchette

Chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson veer ever so slightly away from traditional French food (see: the pillowy cinnamon buns) at their Tribeca restaurant, but that’s exactly what makes it special. The fries are crisped up in peanut oil, the poulet roti is made with whole heritage birds, and the carrots are charred and sprinkled with za’atar, making for one spectacular meal.

Buvette

This West Village restaurant from chef Jody Williams is the platonic ideal of a charming French bistro. Every dish is dialed in: the oozy croque monsieur, best paired with a mountain of grated carrots, pistachios, and cilantro laced in a lemony vinaigrette, the classic steak tartare, the velvety duck rillette, and all the charcuterie and fromage.

Balthazar Restaurant

Few salads scream “power lunch,” with the exception being the namesake salad at this Soho icon from restaurateur Keith McNally. In it, snappy greens (haricot verts, asparagus, fennel) are tossed with avocado, ricotta salata, and a truffle-infused dressing, and it’s popular for good reason. Complete the meal with the goat cheese and onion tart or the steak frites.

Balthazar

Dominique Ansel Workshop

Technically not a restaurant, but it’d be wrong to overlook this butter-laden wonderland Dominique Ansel has conjured in Flatiron. Order the ham, brie, and cornichon laminated ficelle, which is like a croissant sandwich; brown sugar DKAs, his take on the classic Breton pastry kougin-amann; orange-scented brioche bressane; and caramel feuilletine clusters for later.

Lafayette

Chef Andrew Carmellini’s Noho restaurant is busy all hours of the day. In the morning, you can grab creative pastries (French onion scone, blueberry buttermilk muffin). For lunch, you’re in good hands with smoked salmon on a croissant and jambon-filled banh mi. And dinner means a whole rotisserie chicken with a side of green beans almondine. What’s not to love about that?

Boucherie

Perfectly medium-rare, butter-basted steaks are the draw of this mini empire of French steakhouses, with outposts in Midtown West, West Village, and Union Square. The latest member of the family, La Grande Boucherie (in Midtown West) is beloved for its French onion soup, boeuf bourguignon, and steak frites, naturally. 

boucherie

La Mercerie

At this stylish Soho restaurant, chef Marie-Aude Rose reimagines classic French food through a modern lens. She nestles confit duck leg over creamy polenta and subs hazelnut flour for wheat in her decadent (and gluten-free) chocolate cake. It all adds up to elegant French food like nowhere else in the city.

L'Express

This Lyonnaise bistro in the heart of Gramercy is famed for its late-night hours and beloved for its well-executed staples. Escargot, succulent frog legs, frisee aux lardons (you know, French for bacon bits), and moules marinieres are at your service until 9 p.m.

Dirty French

Adjust your expectations when ordering from this Lower East Side restaurant; make them over the top. The team behind Carbone is well-versed in cranking up cuisines to the highest decibel, and you can see it in the fine-tuned, whimsical French food here, like the bird’s eye chili–spiked tuna tartare and the Burger Maison smothered in raclette and caramelized onions.

Tartine Restaurant

This pocket-size French restaurant has been drawing diners (and lines) since chef Thierry Rochard opened it in 1992. The menu is all classic French bistro — think steak au poivre slicked in a green peppercorn sauce, escargot, tuna tartare (there’s guacamole on that tartare!), and, yes, frites — and they continue to satisfy and surprise.

Patisserie Chanson

Sure, this daytime spot in Flatiron has it all — pain perdu and scrambled egg croissant sandwiches in the morning, grain bowls and satisfying soups in the afternoon. But the must-order here are the baked goods. You could make an entire meal out of the incredibly layered croissants, salted almond croissants (genius), raspberry, and buttery, sugary kouign-amann. And we won’t admit if we’ve done that more than once.

Pastis

This Meatpacking District icon is back and better than ever. Restaurateurs Keith McNally and Stephen Starr have revived the old-school bistro, along with the menu. Get the grilled hanger steak with a side of shrimp cocktail — ice cold and served with cocktail sauce and a lemon wedge — and zippy salade verte, and we highly recommend an additional order of Bordier butter.

Pastis

French Louie

Okay, okay, this Boerum Hill spot isn’t French French, but French Canadian, and it’s so good (and the perfect date night) we let it slide. Like its sister restaurant Buttermilk Channel, French Louie specializes in food that’s both creative and comforting; see the salad niçoise served on chewy socca, frites made of anchovies and served with aioli and fried lemon, and the Burger Royale crowned with raclette.

Tournesol

“Solid” and “timeless” is how many diners describe this Long Island City bistro, and these qualities are what continue to bring them back. Try the crunchy endive salad with blue cheese and pears, rosy duck breast with celery puree, goat cheese croquettes with hunks of earthy beet, or marquise au chocolat (cake!), and you’ll understand why.

Claudette

This Greenwich Village restaurant specializes in Provençal cooking with North African influences woven throughout. There’s hummus topped with truffle, sweet potato croquettes seasoned with house-made harissa, braised lamb over couscous, and frites, frites, frites. You can also let the restaurant handle the order with the prix-fixe menu for one (you do you!) or two.

claudette

Le Bilboquet

Since 1986, this Upper East Side globally inspired French bistro has kept the party going. You can get your frites,ratatouille, endive salad stippled with Roquefort cheese, and tuna tartare with wonton crisps alongside the house special: Le Poulet Cajun — moist chicken breasts rubbed with a signature cajun spice mix and served with beurre blanc.

Raclette

There is nothing more satisfying than watching a layer of torched raclette swiped from the cheese wheel and put onto a plate of roast potatoes and cornichons. And there is nothing more delicious, either. The namesake dish is traditionally Swiss and is the star at chef Edgar Villongco’s East Village restaurant, but the rest of the menu is classic French; the fig tartine topped with triple cream cheese and the deconstructed creme brulee both shine.

Lucien

Brush up on your French because you’ll kind of need it for this iconic restaurant in the East Village (though thankfully Caviar has done most of the translating for you). Dig into the salade nicoise with rare tuna, grilled merguez afloat a pool of polenta, Burgundy-style snails, and roast chicken with string beans and garlic. Bonus: The restaurant sells wine from all over France to complete your meal.

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Caviar Staff

Caviar Staff

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