This classic, checkered tablecloth bistro with an excellent cheese plate.
Read an old travel guide to France, and you’ll likely find mention of les routiers. At these roadside restaurants catering to truckers, grub was classic, cheap, and good. And despite the absence of any highway running through the trendy 11th arrondissement, Aux Bons Crus evokes these restaurants of yore.
Le Maquis is a small French restaurant located on the far side of Montmartre boasting small portions of impeccable, contemporary bistro fare and a small, all-natural wine list. A slight Italian leaning pervades the menu, which also includes more classic French dishes. Lunch is a steal at 16-euro for two courses and 18 for three.
At the impossibly young age of 24, Arnaud Nicolas achieved one of the highest honors in gastronomy – the title Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) – for his talent in charcuterie. Fourteen years later, he opened an ambitious shop and restaurant near the Eiffel Tower with the explicit goal of returning charcuterie to a place of honor on the French table. In the same way that prize-winning artisans have reshaped traditional baguette-making and pâtisserie, Nicolas wants to reintroduce charcuterie to palates that have become used to mediocre industrialized examples. So is it really that different? Yes.
With its worn wooden tables, intricately painted ceilings, and charcuterie slicer propped on the marble counter, L’Assiette has the precise look of a dream Paris bistro. It also serves many of the classic dishes, like escargots and cassoulet, which have mostly disappeared from the city’s restaurants. The far-flung location in the 14th arrondissement, near the Catacombs but far from the center, has probably helped L’Assiette to stay off the tourist radar. Chef David Rathgeber and his team are friendly with visitors but don’t cater to them. The customers who come to indulge in this hearty fare are mostly local, which makes this a great option for tourists looking to avoid their own countrymen.
Le Villaret is one of our favorite Classic Bistros in Paris. Sometimes in life we chase after the ones who play hard-to-get and we ignore the nice, stable options who just want to treat us right. Le Villaret is the homely neighborhood bistro that I never appreciated until I stopped looking for love at Le Baratin and Le Repaire de Cartouche.
Food and wine pilgrims, particularly those who read the New York Times or watch Anthony Bourdain, are willing to climb the hill for this Belleville institution. Raquel Carena tends the fire, offering her own personal brand of bistro cooking – sometimes delicate, sometimes hearty, always heartfelt. In stark contrast to the loving kitchen, the dining room is cold as ice, thanks to the joyless leadership of Carena’s husband Philippe.
Mensae is a contemporary French bistro not far from the sprawling Buttes-Chaumont park. Classics like frogs’ legs and steak tartare are frequently featured on the ever-changing menu, revisited with a contemporary bent and more reasonable portion size than the behemoths found in other restaurants. Don’t miss the chocolate mousse for dessert.