This blog post was originally posted on April 9, 2019 and was updated on September 29, 2020.
No visit to Paris is complete without dining in an authentic bistro.
Just ask the Parisians who want to see these bistros awarded with UNESCO intangible cultural heritage status! And we’ve got to agree: with traditional dishes, a convivial atmosphere and (often) affordable prices, they are a great way to sample French food and culture.
Here we round up our selection of the best in the city, from classic eateries serving up hearty fare, to the “neo-bistros” offering their take on modern bistro dining.
The 5 Best Bistros in Paris
1. Les Philosophes
Renowned restaurateur Xavier Denamur is the man behind some of the most popular spots in Le Marais, with three of his four bistros all found together on rue Veille du Temple, and the fourth just a minute’s walk around the corner.
Xavier is known for serving up classic French food with an emphasis on organic, local ingredients, and is refreshingly honest about what goes—and what doesn’t go—into his dishes. You’ll even find him posting the odd recipe on his website from time to time.
The menu is similar at all four of his bistros, however, the largest of the group is Les Philosophes. This means it’s not only the easiest to get a table at, but it also boasts the biggest terrace.
You can’t really go wrong with any of the dishes, although the French onion soup is the ultimate comfort food in winter. For dessert, the humble flan pâtissier, a vanilla flan created by Benjamin Turquier of renowned bakery Tout Autour du Pain, is (as the menu describes) “unmissable.“
2. Café des Anges
With its worn wooden furniture and checked tablecloths, Café des Anges offers guests a traditional bistrot setting, but with a varied neo-bistro menu. You’ll find everything from French classics to Asian-inspired dishes, and a good selection of vegetarian and vegan options to boot.
Down-to-earth with well-priced, good food, it’s a popular spot with the Parisian bobos in the area. Bobo is a term used to describe Paris’ fashionable young creatives, who are even honored at the bistro with their own, very tasty Bobo Salad. It’s not unusual to spot the odd French celebrity here, either!
Unlike some other addresses in Paris, it’s open seven days a week until 2 a.m. You can also reserve, but it’s usually pretty easy to walk in and grab a table, even if you just want to pop by for a glass of wine or two.
3. Chez Georges
Open since 1964, Chez Georges is now in the hands of the third generation of the Brouillet family.
A good option for groups, Chez Georges has a long line of tables on each side of the room and allows you to reserve as many as you need. But if you’re dining solo, as a couple or in a small group, expect to be sitting snugly next to your neighbors, in true Paris bistro style.
You’ll have to decipher the handwritten menu before you order, but dishes to look out for include the classic bistro starter, oeuf mayonnaise, made at Chez Georges with organic eggs and homemade mayo. Another standout is the simple but beautifully tender lamb and entrecôte steak.
Don’t leave without trying a dessert—the baba au rhum might be one of the best you’ll find in a bistro in Paris, and the tarte Tatin is just delicious. At €12 each, portions here are on the pricier side for Paris bistros, but they’re generous and can be easily shared among two, if not three.
4. Aux Bons Cru
Aux Bons Cru might be a new addition to Paris’ bistro scene, but it still offers traditional decor and a cozy setting for an authentic experience.
In fact, it is one of only four routiers left in Paris. What’s a routier, you ask?
These are restaurants traditionally used by truck drivers on the motorway, which have to meet a certain set of requirements to receive routier status. This includes seasonal dishes and fair prices for both food and wine, which can only be marked up by a set amount, unlike in other restaurants where the owners set the prices. When on the highway, routiers also offer amenities such as a shower to freshen up.
Though you won’t find showers in Paris routiers, you can still expect the good food and good prices. The menu at Aux Bons Crus changes every month, although there are always classics available, such as entrecôte steak, served with a real béarnaise sauce, and pot-au-feu (French stew), as well as veggie options. The desserts are big enough to share, and the flaming crêpe Suzette makes a tasty—and boozy—end to dinner.
5. Au Pied de Fouet
Although you can dine well in many Paris bistros at a reasonable price, it doesn’t get cheaper than Au Pied du Fouet. Here, starters and desserts start at just €3, wine by the glass at €3.50, and mains dishes around the €10 mark.
The menu is small, but still offers a good selection of traditional bistro dishes—think homemade confit de canard (duck confit), tarte Tatin, and a selection of French cheeses. Everything is made from fresh, local and seasonal produce.
Along with the simple but hearty food, the bistro is also known for its authentic setting and warm atmosphere. Unsurprisingly, there’s is often a line to get in. The space is small and doesn’t accept reservations. However, there are also two sister addresses around a 20-minute walk away, as well as La Brasserie du Pied de Fouet around 35 minutes by foot, although the prices here are not quite as impressive.
Ready to experience an authentic Parisian bistro like a true local? Our Ultimate Paris Food Tour is calling your name. You’ll feel like a born-and-bred Parisian yourself as you step into one of the best bistros in Paris (and that’s just one stop on a whole morning full of foodie fun).
Nicola Leigh Stewart is a travel writer who, after living in London and Madrid, finally settled in Paris. Always thinking about her next meal, her favorite thing about France is the food, and she spends most of her weekends in search of the flakiest pain au chocolat in Paris, the best fromagerie, and more importantly, the best cocktail happy hour.