Brasseries & Bistrots: The 2 B’s of Paris
(A brasserie in Ile St. Louis)
Forget the Michelin-starred jewels of Paris’s culinary crown. A brasserie (meaning brewery) is sophisticated without being stuffy. These are much more than the simple beer taverns of Paris’s past. Brasseries are where the French go to eat well at a reasonable price, and where tourists should go for an authentic peek into Parisian life.
Picture a brightly lit space, leather banquettes, Art Nouveau decor and a menu of French classics: steak tartare—raw minced beef often seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, capers, raw egg and freshly ground black pepper, choucroute—sauerkraut and sausages, and a wide selection of wine and beer.
Tips: Order a carafe of house wine to avoid the often-pricey wine lists. Expect to pay around €30 per person, and remember the brasseries are open all day, late into the evening.
(A bistrot in Paris’s St. Germaine neighborhood)
If you’re more home-cooking than haute cuisine, the bistrot, a Parisian institution, is right up your alley. A bistrot, often featuring a small menu and an extensive wine list, is an undeniably unpretentious place to gather and eat good, simple food.
(Boeuf bourguignon for dinner.)
Meaty classics like coq au vin—chicken braised in a red wine sauce and bœuf bourguignon—beef braised with red wine, give you a sense that you’re dining in your French grandmother’s kitchen, rather than cosmopolitan Paris. However, many young chefs are challenging the classic bistrot image and opening avant-garde bistrots featuring exotic ingredients.
Tips: Bistrot menus are often written up on chalkboards; in French only. Do yourself a favor and memorize simple words like chicken, beef, fish, etc. to get a better idea of what you’re ordering. Better yet, write down some dishes you want to try while you’re in Paris and find a bistrot that serves them.
Have you experienced Paris’s dining scene? Where’s the best bistrot or brasserie you’ve been to?