When examining the French influence in American history, it’s easy to see why so many bistros exist in New York City. Like many European countries, France embarked on extensive explorations throughout North America. In 1608, Samuel de Champlain founded the first permanent French colony in Quebec. This iconic moment led to further expeditions that ventured South. From the Northern area of New York State to the central portion of the Mississippi River, these missions made a bigger impact than many people imagined. The territory of Louisiana was named in honor of the French King Louis XIV, which later became an American state.
Even though France eventually lost control of their territories throughout North America, their legacy lives on in their cuisine. Well after the U.S. took control of the land, French immigration ramped up in America. Fueled by the failed 1848 Revolution, over 353,000 French immigrants poured into the country during the 19th century. In search of freedom of speech, the French Newspaper Le Republican started publishing in New York. These developments set the stage for thousands of French immigrants to start new lives in New York City.
Overtime these French citizens wove into the fabric of the local culture, and some of their biggest contributions to the community are through bistros. Boasting 26,642 restaurants, NYC’s endless amount of dining opportunities is the perfect place for French cuisine to shine. There are literally hundreds of bistros to choose from, which makes finding the best ones a surprisingly daunting task. To showcase which venues continuously exceed expectations, we compiled this list of the best bistros in NYC. Their epic menus are complimented by equally enchanting back stories, so prepare to get a look at New York’s finest bistros!
Best Bistros in New York City
Bistro #3: Le Bernardin – For those searching for a tasty alternative to meat-heavy French cuisine, this venue is a godsend. Instead of inundating clients with predictable offerings, Le Bernardin focuses exclusively on seafood. Their ten plus fish and shellfish entrées range from sautéed Dover sole with lemon-potato mousseline to seared langoustine with a foie gras crouton. They even have vegetarian tasting menus that have garnered international recognition.
This innovative blend of French ingenuity with an adoration for the sea has proved to be a winning combination. Le Bernardin has been awarded three Michelin stars and commands the most James Beard Awards of any NYC eatery. Their ability to turn skeptics into lifelong customers is legendary, so don’t hesitate to let their menu seduce your taste buds!
Bistro #2: Chez Napoléon – Ever since this bistro was established in 1960, it has become an essential part of the Theatre District. Their culinary masterpieces are so intricate that they have become staples of the community. From calf’s brains in caper-studded black butter to kidneys in mustard sauce, their feats prove that any part of the cow can be converted into a delicious meal. Their more traditional dishes don’t disappoint, since they range from tomato-based cassoulet to chocolate souffles. These dishes can take up to an hour to prepare, which ensures that each meal is fresh and ready to impress.
Bistro #1: Le Veau d’Or – Translating to The Golden Calf, this tucked away venue embodies France’s timeless impact on New York City. It was founded in 1937, which makes it the oldest French bistro in this bustling metropolis. From lamb stew to delightfully creamy desserts, their menu is so established that is has created a cult like following. Many of their customers have been indulging in their cuisine for decades, so stop by to see what all the fuss is about!