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This culinary craving also acknowledges that bistrot cooking — all those wonderful slow-cooked dishes like blanquette de veau and coq au vin — is the bedrock of French gastronomy. It also means a preference for places with character, for real food cooked from scratch, for conversation and conviviality, and it implicitly respects the hard work and passion that go into running a small independent restaurant in Paris today.
Auberge Pyrénées-Cévennes 106 rue de la Folie Méricourt, 11th, 01.43.57.33.78. €30.
A truly Rabelaisian address hidden away in a blessedly ungentrified corner of the 11th arrondissement. The delicious smells of honest slow cooking fill the air as soon as you step inside, and with a warm welcome from Françoise, the world seems a much better place. Sausages dangle from big beams overhead, and for me every meal here is blissful agony in deciding what to have. If you love salade frisée aux lardons (curly endive with chunks of hot bacon) as much as I do, you’ve come to the right place, and the cassoulet and ris de veau au Porto (veal sweetbreads in port-wine sauce) are wonderful, too.
Robert et Louise 64 rue Vieille du Temple, 3rd, 01.42.78.55.89. €35. website
Don’t miss this hole-in-the-wall in the Marais where the house specialty is a giant côte de boeuf for two that’s cooked over an open fire.
Au Moulin à Vent 20 rue des Fosses Saint Bernard, 5th, 01.43.54.99.37. €40. website
At this delight long-time favorite in the Latin Quarter, try some of the best frog’s legs in Paris, or veal kidneys flamed in Armagnac, or a sublime filet steak with béarnaise sauce and homemade frites.
La Grille 80 rue du Faubourg Poissonnière, 10th, 01.47.70.89.73. €40.
La Grille, with a curious collection of dusty dolls dominating the decor, offers a wonderful anthology of bistrot dishes. The pièce de résistance is grilled turbot with the best beurre blanc in Paris.
La Tour Montlhéry-Chez Denise 5 rue des Prouvaires, 1st, 01.42.36.21.82. €40.
The last of the bawdy old late-night bistrots in Les Halles (open until 5 am Mon-Fri), which also offers a perfect cure for jet lag — what could be more fun than going to dinner at 2:30 am and digging into some grilled marrow bones and a big plate of mutton with white beans, washed down with a generous slosh of the cheap but harmless Beaujolais that sits in barrels just inside the front door?
Le Quincy 28 ave Ledru Rollin, 12th, 01.46.28.46.76. €45. website
Le Quincy is a bona fide country auberge come to town. It’s wonderfully fusty, and the menu proposes great Gallic grub, including dishes like caillettes, an Ardechois specialty of small patties of pork, pork liver, Swiss chard and herbs wrapped in caul fat and grilled. There’s also brandade de morue — salt cod mashed with potatoes and garlic — and one of the best chocolate mousses around.
Chez Georges 1 rue du Mail, 2nd, 01.42.60.07.11. €50. website
At Chez Georges, the clock seems to have stopped in, say, 1946. The long narrow room with its saggy banquettes and framed mirrors is pleasantly worn, and the waitresses are brisk but good-humored. The mimeographed menu changes constantly with the seasons, a perfect snapshot of the best eating in Paris on any given day.
Josephine Chez Dumonet 117 rue du Cherche Midi, 6th, 01.45.48.52.40. €50.
The food is lighter and more original than it’s been for a long time. Not surprisingly, the pretty dining room with globe lamps and a caramel-colored tobacco patina is starting to pull in a younger crowd — a very good sign, since without a new generation of bistrot lovers, these places won’t survive.
D’Chez Eux 2 ave Lowendal, 7th, 01.47.05.52.55. €60. website
A terrific old auberge behind Les Invalides popular with the well-heeled bourgeoisie of the Faubourg Saint Germain neighborhood and with French politicians — former French president Jacques Chirac invited ex-German chancellor and fellow food-lover Gerhard Schroeder to lunch here several times. It’s one of the only places left in Paris where you can still eat what I sometimes think of as Robert Doisneau food, or the hearty fare of pre-World War II Paris.
A La Biche Au Bois 45 ave Ledru-Rollin, 12th, 01.43.43.34.38. €40.
One of my favorite old-fashioned Paris bistrots, a jolly, sometimes raucous, no-nonsense place not far from the Gare de Lyon train station. Well-known and loved by Parisians during the game season — the name means the doe in the forest and gibier is a specialty — La Biche also serves a superb anthology of traditional bistrot dishes including the Beaujolais region’s classic coq au vin rooster — stewed in red wine — that’s almost worth the price of an airplane ticket.
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