Parisians, unlike New Yorkers or Londoners, are a lot less likely to jump into a cab and head to destination restaurants all over town (except for special occasions) or to splurge at stratospheric palaces. They are neighborhood diners, and with plenty of delectable bistros du coin (old and new) in virtually every neighborhood, there is no need to travel far. Plus walking home is part of the pleasure and is good for digestion, after all.
“What’s your favorite restaurant in …?” I am asked frequently by friends, colleagues, readers and acquaintances who share my passion for good food. My first response is it changes all the time, depending on time, location, mood, season, company and much more. One of my favorite cities for food still is Paris (surprise, surprise). For the last five years I admit to having become a fan of Paris’s modern bistros and follow the trend dubbed bistronomie, which provide some nice fits with our twenty-first-century urban lifestyle.
“Bistronomie” is a propagation of the old bistro with a twist: a small and contemporary room with no mega budget for decor as what counts there is in your plate. So expect a casual, comfortable and relaxed atmosphere where the chef is usually young and has trained at some of the top places, or perhaps is already a Michelin-starred chef who wanted to open something modest, authentic and convivial in contrast or addition to their “fancy” place. The modern bistro can also be the product of a reconversion of a chef into a “less is more” and “simplicity in all things” kind of person (and fitting my lifestyle philosophy well). The menu is usually limited to half a dozen or fewer choices each for appetizers, main courses and desserts, and there are well-thought-out choices of wines by the glass. The emphasis is on freshness, seasonality and sometimes a revisited version of a classic, but more often than not, simple cooking with enhanced flavors via herbs and oils. When it works, and it generally does, it’s sheer pleasure. The price range varies from the low-20 Euros to the mid-40 Euros for a three-course meal per person with a glass of wine, though lunch is a particularly great value as one can often play with two courses (appetizer and main course or main course and dessert) versus three. Plus the lunch menu is generally less expensive than the dinner one for the very same dishes with an additional bonus: less crowded, less noise and often better service, which for me helps keep the focus on food and friends.
New places are emerging all the time, but here is a list of the dozen I visit whenever I can as they give my guests and me lots of pleasures at down-to-earth prices.
La Régalade, 123 rue St Honoré, 1er arrondissement
Café Moderne, 40 rue Notre Dame des Victoires, 2ème
Le Gaigne, 12 rue Pecquay, 4ème
Colliot, 40 Clos des Blancs Manteaux, 4ème
Itinéraires, 5 rue de Pontoise, 5ème
KGB, 25 rue des Grands-Augustins, 6ème
L’Alycastre, 2 rue Clément, 6ème
L’Epigramme, 9 rue de l’Eperon, 6ème
Le Café Constant, 139 rue St Dominique, 7ème
L’Avant Goût, 26 rue Bobillot, 13ème
Petites Sorcières, 12 rue Liancourt, 15ème
Agape, 51 rue Jouffroy d’Abbans, 17ème
Editor’s Note: Mireille Guiliano is the internationally bestselling author of French Women Don’t Get Fat. Her latest book isThe French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. Born in France, she now divides her time between New York City, Paris and Provence. She can be reached at mireilleguiliano.comand frenchwomendontgetfat.com.