Paris bistros and brasseries: French comfort food at its best

I was inspired to write this article by a Financial Times piece about French comfort food served in the bistros and brasseries of Paris. At present I am living in a city known for its excellent restaurants (notably those serving Asian food). But these restaurants also come and go with alarming frequency, and even if they stay around for more than two years, you cannot count on them maintaining the same high quality. What happens in San Francisco is this: a restaurant opens (like La Mar Cebicheria), serves amazingly good food for the first two months, gains a huge following, then the chef leaves and the quality of the food declines. Many of these restaurants manage to survive because they are in touristy areas. This has happened to a number of other restaurants we have come to love and regretfully have stopped going to, after dramatic changes in the menu and the quality of food and service.

In a place with a culinary tradition, restaurants are handed down from one generation to another, maintaining the same high level of quality; or where even where it’s not a family business, the new owner continues the tradition. Here in San Francisco, you can’t come back after ten years to your favorite place and expect the same quality of food and service (notable exceptions are restaurants such as Chez Panisse, but for this you pay a lot of money). Countries like Turkey, Japan, Italy and France  have a “food culture” backed by hundreds of years of tradition in cuisine. In those countries, you don’t have to spend a sum equal to your monthly paycheck to eat at a restaurant that serves a truly outstanding meal and if you come back years later, it’s still there, serving wonderful food. Case in point: on my last trip to Rome in October 2009, I went to Al Pompiere and Dal Bolognese, two restaurants I had visited in 1996. I wanted to try Al Pompiere’s fabulous bucatini alla’matriciana, which I loved on my previous visit more than ten years ago. To my surprise it was still very delicious. They had not compromised on the quality of the food. Neither was it expensive. It seems as though nothing has changed at Al Pompiere, despite a fire as few years ago that nearly destroyed. The same goes for Dal Bolognese: consistency in quality of food and service. It’s still there, serving three generations of Romans.

So back to my list of Paris bistros and brasseries, which includes those mentioned by the Financial Times. Some of these places have been around for a long time, serving good basic French fare, the kind of winter comfort food that sticks to your ribs and raises your cholesterol level. You’ll need to run from Paris to Chartres to work off the calories. Many French people get tired of it after a while and yearn for exotic dishes from Asia (which one can find in Paris) which are much lighter and healthier, but if they want classic French home-cooking, they can always go back to their favorite bistro or brasserie, and enjoy a good meal at a reasonable price (and prices of wine are much lower than in the US).

Most people go to the bistro or brasserie in their neighborhood, so here’s a list of Left and Right Bank favorites:


One of my favorites on the Left Bank is Allard. This is not the time to worry about cholesterol and calories. Indulge in duck with olives and baba au rhum.

41 rue St André des Arts
75006 Paris
+33 1 43 26 48 23
Métro: Odéon

Another favorite is Comptoir du Relais. Yves Camdeborde (formerly La Regalade, which I visited many years ago) now runs this wonderful bistro, conveniently located at the Carrefour de l’Odeon.

Comptoir du Relais
9, Carrefour de l’Odéon
75006 Paris
+33 1 44 27 07 97
Metro: Odeon

If you are looking for a brasserie near the Eiffel Tower and the Musee du Quai Branly (recommended museum), and want reasonably priced (main course 15 EUR), outstanding French food, go to Cafe Constant (run by Christian Constant).

Café Constant
139, rue Saint-Dominique
75007 Paris
+33 1 47 53 73 34
Metro: Ecole Militaire


In the 3rd arrondissment you’ll find the L’Ambassade d’Auvergne, which features regional cuisine from, what else, the Auvergne. You’ll find hearty peasant fare such as terrine of wild boar, cassolette de boudin noir (blood sausage), and blanquette de veau (veal stew).

L’Ambassade d’Auvergne
22, rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare
75003 Paris
+33 1 42 72 31 22
Metro: Rambuteau

If you are looking for a brasserie in the Marais (4th arrondissement), try Bofinger, which serves Alsatian food and other French classics. If you have never had choucroute (warning: lots of sauerkraut, sausages, and other cuts of pork), try it at least once. It’s very heavy, but very Alsatian, enough for two persons. If you’re not into giant portions of meat, try the oysters. They have a large variety of oysters at reasonable prices. Bofinger is a “scene” – a large, packed dining room with tall mirrors, a domed stained glass ceiling, wooden balustrades, and waiters in bow ties whizzing back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room.

Brasserie Bofinger
3, Rue Bastille
75004 Paris
+33 1 42 72 87 82
Metro: Bastille

Looking for something smaller, more intimate and less touristy than Bofinger? I like Bistrot Vivienne in the 2nd arrondissement, next to the Galerie Vivienne, an atmospheric, historic gallery with fashion boutiques and cafes. It’s a favorite among people who live and work near the Bourse.

Bistrot Vivienne
4, rue des Petits Champs
75002 Paris
+33 1 49 27 00 50
Metro: Bourse

If you prefer bistros and brasseries run by famous chefs, try Aux Lyonnais and Benoit. They belong to the Alain Ducasse empire. This is where you suspend your New Year’s health resolutions for at least a couple of hours. Recently spotted on the Benoit menu: civet de sanglier aux chataignes, le filet saute au lard paysan (boar stew with chestnuts, sauteed with bacon).

Aux Lyonnais
32, rue Saint-Marc
75002 Paris
+33 1 42 96 65 04
Metro: Richelieu-Drouot

20, rue Saint Martin
75004 Paris
+33 1 42 72 25 76‎
Metro: Hotel de Ville or Chatelet

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Check out all of our Paris favorites (hotels, restaurants and cafes).

About Esme Vos

Esme Vos is the founder of Mapplr, a travel site featuring boutique hotels, luxury resorts, travel guides and restaurant reviews. You can find her on and Twitter.