French haute cuisine defined the first wave of fine dining in New York. Restaurants like Lutèce, Le Grenouille, and Lespinasse wooed diners with opulent interiors, rare bottles of wine, and classic dishes like blanquette de veau. The aforementioned fine-dining palaces are long gone—apart from Le Grenouille, which is going strong after 50-plus years—but their influence is not.
In the wake of New York’s “Le” and “La” restaurants of the ’60s, dozens of brasseries with subway tiles and steak frites have emerged. So have restaurants devoted to championing the greatness of poulet rôti, alongside casual Francophile hangouts where you can wash down coq au vin and rich tarte tatin with a $6 glass of Côtes du Rhône. There’s a romance we’ve all come to associate with French restaurants—and if that magic is what you’re seeking, the restaurants on this list are sure to hit the spot.
From old-school classics to Brooklynized French bistros, here are our favorite French spots in NYC.