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8 Types of French Restaurants (With Examples in the US)

When it comes to French restaurants, there are many different types to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a casual dining experience or a more upscale setting, a French restaurant is perfect for you. 

There are many different types of French restaurants, from casual bistros to more formal gastronomic restaurants. Below is a summary of some of the most common types of French restaurants:

  1. Bistros
  2. Brasseries
  3. Wine Bars
  4. Cafes
  5. Fine Dining
  6. Auberge
  7. Bouchon
  8. Chocolatier

French restaurants are some of the most popular in the world. In this blog post, we’ll look at some of the different types of French restaurants, so you can better decide which is suitable for your next dining experience.

8 Different Types of French Restaurants

There isn’t any absolute answer to the question of what makes a French restaurant French. However, some key elements that often distinguish French restaurants from their American counterparts are the use of fresh, local ingredients, a focus on fine dining, and a focus on wine and wine pairing.

Some of the most iconic French restaurants include Les Arcs in Aspen, Colorado, and Le Bernardin in New York City. Both restaurants are known for their innovative cuisine and unique wine lists, perfect for exploring the many different wines from France.

If you need a more relaxed, casual French dining experience, consider checking out one of the many brasseries throughout the United States. These restaurants are often filled with locals and offer an excellent atmosphere for catching up with friends.

Whatever your appetite may be, there is sure to be a French restaurant that suits your needs. So whether you are in the spirit of a romantic dinner for two or a night out with friends, be sure to try the many options available in the United States.

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Now, let’s look at some of the different types of French restaurants for the next time that you’re in the mood for French cuisine!

1. Bistros (un Bistro)

Bistros in Paris are known for serving veal chops and hearty stews for those cold wintery days. They are trendy among connoisseurs of French cuisine, so Bistros are likely to be crowded at the best of times. Bistros offer a casual atmosphere with reasonably priced meals. 

However, if you can see past the crowded and cramped tables, you will get a glimpse into some of France’s best culinary dishes. Many bistros sell other items like lottery tickets, tobacco, and scratch-off games. 

Bistros tend to be opened during meal hours, from about 11:30 am to around 2:00 pm for lunch and from 7:30 pm to 11:00 pm for dinner. Here are two popular Bistros that are worth mentioning:

Juveniles

  • Address: 47 Rue de Richelieu, Paris, France (near the Louvre)

Juveniles is one of those family-owned Bistros run by Margaux, and her chef-husband, Romain.

Their beautiful food is cooked in a tiny kitchen and served with wine selected from their personal wine collection from their wine cellar.

The terrine and rice pudding are highly recommended and are a perfect end to your delicious meal.

Buvette

  • Address: 42 Grove Street, New York

Chef Jody Williams established this little bistro in the heart of bustling New York in early July 2011. Buvette is part restaurant and bar; still, it combines the elegance of an old-style café with the casual nature of your neighborhood eatery.

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It is a light space perfect for an early morning espresso, a long lunch of several dishes, or even a late-night digestif. Buvette has bistros spread in New York, Paris, Tokyo, and Mexico City.

2. Brasserie (un Brasserie)

Brasseries serve conventional French food, drinks, and coffee at reasonable prices. They offer a broader menu than bistros and are usually bustling all day long, from early morning til late night. 

Brasserie means “brewery” in French, so you can expect a beer and wine list that will satisfy any French cuisine aficionado. Your brasserie meal typically includes steak and frites, mussels, and frites (French fries). Here are two brasseries that are worth trying out:

La Brasserie

  • Address: 411 Park Avenue, S New York

Situated in Brasserie Les Halles on Park Avenue South, La Brasserie brings gourmand cooking into New York.

La Brasserie was started by Francis Staub, the founder of the cookware brand Staub Cookware. Brasserie restaurants are known for their casual, informal atmosphere. 

La Brasseries’ dishes are ingredients-driven and ideal for combining with a good bottle of wine from their drinks menu. La Brasserie was formerly Les Halles, one of Anthony Bourdain’s iconic restaurants. 

Le Bernardin

  • Address: 155 W 51st Street, New York

Le Bernardin is a highly acclaimed restaurant boasting three Michelin stars and a few James Beard Awards to go with it.

Eric Ripert breaks from the French cuisine norm of heavy meat-laden dishes. He offers over ten shellfish entrees and sautéed Dover sole with lemon potato mousseline and seared langoustine with foie gras crouton. 

You might be surprised to discover that Le Bernardin also has a decent selection of vegetarian dishes for their vegan and vegetarian customers.

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3. Wine Bars

Wine Bars are a recent French-styled eatery that serves more than the regular three to four glasses of wine. There is usually an emphasis on natural wines served with small dishes or traditional charcuterie and a selection of fine cheeses. 

Nowadays, you can also find full gourmet meals at some wine bars to satisfy your hunger for French cuisine. If you’re keen on trying out a wine bar or two if you’re in New York, here are two popular ones that are worth spending some time at:

Vin Sur Vingt

  • Address: 201 W 11th Street West Village

Vin Sur Vingt feels like a classic French wine bar, with brick interiors, wooden tables, and Bouteille. The wine selections are plentiful, and you can pair your wine with classic French dishes like tartines, Fromage, casoulettes, and a charcuterie platter. 

The wine is fantastic, the service is simple, and the space is relaxed and laid back. It is perfect for a small get-together with family and friends or a date night. At dinnertime, they dim the lights and turn up the music.

Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels

  • Address: 249 Centre Street, New York

Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels is everything you could imagine of a wine bar; it is cozy, relaxed, and packed with superb wines. Dim lights, low tables, and music that almost feels like a nightclub puts a New York twist on the classic French wine bar.

Although this is a reasonably sized space, the bar and tables fill up relatively fast. It might be best to get there early to secure a table and enjoy the incredibly affordable happy hour meals. 

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Their menu boasts dishes like Calamarata Pasta, Duck Confit, and Basque Cheesecake. They also have a fantastic selection of cheeses like Comte, Brebiroutsse, and Cremolo di Bufala that would go well with a good bottle of wine.

4. Cafes (un Café)

The classic French café has become rooted in France’s reputation that you can hardly imagine the country without it. Cafes are casual neighborhood hangouts and are also known for trendy atmospheres. 

They serve coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and light snacks like toasted sandwiches. Cafes are typically open from early morning until the evening. Unlike other French restaurants, cafes do not close at midday. Here are two popular cafes for you to try out:

Shop

  • Address: 232 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn

The shop is a little café in Brooklyn, a part shop, a design studio, and a café. Their menu is tasteful and reasonably priced. They have a good selection of coffees, all the popular ones that we have come to love and enjoy. 

You can get an avo toast with feta, citrus herb oil, chili flakes, and micro greens on sourdough for around $9.50. A long black coffee will cost about $3, and a Latte is a mere $4.25. 

If you are there early in the morning, you can enjoy a Brekki Bun, for about $11.75, with fried egg, organic bacon, cheese, onion jam, and arugula on a toasted ciabatta bun. The Shop isn’t your traditional French café; instead, it serves the Australian market.

Maman

  • Address: 607 Lexington Avenue, New York

Maman is ‘mother’ in French and is the product of the founders recreating their childhood memories in a classic café. It is the perfect stop for lunch or coffee, and some of their establishments even have a full bar. 

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Their menu includes breakfast sandwiches, specialty drinks, and salads. The décor is French countryside and feels welcoming and homely.

They have about twenty locations all over the US and two more in Canada. They are typically open from 7:30 to 6 pm in the evenings. 

5. Fine Dining

For those needing a multi-course French meal, a fine dining restaurant might be the place for you. Most French fine dining places offer a variety of dishes on a prix-fixe (French multi-course meal served at a fixed price) menu along with an a la carte menu. Wine selections and top-class service are characteristics of a French fine dining establishment.

French fine dining restaurants are known for their haute cuisine. And like bistros, fine dining restaurants are open during meal hours. You might find that some French fine dining establishments are closed on Sundays or Mondays.

If you are hoping to try out an exquisite French fine dining experience, you can try one of these establishments below:

Le Coucou

  • Address: 138 Lafayette Street, at Howard Street

Le Coucou has a traditional French menu. The restaurant’s design is state-of-the-art, with an open kitchen and large chandeliers. The banquettes are long and plush. 

The menu features elevated examples of traditional “cuisine bourgeoise” like quenelle de brochet poured with lobster sauce, slivers of veal tongue dabbed with caviar, and crème fraiche. 

The old rustic delicacy tout le lapin (“all of the rabbit”) is also on the menu, which Rose and his army of cooks prepare in three equally impressive ways: as an elegant, gourmet roulade; roasted with mustard sauce; and bubbled in a meat-and-vegetable stock, which tastes, when you close your eyes, like the essence of classic French country cooking.

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Frenchette

  • Address: 241 West Broadway, New York

Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson’s Tribeca brasserie is not the most ambitious restaurant around town, but it is one of the most informative comeback stories in recent memory. 

And for those of us who are fans of classic, chef-centric specialties like grainy, perfectly turned pork rillettes, roast country chicken, or calves’ brains prepared in the Grenobloise style, so is the cooking, which combines the high qualities of first-class ingredients and age-old technique with the timeless, comforting pleasures of an excellent old-fashioned feed.

6. Auberge

Auberge restaurants are rustic family-styled places. They are often eating at places that are attached to bed and breakfasts or hotels. Whether these establishments are attached to a bed and breakfast or a hotel, the cuisine served here uses only local ingredients.

7. Bouchon

Traditional French Restaurant called Bouchon Lyonnais seen from a street in Lyon.

If you have traveled through Lyon, you might have encountered a few of the city’s bouchons.

A Bouchon is recognized for serving the region’s specialties that are generally meat-heavy dishes, like pork, sausage, and duck pate.

Bouchons are popular for their lively atmospheres and haute cuisine, but a hearty meal is always guaranteed. 

Meals are typically accompanied by a glass of Beaujolais, or Cotes-du-Rhone

8. Chocolatier

A chocolatier is one of those places you could hardly resist as you walk by. They are known for selling confectionaries made from chocolate.  

If you have to buy a gift for a French friend, or family member, you could never go wrong with buying them some delicious chocolate from a chocolatier instead of buying it from a supermarket. The quality of chocolate from a chocolatier is exquisite and unmistakable. 

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Some chocolatiers also sell pastries, macarons, cakes, and ganache if you have a sweet tooth.

Conclusion

There are many different types of French restaurants, from casual bistros to Michelin-starred gastronomic temples. No matter your budget or taste, there’s a French restaurant for you. Bon appetite!