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The Best French Restaurants in UpTown NYC

Heather Hodson and Angela M.H. Schuster round up a short list of some favorite French menu venues.

1/6 ● Avenue Magazine
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CAFÉ LUXEMBOURG

Café Luxembourg has a faithful following of patrons seeking out its French bistro staples of steak tartare, moules frites, and croque monsieur, ...



This Upper West Side bistro, which opened in 1983, was the second dining establishment opened by Lynn Wagenknecht and “was-band” and friend Keith McNally, cofounders of the wildly popular Odeon, which has remained in Wagenknecht’s hands since the two parted company in 1994.

Café Luxembourg has a faithful following of patrons seeking out its French bistro staples of steak tartare, moules frites, and croque monsieur, which have been complemented by comfort-food sides such as mac and cheese.

In addition to Odeon, which has become a Manhattan institution of sorts — being the birthplace of the Sex and the City signature Cosmo and the cover star of Jay McInerney’s 1984 novel Bright Lights, Big City — Wagenknecht’s French portfolio includes the charming Café Cluny on West 12th Street, which opened in 2006.

DANIEL

the Michelin-starred flagship of restaurateur Daniel Boulud



No list of French restaurants in New York, indeed America, would be complete without Daniel, the Michelin-starred flagship of restaurateur Daniel Boulud, who has no fewer than ten Gotham establishments.

At the age of 13, the New York–based French chef was an apprentice cook in one of the great restaurants in his native Lyon, receiving training in both the ancient culinary art of French cuisine, and the local, Lyonnaise methods.

Possibly no one has more knowledge at his fingertips of la grande cuisine than Boulud. At Daniel, the lucky few sit in a modern yet majestic dining room framed by old-world colonnades, dining on gastronomic creations that verge on ambrosia. Best dishes: wood-roasted pigeon and suckling pig.

LA GOULUE

the clubby French bistro on the Upper East Side



When La Goulue, the clubby French bistro on the Upper East Side, was ejected from its Madison Avenue premises in 2009 after more than a quarter century, cries of anguish could be heard throughout the doorman buildings of Park Avenue.

Mon dieu! Where would we all eat now? In 2019, its owner, Jean Denoyer, a Parisian restaurateur who now has no less than five Manhattan eateries, finally reopened this bulwark of Franco-American civility just four blocks from the original

Temporarily shuttered due to the pandemic, La Goulue has opened its doors once again, and everything is reassuringly the same: the façade is the color of faded tobacco, the matchbooks are frog green; the interior is redolent of a Toulouse-Lautrec painting (Denoyer had cannily saved the wood paneling from the original location); executive chef Antoine Camin presides over the kitchen; the crowd is cosmopolitan, and the Bordeaux is flowing.

LE VEAU D’OR

When New York was the city of That Touch of Mink and men dressed like Cary Grant, Le Veau d’Or was the place to go.



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It opened in 1937 at the dawn of the golden age of French restaurants in New York, with authentic French food and staff, and from the beginning was frequented by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Marlene Dietrich, Oleg Cassini, and Grace Kelly.

Customers had charge accounts, jacketed waiters would wheel around dessert carts to the French banquettes, and it was just fabulous — until the public’s taste moved on from old-school French cuisine.

Nonetheless, Catherine Treboux, the daughter of longtime owner Robert Treboux, carried on heroically until 2011.

Now, the Frenchette owners Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, veterans of the Keith McNally empire, are reviving the grand old duchess of the French dining scene, and hopes are riding high that it will once more become a bastion of La Belle France.

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