Back in 1970, when Philadelphia was a much different place, a young Georges Perrier opened Le Bec-Fin and put the City of Brotherly Love on the map as a French food destination in the U.S. Today, Philly’s food scene is celebrated for many reasons, and Perrier’s legacy lives on in a collection of quality French restaurants that range from bistros to fine-dining destinations. Get ready to tear apart a baguette and drink some vin rouge. Here are Philly’s essential French restaurants.Read More
Philly’s 11 Essential French Restaurants
For when a steak frites, bouillabaisse, or escargot craving hits
This new East Passyunk Avenue BYOB from Christina Cusack and chef Richard Cusack, who worked at Le Bec-Fin, Parc, and Le Cheri, serves a seasonal menu of photogenic French dishes. Make sure to order something served table-side with flair, like whole fish filleted in the dining room or a Scottish grouse pressed in an antique French duck press.
Chef Pierre Calmels, who honed his craft under Daniel Boulud and Georges Perrier, serves an elegant, rotating tasting menu ($125) full of classic French ingredients at his Bella Vista BYOB Bibou. Dishes include a soufflé that changes weekly and is never repeated.
Every city needs a great crepe place and Beau Monde is Philly’s. At the sunny corner bistro, downstairs from bar/club L’Etage, crepes are available for lunch, brunch, and dinner with options ranging from smoked salmon, poached eggs, and artichokes to beef bourguignon with blue cheese. Or go sweet with a combo of fruit, chocolate, and gelato.
Bistrot La Minette
The Philly spot that feels the most like a true French bistro is chef Peter Woosley’s charming La Minette in Queen Village. The escargot is a must-order: nine Burgundy snails in garlic herb butter, each in its own ramekin with an individual crouton. The rest of the menu is full of French ingredients and preparations, including haricots vert, mustard-braised rabbit, and foie gras terrine.
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The Good King Tavern
In true French bistro style, the menu at Bella Vista corner spot Good King Tavern changes daily, with specials written on a chalkboard, including a duck of the day. Upstairs at the new Le Caveau, from the same owners, find French wines and French hot dogs.
At his new Old City restaurant Forsythia, chef Chris Kearse creates modern French fare. Don’t skip his take on pommes anna. Forsythia also boasts a solid wine list featuring primarily French producers, with a few locally made bottles included for good measure.
Top Chef winner Nick Elmi’s lively, candlelit Old City brasserie is known for its raw bar, charcuterie, and steak au poivre (and its $2 lunchtime martinis). If the weather is warm, ask for a table on the hidden second-floor deck.
For more than 25 years, Caribou Cafe has been repping Paris on Walnut Street. The atmospheric spot has high ceilings, a long bar, antique mirrors, and large doors that open out onto the street for al fresco dining. Bistro fare is the specialty, including French onion soup, frisée salad, a croque monsieur, and crepes.
Philly’s most popular French spot is a bit Paris, a bit Disney World, by way of Stephen Starr. The interior, with its brass fixtures, glowy lights, and cloudy mirrors, was inspired by the Belle Epoque period and the menu covers all the greatest hits of bistro fare, including onion soup, escargots, steak frites, towering seafood platters, baguettes, trout amandine, and beef bourguignon. Set right on Rittenhouse Square, Parc is also known for its sidewalk tables that face the park.
Chef Townsend Wentz’s eponymous restaurant has won high praise for its refined take on French techniques and dishes. The menu at Townsend, which recently relocated from East Passyunk Avenue to Center City, includes foie gras mousse, sweetbreads, and escargot in a red wine sauce. The restaurant also has an excellent wine list.
With its casual diner vibe, Gabi, from the team behind Bistrot La Minette, is a new kind of French restaurant for Philly. The all-day cafe on North Broad serves French favorites like onion soup, niçoise salad, tartare, steak frites, and duck confit. Head here during brunch service for brioche French toast or a croque madame.
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