Bistros and Brasseries to Visit Whilst Staying in Paris

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There are few cities more steeped in gastronomic tradition than Paris. Sure, the French capital is undoubtedly a wondrously cosmopolitan place, teeming with culinary influences from across the globe, but Paris shows no sign of relinquishing its cherished dining heritage. And why would it? France mastered the art of dining out long ago and messing with a time-honoured formula isn’t something the French take to with much enthusiasm.
 
Which is perhaps why Paris is so well-stocked with bistros and brasseries that earnestly uphold comforting, centuries old culinary habits in dining rooms that often seem to be unchanged since the Belle Epoque. Such establishments can feel like immaculately preserved portals into another era and the cuisine they serve rarely strays far from the classic repertoire of French cuisine. If you want to experience the heart and soul of French dining whilst staying in Paris with Generator, seek out one of its venerable bistros or brasseries.
 
But before we proceed to proffer our pick of Paris’ best brasseries and bistros, it might help if we attempt to define what these pervasive but hazily understood categories of eatery actually mean. Unfortunately, such a task is less straightforward than you might imagine.
 
For a start, ‘bistro’ and ‘brasserie’ are often used interchangeably, especially outside France. Both words tend to denote a broadly traditional French dining establishment that serves tried and trusted cuisine.
 
Classic French dishes like coq au vin, steak frites, pot au feu, escargots or moules mariniere might be found on the menus of both bistros and brasseries and numerous establishments are described as a bistro in one review and a brasserie in another. But such apparent interchangeability doesn’t mean there aren’t clear distinctions between bistros and brasseries.
 

What is a bistro?

Let’s start with bistros, which are typically thought of as modest, relatively casual establishments that have traditionally served the local community and are often family-run. The service is usually less formal that you’d experience in a restaurant, but you can expect the menu to be more varied and heartier than a café’s – a chalk board often offers daily specials.
 

Our favourite Paris bistros

Chez Georges

It’s hard to imagine a more archetypal Parisian bistro than Chez Georges, an unashamedly old-school institution just off the Place des Victoires. Chez Georges is a bustling little throw back of a bistro that clearly sees no point in updating a largely faultless menu of bistro classics.
 
1 rue du Mail, 75002

 

Bistrot Paul Bert

Another gloriously preserved Parisian institution that specialises in unfussy but expertly executed bistro cuisine served up in an enjoyably hectic dining room. Locals and tourists happily overlook brusque service and simple décor and relish Bistrot Paul Bert’s classic French cooking and timeless Parisian atmosphere.
 
18 rue Paul Bert, 75011
 

What is a brasserie?

Brasserie translates as ‘brewery’ (the original Alsatian brasseries were often attached to breweries) but that’s a bit of a red herring. Typically, a brasserie is understood to be a large dining establishment, usually with a bar, that’s open throughout the day and night.
 
A brasserie’s menu is usually pretty extensive and stuffed with classic French dishes. You can expect a large, bustling brasserie to offer more attentive, professional service than a bistro and they’re often smartly decked out with white linen. Nonetheless, a brasserie should still feel a bit less formal that a fine dining restaurant.   
 

Our favourite Paris brasseries

La Coupole

The grandest pre-war brasserie in Paris, La Coupole was founded at the height of the roaring 20s and still exudes the glitz and decadence of that era. Over the years La Coupole has attracted a who’s who of Paris’ most famous literary and artistic residents, including Pablo Picasso, Henry Miller, James Joyce, Marc Chagall, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. La Coupole’s spectacular Art Deco interior is something to behold and its terrace remains a fine spot to people watch.
 
102 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75014
 

Brasserie Lipp

Brasserie Lipp is perhaps even more of a Paris institution than Le Coupole. This venerable Saint Germain landmark is certainly older, dating back to 1880 and boasts a similarly impressive list of patrons. Like most of the city’s most celebrated brasseries, Lipp does a marvellous job of transporting you back to another era. The beautifully preserved interior is little changed since the days of the Rive Gauche and the menu is stuffed with hearty classics like confit de cuisse de canard (duck thigh confit) and jarret de porc aux lentilles (pork knuckle and lentils).
 
151 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006 
 
Whether you’re a full-time foodie or fancy giving your taste buds a treat, the French capital has some of the most exciting eateries anywhere in the world. Discover them during your next stay in Paris with Generator.