Of all the things that France is known for, food is probably the top of the list. From baguettes to bouillabaisse, souffle to Shiraz, French cuisine is second to none. With so many incredible foods to choose from, it can be hard to know where to even begin. That’s why we’ve made this list of some of the best French bistro foods that you need to try.
Top French Bistro Food
Whether you’re making them at home, trying them at a French restaurant, or even if you’re planning on visiting France itself, this guide has everything you need to know about the best foods that French bistros have to offer! So read on, and learn about some of the best foods you can order from a French bistro. Let’s get started!
1) Croque Monsieur/Madame
A Croque madame and a Croque monsieur are two versions of a similar sandwich, and are essentially a grilled cheese sandwich with ham and melted cheese. The difference is that the Croque Madame also features an egg on top, and a simple béchamel sauce to tie it all together.
They are some of the most popular sandwiches in France, and it’s no wonder why. The combination of salty ham, melty cheese, and runny egg is just irresistible. You’ll find these delicious sandwiches served up at any French bistro, but they are especially common at cafés.
The main difference between a Croque monsieur and a Croque madame is how the egg is served. In a Croque monsieur, the egg is whisked and used to dip the bread in before cooking, French toast-style. A Croque madame, meanwhile, switches this out for a fried or poached egg on top of the sandwich.
2) Salade de Provence
Salads are another classic dish found at almost every French bistro. Whether it’s a salad of tomatoes and basil or a more exotic version like a sweet potato salad, salads are always refreshing, light, and the perfect palate cleanser amongst some of France’s heavier cuisine.
A Salade de Provence is a specific type of salad. Hailing from the region of Provence in the southeast of France, a salad de Provence features potatoes, olives, tuna, green beans, and a splash of sweet Champagne vinegar for some added zing. It might seem simple, but this classic French salad is sure to go quickly and leave you eager for more!
3) Escargots en Meurette Sauce
Escargot (snails) and Meurette sauce (a red wine-based sauce) are a match made in heaven. This classic French dish is often served as part of a starter menu at French bistros, but it’s also great as a side dish or appetizer. While snails are usually the French food that people are most afraid to try, this decadent meal is sure to change your mind.
Snails are usually cooked by steaming them first, then being sautéed in butter until golden brown. Once cooked, they are then tossed in a rich red wine sauce. A Meurette sauce doesn’t typically contain meat stock, but it is instead made by cooking off vegetables and prosciutto in red wine and then reducing the whole thing down.
Escargots en Meurette sauce is a perfect example of a dish being more than the sum of its parts, with the buttery snails pairing perfectly with the rich sauce.
Bouillabaisse is a traditional fish stew originating from Marseille in southern France. It’s a hearty soup full of seafood and shellfish, which makes it a great choice when dining out at a French bistro or café.
Bouillabaisse is traditionally served with rouille (a type of spicy garlic mayonnaise), but you can also order it without if you prefer. However, the pairing of the stew with the rouille is what makes it work so well, with each flavor complementing the other.
France (especially the coastal regions) are well-known for their incredible seafood. Given how old and popular a recipe bouillabaisse is, it’s clear that this reputation is well-earned!
5) Crème Brulé
Crème brûlée is one of those desserts that is just so satisfying and perfect in every way. This dessert originated in Paris, where it was originally created as an afternoon snack for Napoleon III. Since then, Crème Brulé has become a staple dessert across Europe, including in France. It’s easy to see why: the creamy custard paired with caramelized sugar is pure bliss.
Crème Brulé is traditionally served warm, but you can choose to have it cold or room temperature. The latter option allows you to enjoy the flavors of the dessert without having to worry about burning yourself on hot dishes. While it’s true that there are many different types of crème Brulé, the classic version is still the best. It’s got all the right elements: a light vanilla custard topped with caramelized sugar.
6) Tarte Tatin
Another delicious sweet treat, tarte tatins are a classic French dessert consisting of apples baked inside a puff pastry crust. They’re similar to apple pie, only much lighter and fluffier. Tartes tatin is made by caramelizing apples inside the pastry, along with butter and sugar, before the whole thing is baked. This leaves a delicious puff pastry exterior, with rich and sweet apples housed within.
Tartes tatins are often served with vanilla ice cream, making them a perfect dessert for any occasion. But you don’t need to limit yourself to just eating these after dinner; a slice of tarte tatin is perfect for relaxing on a warm afternoon along with a crisp white wine.
7) Coq au Vin
Coq au Vin is one of the richest and most complex-tasting dishes in French cuisine. It consists of chicken braised in a flavorful red wine sauce, with mushrooms, onions, lardons, and a variety of herbs and spices. It’s a savory dish that’s perfect for sharing with friends over a long meal.
The key to Coq au Vin is the quality of ingredients used. You want to make sure that your chicken is free-range and organic, and that the wine you use is dry and fruity. This results in a truly incredible meal that can never be matched. It’s definitely not a lunch food, but makes the perfect meal to round off a long day. Why not indulge yourself a bit?
8) French Onion Soup
French onion soup is another classic French dish that’s perfect for enjoying during the warmer months. It’s about as simple as it gets – lots of onions cooked in a broth (typically beef) until they have caramelized, then topped off with a slice of baguette and Gruyère cheese, before being broiled to melt the cheese and toast the bread.
French onion soup doesn’t just taste like onions, however. The combination of beef stock along with a mix of warming herbs and spices means that this soup packs a lot of flavor. Add in the toasted baguette and gooey Gruyère, and French onion soup is an ideal meal to have on a cold winter’s day.
9) Boeuf Bourguignon
Boeuf bourguignon is a hearty stew that originated in Burgundy, France. It’s typically made with beef, bacon, carrots, celery, and other vegetables, which are slowly simmered in red wine and seasoned with thyme and bay leaf.
It’s important to note that boeuf bourguignon isn’t actually a stew at all, but rather a braise. A braise is when meat or poultry is cooked slowly in liquid, usually until tender. When it comes to cooking boeuf bourguignon, you’ll want to cook it low and slow so that the meat becomes incredibly tender.
After it has been simmering for several hours, you can add some fresh parsley and serve! This is a truly hearty dish, with its rich wine and tender beef combining to make a filling and delicious meal.
10) Steak Tartare
One of the more unusual options out there, steak tartare is nonetheless a favorite among French bistros. Made from finely chopped raw beef, it’s traditionally served with a raw egg yolk, mustard, salt, pepper, and sometimes capers.
Steak tartare is quite different to other types of steak, because instead of being grilled, it’s simply ground up and eaten raw. Some people enjoy it as it is, while others prefer to spread it on some fresh sourdough or baguette.
Raw meat can be off-putting to many people, but steak tartare is carefully prepared to ensure that it’s completely safe to eat. If you’re looking to try something new and unusual, then this is the dish for you.
11) Quiché Lorraine
There are countless variations on these savory tarts, but Quiché Lorraine is by far the most popular. Quiché is a traditional French dessert consisting of pastry crust filled with eggs, cream, and cheese. But Quiché Lorraine takes things a step further by adding lardons into the mix.
This particular version is made with Swiss chard, Gruyère, and lardons, and is baked in a puff pastry shell. Larded Swiss chard gives this Quiché a lovely smoky flavor, and the addition of Gruyère and salty bacon ensures that it tastes great while still remaining simple in its construction.
12) Pain au Chocolat
Chocolate lovers will adore pain au chocolat. This sweet treat consists of sweet chocolate surrounded by buttery puff pastry. It’s often served warm, although it can also be enjoyed cold.
Pain au chocolate was originally created in Paris, where it became a popular snack amongst the working class. However, today it’s become one of the city’s signature dishes. It’s available everywhere, and if you ever find yourself in Paris, don’t miss out on trying it. It’s definitely worth having on your list of must-eat foods.
13) Crisp Duck Confit
Crispy duck confit is another classic dish found in French restaurants. The crispy skin contrasts beautifully against the soft meat inside.
Duck confit is made by poaching duck legs in oil until they’ve turned golden brown. They’re then removed from the pan, cooled, and cut into bite-sized pieces before serving. It’s an excellent option for those who love fatty meats.
14) Baked Camembert
Baked Camembert is a creamy cheese that’s perfect for snacking on. It’s typically served with crackers or bread, which makes it easy to share. Camembert is a semi-soft cheese that’s ideal for baking. It melts easily, making it perfect for spreading onto toast or biscuits.
It’s a wonderful accompaniment to any meal, and is especially good for sharing with your friends.
Camembert is most typically served as a small wheel, after being baked or grilled. This leaves the insides gooey like a fondue, while the outside remains intact.
By cutting open the top, you can access the melted cheese and use it to dip bread, croutons, or other things. Baked Camembert is one of the best choices if you want a delicious snack to share with friends or family – alternatively, why not have it all to yourself?
These thin French pancakes are one of the most versatile foods you can find in a French bistro (or at practically any restaurant/street food stall in France). Crêpes are most commonly eaten with sweet fillings such as fruit and cream, syrup, or Nutella and nuts. However, they can also be eaten as part of a savory dish if you switch out what you put in them.
Crêpes are incredibly simple to make, only requiring a few ingredients. They use a simple batter made out of milk, egg, flour, and oil, before being fried in a wide pan. As soon as they come out of the pan, they’re ready to eat and are paired with your choice of toppings for a delicious but light snack.
So there you have it – 15 of the best foods that you can find in a French bistro! All of these meals, appetizers, and desserts all taste incredible and showcase some of the best of French cuisine.
Whether you’re visiting France and want to try some local dishes or simply want to try making one of these recipes yourself, there is no shortage of incredible French cooking for you to try.
The only hard part now is picking what you want to eat! As we said, there’s almost too much to choose from. Bon appétit!