Lower Manhattan Is NYC’s New French Quarter
New York has a Little Italy, multiple Chinatowns and now a full French Quarter. No, not a booze-soaked NOLA-style French Quarter, but a neighborhood that’s suddenly become a hotbed for Gallic cuisine. Downtown is no stranger to French fare, of course: Keith McNally’s legendary Balthazar has been slinging bistro classics in Soho since 1997, and another of his staples, the Odeon, made its Tribeca debut in 1980. But the recent influx of both Parisian imports—macaron specialist Ladurée and beloved wine bar Racines both opened NYC outposts in 2014—as well as local restaurants have made this swath of lower Manhattan a must-visit for hungry Francophiles.
Under French chef Marie-Aude Rose, the chic all-day café serves up Parisian specialties like savory buckwheat crepes with Comté cheese and beef bourguignonne ladled atop noodles. The food isn’t the only focus here, though. Opened in partnership with design store Roman and Williams Guild, La Mercerie is as shoppable as it is Instagrammable: Everything inside—from the plates to the shelves—is literally up for sale.
As alums of Balthazar and Pastis, chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson are well versed in Gallic cooking, but the dishes they’re turning out at this perpetually packed bistro go beyond your typical steak frites and escargot. In place of beef, they use crispy, fatty duck, while garlicky escargot serves as an unexpectedly delicious garnish for soft scrambled eggs. To drink: a list of fizzy natural wines, also known as pét-nats.
The restaurant inside Sixty SoHo underwent a complete cuisine transformation earlier this year, reopening as a French spot led by Bar Boulud vet Brian Loiacono. The space got a brand-new look with stylish floral wallpaper, French antiques and cozy blue banquettes. Loiacono also gave the menu a full revamp, filling it with a hit list of classics—think filet au poivre, steak tartare and crocks of moules marinière.
60 Thompson St.; 212-219-8119 or bistrotleo.com
Maman & Mimi
In an ode to his French grandmother (Maman) and Algerian grandfather (Mimi), restaurateur Jacques Ouari is showcasing the fusion cooking he grew up with. Chicken tagine and lamb couscous are offered alongside frisée aux lardons and moules frites in a cozy space that’s decked out in chandeliers, mirrors and red patterned wallpaper.
Despite being an Illinois native, Daniel Rose (husband of La Mercerie’s Marie-Aude Rose) had never cooked in America prior to the 2016 opening of Le Coucou. Instead, the American rose to fame at the helm of Paris’ acclaimed Spring restaurant. His stateside debut—a partnership with mega hit maker Stephen Starr (Upland, Morimoto)—took home a James Beard Award for best new restaurant in 2017 for its old-school, often luxurious French food served in an equally impressive dining room.
In 2015, the Soho café expanded to a larger Franklin Street location with brunch. In addition to the stellar pastries they were already serving, the menu shines a spotlight on French-inspired favorites like truffle croque “maman,” oeuf à la coque and seasonal quiches. And if you care to take some of that ridiculously charming French ambience home with you, stroll over to Marché Maman at the original location for très chic linens and dishware handpicked by the owners.