This week on Resy we’re exploring the many facets of French restaurants in New York. We unpack why New York has always been obsessed with them, and we ruminate on the timeless joy they bring. We help you get a table at Frenchette. We’ve got a soft spot for a classic Midtown bistro. We’ve compiled a list of French restaurants for every occasion. And we tell you where you should go to drink French wine, too.
It’s too much to say that New York was built on French wine, but as happens with mercantile cities, we have been one of the great consumers of France’s bounty since the days of the Revolution. Heck, in the mid-19th century, the Metropolitan Hotel offered the 1841 Château Margaux as “breakfast wine.”
French was also the city’s default haute cuisine, literally, for most of the 20th century — see: Lutèce, La Caravelle, etc. — even if our tastes have evolved. (Although if breakfast Bordeaux returns as the next Dimes Square trendlet, you heard it here first.) Similarly, if France once largely represented the beginning and end of classy wine, other regions have made important inroads: Italy in the early 2000s, driven by that cuisine’s drive to upsell itself; more recently, there’s the contemporary cohort of Californian wine and the same from Spain. But with French cuisine currently enjoying a renaissance, New York has circled back to its wine roots.
Sort of: If France once leaned on its pedigree, we’re not talking about the stodgy French wines of the past. The country’s wine industry has transformed remarkably in the past two decades. Its postmodern roster is as progressive and offbeat as any in the world, which is why it’s so often matched to today’s most daring, inventive cooking. Yes, Noma and its natural wines. But we’re talking about a much broader spectrum.
Among other things, that means Francophile food and French wine don’t necessarily show up in the same places these days. Today you can locate France-inspired wine bars (Place des Fêtes, Le Dive) whose wine interests wander to other corners. And French wines now accompany all manner of cuisines (see: Semma, Atoboy, Pinch Chinese).
Where to drink it all in? We sifted through wine lists across the city to come up with 26 spots that exude the glorious diversity of French wine today, everything from skin-contact Alsatian gewurztraminer to unsulfured Bordeaux to infused cinsault from the Languedoc. Of course, France remains an icon of prestige, hence there’s no shortage of places where drinkers of unlimited means can be dazzled — this is New York, after all. But our interest here was more specific: restaurants that capitalize on that diversity, not to impress but to enjoy. (OK, maybe to impress a little bit.)
This roster is, needless to say, a work in progress, because lest you think we’re at Peak France, rest assured more Gallic haunts are coming. If French wine feels like old news, think again. It’s as avant-garde as can be.
Jon Bonné is Resy’s managing editor and author of the forthcoming book, “The New French Wine.” Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.