Be French for a day and appreciate “la Fête nationale Française” with the help of our food and drink guide to a New York Bastille Day. Paris and New York have a long history of admiration for one another. After all, they did give us the Statue of Liberty. Not only is this celebration a delicious excuse to find your next favorite French restaurant or wine bar, it is representative of unity and freedom.
The specialness of French cuisine can be attributed to French pride and culture preservation. It is no wonder then that Bastille Day celebration reaches other parts of the world. Bastille Day is named after a medieval fortress structure, the Bastille, that ended up being used as a prison that symbolized the harsh rule of the monarchy. On July 14th, 1789 an unhappy mob of French citizens approached the Bastille demanding the arms and ammunition stored within the structure. They ended up reaching their goal and releasing seven prisoners. The taking of the Bastille signaled the beginning of the French Revolution.
As was the case with many immigrants, the French settled in lower Manhattan. Their presences created a flourishing French community, but over the years the city never truly kept up an official enclave that the French could call home. All that changed in 2019. Founders of Coucou French, an adult language school and community center, pushed for renaming a small part of Nolita “Little Paris.” Nolita was once an important part of French immigrant history. If you find yourself on Centre Street, notice the Little Paris signs and take in the architecture, mainly the old police headquarters, which was inspired by Paris’s famous Hotel de Ville. Centre Street is one block away from Lafayette Street, named after the French hero, Marquis de Lafayette, who fought in the American Revolutionary War.
A Little Paris Right Here
Little Paris is one of the best blocks to visit on Bastille Day, as you can be sure that there will be a joyous block party. Make sure to stop by Compagnie Des Vins Surnaturels or grab a french pastry at Manan. Compagnie Des Vins Surnaturels serves the freshest Little Gem salad (seen in the photo at the top of this post) and the best Duck Confit we have ever had. We were floored by their unique knowledge of their extensive wine collection and cannot wait to visit again.
Little Paris, Centre Street (betw Broome/Grand St)
A classic French brasserie is always a good idea (think The Odeon, Balthazar or Boucherie), but on Bastille Day we recommend you visit the new kid on the block – La Brasserie. La Brasserie opened four months ago, taking over a famous culinary location. 411 Park Avenue South used to be Les Halles, a brasserie restaurant owned by executive chef Anthony Bourdain, from 1998 until its closing in 2016. The new brasserie pays homage to the late chef with recipes like steak frites, and by preserving parts of the interior, like the original entrance and terrazzo flooring. Bourdain’s iconic location is a lot to live up to, but owner and French cookware company Founder, Fancis Staub, aims to deliver. At the helm of it all is chef Jaime Loja, whose experience at Brasserie Ruhlmann ensured a traditional menu. The ambiance depicts your typical informal yet upscale brasseries of Paris. It is not stuffy and patrons can simply relax with good food. This is exactly the type of place Bourdain loved to work and eat in. La Brasserie’s exclusif Bastille Day prix-fixe menu makes the celebration extra special. On the menu is gougère (a savory pastry), leeks vinaigrette, steak au poivre, grilled loup de mer (branzino) and chocolate profiteroles (dough pastry) with ice cream. Spending Bastille Day here will be a treat. (two photos by Teddy Wolff)
La Brasserie, 411 Park Avenue South (betw 28th/29th)
Good news to all the cheese aficianados out there, The French Cheese Board has moved to bigger digs. The French Cheese Board has always provided the community with so much more than cheese—their programming blends together art and design, inviting in experts from the hospitality industry. The new space offers room to mingle, including a hands-on kitchen/demo area which will host visiting chefs, classes, pairings, and tastings. Pop in and stock up on some stellar cheeses, perhaps for a French-themed picnic, and be sure to view the current exhibition, NFT: Fromage from the Metaverse, which features works from digital artists inspired by the world of French fromage.
French Cheese Board, 56 Spring St (betw Mulberry/Lafayette)
You might say we’ve saved the best for last, if you are looking to splurge on an indulgent French extravaganza. NYC’s beloved chef, Daniel Boulud, has created a towering oasis in the center of town. Just across from Grand Central Terminal, in the spanking new building on the corner of Vanderbilt and 42nd street, lies a surprising and spectacular space. They have managed to create an indoor park, complete with olive trees and an abundance of flora, where they pull out all the stops. Make sure to order the vichyssoise with crab and the oysters Vanderbilt, which come topped in a parsley-seaweed crust. The menu is seafood and veggie focused, or as the French refer to as “mer” and “terre.” See Hobnob’s full review at this link.)
Le Pavillon, 1 Vanderbilt Ave (entrance on NW corner, one flight up)
See Hobnob’s other reviews of French-focused wining and dining:
L’Avenue: A Must For Gastronomes and French Aficionados
Le Charlot: French Atmosphère on the Upper East Side
Le Coucou: Elegant and Surprising French Cuisine in Downtown NYC
Drink Like a French Local: Millesima’s Second Label Bordeaux
Buvette: A French Bistro in Greenwich Village Swarming with Charm
La Grande Boucherie NYC: A Parisian Square Opens in Midtown
New York’s melting pot includes a community of about 60,000 French expats and over 81,000 French speakers. Join your French friends and fellow francophiles in celebration; remembering that appreciating the many cultures of the world is one of the reasons we live in New York City. “Vive le 14 juillet!”