We owe the French a lot. They gave us the Statue of Liberty, Léa Seydoux, and the very concept of a restaurant itself. Oh, and they also figured out that baking a layer of cheese on top of onion soup makes onion soup worth eating. Yet somehow, French restaurants usually have a reputation for being sleepy and predictable.
Turns out, nothing could be further from the truth - and this guide is proof. You won’t find mothball-filled dining rooms or dried-out beef bourguignon here. After all, these aren’t just the best French restaurants in LA - they’re some of our favorite places to eat in the entire city.
Republique needs little introduction. Whether you’ve lived in LA your whole life or are just in town for a goat yoga intensive, chances are you’ve at least heard of this French restaurant on La Brea. The massive space looks like the courtyard of a church in the Burgundy countryside, and its varied menus (they’re open for breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch, and dinner) have everything from croque madames to a very non-French kimchi fried rice that might be the best thing on the menu. If you’re hoping to try some of their glorious croissants in the daytime, be prepared to wait, as reservations are for dinner only.
Open since 2014, Petit Trois is essentially an LA institution at this point. Located inside a strip mall at Highland and Melrose, this tiny French bistro is about the size of your bedroom, if your bedroom also had a bar. It’s loud, cramped, and you’ll definitely have someone hovering above you while you eat. But after you try the chicken confit, burger, or omelette, you’ll learn to love the organized chaos.
If the two things you know about French food are that it’s rich, and it’s expensive, then you already know a lot about Pasjoli. Both of those are true at this Santa Monica spot, but that doesn’t stop us from going when we want incredible French food prepared with traditional techniques. That includes a lot of things happening tableside, like canard à la presse - a pressed duck, prepared on a little cart wheeled to your table, then juiced in an antique contraption that could be a 15th-century torture device. It’s an experience that everyone should try at least once, and not just because it results in an excellent-tasting duck. The chicken liver - prepared to taste like foie gras, since foie gras is illegal in California - with brioche is also great. And don’t leave without getting the caramelized onion tart. It tastes like the best French onion soup you’ve ever had.
If you’re under the impression that most French restaurants are predictable and filled with cobwebs, let Belle Vie prove you wrong. On a stretch of Brentwood dominated by bro-y sports bars and a Jamba Juice, Belle Vie stands out above the rest because it feels like a casual wine party - and because its seasonal menu often features dishes like beef burgundy tacos, octopus, and (really excellent) French fries. The space is small, with red booths and French posters that probably came from an attic in Provence, which only adds to the charm.
Papilles has been around since late 2011, but has remained a relative secret - likely through a blood wager with a restaurant god. Hiding in a strip mall at the corner of Franklin and Argyle, this small French bistro features a simple space and a $39 three-course prix fixe menu that’s one of the better values in Hollywood. The food changes almost weekly here, but if the duck à l’orange or fried oysters are available, get them. Also, the French fries are some of the best in town.
For anyone who lives within a half-mile radius of Beverly and Crescent Heights, Marvin is your Cheers. For anyone else, this is a French bistro with food good enough to drive across the city for, and an atmosphere that’ll make you wish you had something similar in your neighborhood. Things can a little pricey here, so we recommend coming in with the intention of aggressively snacking instead of throwing down for a three-course meal. Just make sure you’re snacking on any of the toasts.
A little French wine bar right in the middle of Downtown, Mignon is the ideal place for an early date with someone you want to impress. It’s undoubtedly a romantic spot - it’s low-lit, everything is made of mahogany, and there’s a lot of wine being poured. But on top of an impressive list of mostly natural European wines, they’ve got killer escargots à la Bourguignonne - buttery, garlicky snails with bread on top - and the best $24 steak you’ll ever eat. And if you’re there alone, this is an excellent place to read while eating a butter and ham sandwich.
You could argue that Oriel is just a wine bar with some food, and you’d probably be right. Regardless, we’re still going out of our way to eat French onion soup and bavette steak at this laid-back Chinatown spot any chance we can get. In a tiny space underneath the elevated Gold Line tracks, Oriel feels closer to a high-design diner in Bushwick than a Downtown L.A. wine bar, and that’s ideal when you’re looking for a first date spot you haven’t been to a hundred times already.
On the nights when you want a dinner-party atmosphere, but don’t want to host a dinner party, book a few seats at Le Comptoir. Located on 6th St. in Koreatown, this tiny prix fixe restaurant is nothing more than a wooden counter, eight chairs, and a guy and his two friends cooking you dinner for three hours. The menu changes frequently here, but don’t expect any French classics hitting your table - this is hyper-modern, vegetable-heavy French food (one dish is literally a plate of vegetables from their urban farm) that you definitely couldn’t have pulled off at your own dinner party.
Loupiotte in Los Feliz lets you know it’s a French cafe from the moment you walk in - the menu is printed on French comic strips, and the wine list has a huge number of French varietals. It’s an ideal place to come at night for some seasonal risotto, or fregola sarda with vegetables, but our favorite time to be here is the morning. The soft-scrambled eggs with parmesan and tomato are great, and the creamy parmesan polenta - which comes topped with a jammy egg and mushrooms - is an ideal way to start the day.