Am I in New York or Paris?
After an afternoon of champagne, delicate pastries and the irresistible smell of fresh baguettes; it’s easy to convince myself I’m just a few blocks from the Seine rather than the Hudson. As I write this, I’m sitting in the backyard garden of the Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho. The silhouette of the Eiffel Tower is painted on the wall, the subtle chirps of birds mingle with the idle chatter of nearby guests; each table adorned with pastries too beautiful to eat.
My entire afternoon has played out like a scene from Midnight in Paris. I’ve wandered the bustling streets of Manhattan, making my way from bakery to pastry shop, bistro to hidden garden all in the name of finding the best French-inspired places in New York. If it weren’t for the passing yellow cabs and snippets of English conversation, I could close my eyes, put a macaron to my lips and transport myself across the Atlantic. In an effort to channel my inner Parisian, I’ve swiped on red lipstick, put on a striped shirt (cliche, I know) and have embarked on a scavenger hunt to find Paris in NYC.
1. Dominique Ansel Bakery, Paris in NYC
The Dominique Ansel Bakery bursted onto the New York food scene back in 2011. Since its opening, Dominique Ansel has been named Time Out New York’s “Best New Bakery of 2012” and Metromix’s “Best Bakery of 2012,” all within four months of opening its doors. Best known for its introduction of the cronut –a croissant-donut hybrid — Dominique Ansel continues to churn out innovative French pastries. The Soho location has a backyard garden where you can float away on a cloud of macarons and transport yourself to France.
2. Balthazar Bistro for the Best French Fare
For a classic Parisian meal, look no further than Balthazar Bistro & Bakery in Soho. Balthazar opened back in 1997 and has become an institution in the city every since. Known for its typical French fare, Balthazar is the go-to place when looking to channel your inner Parisian and escape New York. With its mirrored walls, low lighting and classic cocktails; to walk into Balthazar is to be transported to Paris in the twenties.
3. Laduree in Soho for Parisian Pastries
Walking into Laduree is like stepping into Marie Antoinette’s dream. As soon as the door swings open, you’re ushered into a world of rose petals, pastel colors and delectable pastries. Laduree is Paris personified. It is the sort of experience one looks for when wandering the streets of France. With its array of expertly-crafted macarons, everything in Laduree is simply too beautiful not to photograph.
When I decided to look for Paris in New York, I knew to start my search at Laduree. There are two locations in Manhattan–one on Madison Avenue and one in Soho. The Madison Avenue location is mainly a bakery and is smaller as a result; but the Soho location is a full fledge restaurant with an enchanting garden in the back.
4. FIAF Institute & the Bastille Day Celebration
For the Francophiles whose love of Paris can’t be satisfied with a macaron, then consider visiting the French Institute Alliance Francaise (FIAF). FIAF is a not-for-profit organization here in New York, that brings French culture to the city. Offering everything from language classes to film screenings to cultural events; FIAF brings together French ex-pats and enthusiasts.
Each July, FIAF hosts their annual Bastille Day festival where they bring together artists, French food vendors, performances and more for a celebration of France’s Independence Day. To really experience France in New York, head to the Bastille Day celebration to munch on crepes, listen to French music and enjoy French performances.
5. The Paris Theater for Art Cinema
Ultimate New Yorker, Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City, famously said: “one of the most amazing things about living in a city like New York is that any night of the week you can go to Paris.” Of course, Carrie meant the iconic Paris Theater near Columbus Circle in Manhattan. The Paris Theater opened its doors in 1948 and has since been showing foreign films in their original languages. You’re unlikely to find Blockbuster movies playing here as the Paris Theater is considered more of an avant-garde, art cinema house.
Since the closing of the famed Zeigfeld theater in New York, the Paris Theater is the only surviving one-screen cinema left! The Paris Theater is an institution in Manhattan and, as Carrie Bradshaw put it. one of the few places where you can find Paris in NYC. Another option for French Cinema is Films on the Green, which is a free outdoor French film festival showing French classics.
6. Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop
When I think of Paris, I picture Shakespeare & Co. The historic bookshop along the Seine is one of my favorite places in Paris to sit with a good book and sip on cappuccinos in view of Notre Dame. Once the haunt of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and other novelists, Shakespeare and Co. is a relic of 1920s Paris. In New York, we have our very own Shakespeare & Co. in Midtown East where you can peruse the bookshelves and lose yourself in the literary world. While our Shakespeare & Co. doesn’t come with a romantic view of Notre Dame, when you’re amongst the bookshelves, you can pretend!
7. Millee-Feuille Bakery Cafe for Macarons
It’s no secret that New York has its fair share of Paris-inspired bakeries, cafes and bistros. From Laduree to Balthazar, it takes little more than a subway pass to find France. Mille-Feuille is an authentic, Parisian bakery that specializes in macarons. Unlike its glamorous competitor, Laduree, Mille-Feuille is a budget-friendly alternative that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. Mille-Feuille is a family-owned business that prides itself on freshly baked delicacies that are whipped up each day in their kitchen in Brooklyn. With no additives or preservatives, Mille-Feuille is simple yet delicious.
8. Parisian Beauty at Diptyque
Diptyque is a Paris-based brand that sells everything from scented candles to coveted skincare. Diptyque is the closest you’ll get to fitting Paris in a bottle. The store that offers perfumes, colognes, and candles even has a collection named after their first location, 34 Boulevard St. Germain. With five locations in Manhattan, Diptyque is the best boutique to find Paris in NYC.
9. Cafe Henri in Queens for the Parisian Ambiance
Beyond Manhattan, there are plenty of French-inspired cafes, bakeries and boutiques dotting Brooklyn and Queens. In Long Island City–right over the East River–is the charming Cafe Henri. Cafe Henri specializes in crepes and other classic French dishes; but what truly makes this local gem worth a visit is the spot on Parisian ambiance. Cheery blue walls and Parisian decor make Cafe Henri feel as though it’s been plucked out of Montmarte and transported to NYC.
10. French Sandwiches at Croque Monsieur
France does everything right–from dessert to style–the French are masters of living deliciously and beautifully. While busy New Yorkers will inhale a lackluster salad during a 15 minute lunch break, the French enjoy a decadent Croque Monsieur. For the best French sandwiches, head to Croque Monsieur to have a taste of Paris in NYC.
France is everywhere in New York City. From the French fashion that dots 5th Avenue to the quaint pastry shops found tucked away in the East Village. You don’t have to search far to find Paris in NYC and transport yourself to beautiful, romantic France.
What are your favorite French-inspired places around New York City? Share them below!