By Ellise Pierce
Photography by Michel Figuet
Wine bars in Paris have always been places to stop in for a glass of Champagne and a quick snack before meeting friends for dinner, but in the last few years, they’ve become a dining category of their own, with chefs preparing seasonally changing menus and an atmosphere that’s more convivial than what you’d find at most restaurants.
Now Paris’ growing wine bar movement is even more delicious. Some of its top bistros have spawned adjacent bars à vins, making it easier than ever to taste some of the most sought-after cuisine in the city. Served in smaller, tapas-like portions meant for sharing (or not), it’s a lighter, quicker alternative to classic French multicourse meals—and far easier on the wallet. We’ll drink to that.
1. Septime Cave
Just over a year old, Septime Cave is where diners at chef Bertrand Grébaut’s bistro Septime come for an apéro and neighborhood regulars stop by after work. The crowd here is as chatty as the guys behind the bar, and an exposed-brick ceiling and upside-down wooden crates that serve as casual seating make the small space feel charming rather than cramped. Then there are the four-euro glasses of Beaujolais nouveau and paper-thin slices of lombatello ham (eight euros) to snack on. A nine-euro bottle of blanc for the road? I’ll take two, s’il vous plaît. 3 rue Basfroi, 75011; 33-1/4367-1487.
2. Le Dauphin
Its Rem Koolhaas-designed interior and stark white marble walls and floors, along with a menu that’s just as modern, make Le Dauphin a destination rather than a mere stopover until your table’s ready at Le Chateaubriand next door. The mostly youngish, fashion-centric crowd is here; if you’re lucky, you’ll spy rock-star chef Inaki Aizpitarte (recently featured on billboards throughout Paris, along with Bertrand Grébaut) in the back. Offerings from the ever-changing menu: lamb fillet with polenta and mushrooms, and tandoori octopus. Pair them with white Bordeaux—organic, as are all of the wines here—for five euros a glass. 131 avenue de Parmentier, 75011; 33-1/5528-7888.
3. L’Avant Comptoir
Yves Camdeborde, the celebrity chef who’s credited with starting the gastro-bistro movement in Paris years ago, is also an innovator in the wine-bar-sibling trend. Saint-
Germain post-cinemagoers and late-lunch-ing locals flock to L’Avant Comptoir, adjacent to Le Comptoir, his still-impossible-to-get-into bistro, for smaller, updated interpretations of the Basque specialties he’s known for—riz au lait (rice pudding) and croquettes of Bayonne ham for 3.5 euros—and a glass of pouilly-fumé (six euros), along with some of the best crepes in the city. 9 carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006, 33-1/4427-0797.
4. Verjus Bar à Vins
After running the über-successful Hidden Kitchen Supper Club, a weekend-only pop-up dinner party out of their apartment, expats Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian opened Verjus Bar à Vins and Verjus restaurant, just behind Palais-Royal near the Louvre. Appropriately located in a downstairs cave with a brick barrel ceiling, the cheery, well-lit wine bar offers eight-euro glasses of Sancerre plus small plates of its signature fried chicken (also eight euros), and hazelnut brownies (with chocolate sauce) for dessert. It’s not all Americans-in-Paris—you may also find bone marrow with bacon jam or delicate roast-pumpkin and ricotta cappelletti with nettle pesto on the seasonal menu—but the clientele, like the owners, often speak English. 47 rue Montpensier, 75001; 33-1/4297-5440.
5. Frenchie Bar à Vins
Gregory Marchand’s much-hyped bistro, Frenchie, is still one of the toughest reservations to get in Paris, but his Frenchie Bar à Vins? Just walk right in. If you want to eat right away, stand in line a little before 7 pm when the doors open, then grab a stool at one of the tall tables. By 8, it’s elbow to elbow with a 40-ish crowd of mostly locals and expats, who come for the generous pours of red wine from Languedoc (six euros) and a changing menu of such offerings as sea-bass carpaccio with Kaffir lime and coconut. 5-6 rue du Nil, 75002; 33-1/4039-9619.
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, July 2014.