Although French cuisine may not necessarily be top of mind when you think about Los Angeles, the city has its fair share of innovative casual bistros, authentic bakeries and upscale restaurants. With a strong French community, L.A. offers a variety of eateries that serve up many delectable (and magnifique) offerings.
The dining room at Le Salon de Thé — Photo courtesy of Marla Cimini
"The French restaurant scene in Los Angeles has evolved in a good way over the years," notes Sandrine Klein, an art teacher and culinary instructor at Richland Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles, which offers a dual-language French immersion program.
Originally from Bordeaux, France and a California resident for two decades, Klein started her French cooking classes – and an after-school program called LaCuisine4Fun – as a way to inspire creativity while teaching basic kitchen skills and introducing young students to tasty specialties from France.
"For the most part, the restaurants are cozy and charming, with exquisite dishes, and, of course, there’s some French language sprinkled in as well. French restaurants are always great choices for a date night, a casual meal with friends, or a celebration, too."
With that in mind, here are a few restaurants, bistros and cafés in Los Angeles that offer a true taste of France.
Le Salon de Thé
Smoked salmon at Le Salon de Thé — Photo courtesy of Marla Cimini
Simply put, Le Salon de Thé is the real deal. This unassuming, intimate tea salon is situated on bustling Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, and it’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it.
This 36-seat tea room is owned by sisters – and Paris transplants – Laurence Botrel and Catherine Friedmann, as well as Catherine's son, Anthony. Together, they opened their cute and cozy café that specializes in “French tea,” with beautifully-presented finger sandwiches, as well as salads, scallop carpaccio, a variety of French wines, and other savory items that change with the seasons.
Le Salon de Thé’s menu also includes family recipes from the sisters’ mother. Along with baking fresh croissants and breads, Anthony has also created a rich, homemade hot chocolate drink that’s gaining a loyal following. The café’s tranquil ambiance features bright blues and white – colors that represent the Pacific Ocean – and there’s an adjacent outdoor patio as well.
“California was a welcoming place for us to start our business," says Catherine. "Our goal was to open an inviting tea room that makes guests feel like they are in our Paris living room. I love preparing high tea, and I wanted to bring a little of my country here. And I feel that's exactly what we did.”
Scallops at L'Appart — Photo courtesy of L'Appart
Located in downtown Los Angeles, the tiny L’Appart is co-owned by Marc Moubarak and executive chef Thierry Babet. The two met several years ago in France and eventually decided to open a restaurant in Los Angeles together.
A petite oasis in the middle of a busy city block, L’Appart serves up a blend of tasty classic and modern French fare with a homey, friendly vibe. Seating here is limited, so guests receive meals that are cooked individually to order – with great deal of personalized attention to accompany their dinners.
Among the specialties at this cozy bistro are such favorites as onion soup, freshly-made burrata, bœuf bourguignon tacos, duck confit, beef tartar, escargot, gorgonzola mac n’ cheese, and scallops. This restaurant offers several daily specials as well. Avid fans adore the decadent desserts, including the homemade chocolate lava cake and crème brûlée. Brunch is also served on Sundays.
Chaumont Bakery — Photo courtesy of Marla Cimini
The lovely aroma of fresh-from-the-oven pastries and breads combined with brewed coffee greets customers as they step into Chaumont, a beautiful French bakery in Beverly Hills.
Chaumont features an abundance of light, sweet and flaky baked goods of many shapes and sizes inside a long, glass display case. Along with new pastries that are introduced from time to time, you will find an incredible selection that includes croissants, eclairs, pain au chocolat and flourless chocolate cake.
Owner Frederic Laski honors the French tradition and ensures that everything is baked fresh daily. Chaumont also serves light breakfast and lunch items such as salads, omelets and sandwiches made with organic ingredients. It’s not surprising that customers here usually purchase more than they plan on; it’s nearly impossible to leave without wanting to devour everything. There’s typically a line, so if there’s something special you’re craving, it’s best to arrive early or order in advance.
10 of the best French cheeses and where to get them
10 of the best French cheeses and where to get them
Although this bistro has been in its current location for years, you can't help but feel as if you’ve discovered a hidden gem when you arrive at Monsieur Marcel. This outdoor restaurant is tucked away in an unexpected spot – in the back of the Original Farmers Market at The Grove shopping mall in Los Angeles.
Patrons rave about the rustic, quaint ambiance and delightful French classics that have been served up here for decades. Some of their specialties include cheese fondue, moules-frites (mussels with fries), raw oysters, Niçoise salad, burgers, omelets, charcuterie boards and seafood specialties.
Monsieur Marcel is also known for its daily happy hour during the week with half-priced French wines. As an added bonus, this restaurant also has an adjacent gourmet market with a variety of foods, specialty cheeses, chocolates, books, gifts and kitchen-related gadgets from around the world.
One of Republique's appetizers — Photo courtesy of Marla Cimini
A foodie hotspot since opening in 2014, the buzz-worthy République is owned by chefs Walter and Margarita Manzke – the latter of whom has been a James Beard nominee for several years running.
Open all day – with breakfast daily and brunch on Sunday – République offers something for everyone, with a distinctive blend of French and new American specialties. Several favorites include wild Mediterranean loup de mer (with morel and yellowfoot mushrooms and gnocchi), butternut squash agnolotti and Broken Arrow Ranch venison (with baby beets, black truffle and sour cherries).
Housed in a historic structure built by Charlie Chaplin in 1928, the location is as mesmerizing as the food. Once home to the legendary restaurants La Brea Bakery and Campanile, the interior today features soaring ceilings, wooden tables and exposed brick: all within a stylish, fun, airy ambiance. There’s always a crowd here – day and night – so it’s best to make reservations, especially during prime times.