Frenchie Wine Bar

Frenchie restaurant in Parissmoked fish at Frenchie, Paris
Frenchie wine bar breadFrenchie wine bar

I always think that maybe I’m kind of a loser because I don’t go out and eat as much as people think I do. Ever since I left the restaurant business – where I worked every single night of every single weekend of my life, surrounded by other cooks (which probably explains why I am a social misfit when I have to mingle with “normal” people), the idea of calling ahead to reserve a table at a busy place and making plans in advance is still pretty much a foreign concept to me.

frenchie wine bar roses frenchie wine bar ham

After a recent stint making tacos with the crew at Candelaria, I realized that I missed the camaraderie of cranking out food at a rapid pace with other cooks, all working smoothly – with good humor and care, in a hectic environment. Although I have to admit that at my age that I’m not sure how many more of those kind of nights I have left in me. (The two cocktails, one Mexican beer, and two Mezcal shots probably didn’t help either.)

It was a lot of fun being back on the other side of the counter, cooking for others, rather than having someone cook for me. I just never feel comfortable at restaurants or dinner events and always want to slip on a white jacket and dive into the work behind the counter when I am sitting at a table in a restaurant or at a catered event.

cherry tomato salad croutons Frenchie wine bar

But for now, and perhaps forever, I’m resigned to being a customer for the time being (unless another invitation to make tacos arrives in my Inbox), but let’s not make this about me. It’s about a restaurant, a wine bar, and an eager public. Which would be you.

Gregory outside Frenchie culatello fresh almonds frenchie

The wine bar at Frenchie in Paris has finally opened and I went with a small group of friends recently. By the time you read this, it’s been open for a few weeks and it will not longer be half-empty when you arrive, as it was when we got there. (It was full for the rest of the evening.)

For those of you who don’t know, Gregory Marchand is the chef and owner, and his small, personal restaurant quickly became one of the places to eat in Paris shortly after it opened a few years ago. It wasn’t just because of all the good press; the food was, and is, really good. And I do like going there, when I can. The downside is that like many of the small places in Paris, Frenchie has just a few tables and a reservation can be tricky to get. But the wine bar doesn’t take reservations and while it’s small as well, the food is just as good as the main restaurant across the alley and you don’t get a callous on your finger from hitting the speed-dial button repeatedly.

frenchie wine bar2

We had bottle of mineral-rich, fruity Loimer Riesling from Austria. Actually, we had two bottles it was so good. Another was a wine from the Franche-Comté, which can sometimes be challenging because wines from that region tend to be, as a French book of mine says, unique. The wine list is so compelling that the next morning when I woke up, I realized that the four of us had gone through four bottles of wine. I’m going to blame the fair prices and varied wines on the list, which made it hard to stop. If I remember.

smoked mozzarella Frenchie wine bar

Like most wine bars in Paris, charcuterie is well-represented, since it goes so well with wine. There was a generous wooden board of jambón Ibérico de Bellota, which is one of the best things you’ll ever put in your mouth, that was excellent. But even better was the 24 month-old culatello di Zibello from Italy with fresh almonds. I could not stop picking at the thin pieces and if it was closer to me at the table, I would have eaten the whole plate by myself. As I write this, I’m thinking I should go back all by myself and indulge in a plate of it.

Because the focus is on smaller plates, it’s easy to order just about everything on the menu here if you come with a few other friends. I wasn’t so interested in trying the Cherry Tomato Salad because, well, I can make a cherry tomato salad at home. But when it came out, halved cherries were tossed with heirloom tomatoes and large cubes of toasted bread in a well-balanced dressing and I was glad my friends insisted on it. (Although I didn’t eat the cherries since I’m generally not a big fan of fruit in salad, except for fruit salad, of course. Which I’m not sure if it really is a salad – is it?) Another plate came out, Truite fumée, avocat, concombre pickles, a riff on a dish which is a mainstay from the restaurant, garnished with cucumbery borage flowers.

To segue to dessert, we had a couple of cheese plates. A triangle of Cantal cheese topped with dressed escarole leaves and wisps of white truffles was just right for aiding us in finishing off the last of the wine. But what was truly outstanding was the Bleu des Causses, a cheese which combined the melting creaminess of the best triple-crème cheeses with the tang of fromage bleu. Oh-la-la!. Even though the table was not enormous, unfortunately it was nearly out of arm’s reach. But that didn’t stop me from repeatedly – and inexcusably – rudely reaching past my co-diners to keep digging my knife into it.

Frenchie wine bar

When we finally slid out off the high stools, we said goodbye as the restaurant patrons from across the street were leaving as well. It was a fine evening of dining at a casual wine bar, which more and more, are becoming my favorite venues for dinner in Paris instead of restaurants, which require reservations and diners sticking to certain formalities, like eating in courses, rather than just ordering plates of salads, charcuterie, cheeses, and smoked fish. I like the informality of them and the younger staff are generally relaxed and friendly, and represent the best of the younger generation of French cooks and people who run restaurants.

As mentioned, getting into Frenchie (the restaurant) can be a challenge due to its small size and popularity. But they decided to close for lunch and add a 7pm seating to accommodate more diners as it’s now a fixture on the list of places that people feel obliged to visit. If it hasn’t already become so, the wine bar is likely going to be just as popular. But instead of saying “Run, don’t walk”, I’m going suggest that you do indeed “walk” to the Frenchie wine bar. It’s not going anywhere and in fact, I’m sure it’ll be around for a while.

Frenchie Bar à Vins
5-5 rue du Nil (2nd)
Tél: 01 40 39 96 19
Métro: Sentier
(No reservations, open 7pm to 11 pm, Monday to Friday.)

UPDATE: Since I wrote this, Frenchie Wine Bar has expanded and now serves a wider variety of foods, including game (when in season), pulled pork sandwiches, house-made charcuterie, small pastas, and other fare. It’s become quite popular so expect a bit of a wait if you wish to sit during peak hours.

Wine Bars in Paris

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  • July 16, 2011 7:18pm

    you made it sound so yummy!

  • July 16, 2011 7:49pm

    OMG, every last morsel looks divine – and LOVE the restaurant front facade/ + logo with chandelier hanging behind – I die over this stuff.

  • July 16, 2011 8:49pm

    Everything looks great, must visit.

  • July 16, 2011 9:41pm

    Beautiful, elegant photos. I’m getting hungry and thirsty with this post.

  • Annika
    July 16, 2011 10:05pm

    Nice post, thank you! Wish I could go there, it sounds great! Maybe one of these days!

  • Lets
    July 16, 2011 11:20pm

    I went to Frenchie. It’s definitely a wonderful place.

  • Shari
    July 17, 2011 1:01am

    Oh man, this sounds like such a great evening. I love walking to a place to eat and drink. The walk home is always a blast too. If I’m remembering correctly. ; ) This post is the epitome of why I want to go to Europe.

  • Kathleen
    July 17, 2011 2:53am

    My husband and I were in Provence a couple of summer ago.Your wine bar post reminded me of a great hotel we stayed in. We had dinner beside the pool several evenings and it was hot outside. We had wonderful meals, in part, because of the great Rose wines they served. Each bottle arrived with a stainless steel tube which inserted right into the bottle and kept the wine cool. I believe it was filled with a liquid which helped with the cooling. The owners of the hotel said they bought these rods in Paris but we were unable to find them there. Do you know any store in Paris which might sell these? we’;re moving to Paris for 8 months and could buy one then if we could find one.

    • July 17, 2011 7:48am
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve not seen those anywhere in Paris (people here generally don’t like their wine cooled down as much as they do in Provence) – but you might want to try Lavinia, the large wine emporium near the Place de la Madeleine, or one of the big department stores, which carry large selection of wine items.

  • Ninabi
    July 17, 2011 3:36am

    Are those borage flowers with those lovely green and deep pink rings? The one photo was such a gorgeous combination of colors and yet so natural.

  • July 17, 2011 7:44am

    Great photos! My husband and I visited Paris for the first time last October and by a stroke of luck we got to dine at Frenchie. We showed up without a reservation, a lady sitting at the bar laughed and said there was no way we were having dinner “this place is booked for months!” A man came running out of the kitchen speaking French, and the lady said, “Well you are lucky, there is one table, sit down.” We had a fantastic meal and a beautiful night.

  • July 17, 2011 9:33am

    Wish I could have joined you, it sounds fantastic there. We have a friend who is a member of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, he also is not easy to eat out with, but I love cooking for him as he is always appreciative of home cooked meals. Diane

  • July 17, 2011 10:10am

    My husband & I tried to go to Frenchie a few weeks back and were disappointed to find it closed (a Saturday night). We were thinking of trying again next week for my birthday – fingers crossed one of those few coveted tables will be free! Sorry to have missed you at Candelaria. Do let us know if you will be making a repeat performance.

  • Tuti
    July 17, 2011 2:19pm

    I do love chilled wines in the summer and not only the white and rose ones. Frenchie has a cool website by the way, sorry to see it’s still work in progress. But I allways love to read your reviews of these places and you make such nice pictures! I can’t wait to travel to Paris again …

  • July 17, 2011 2:25pm

    Your photos knock me over… they are absolutely out of this world good.

  • July 17, 2011 2:26pm
    David Lebovitz

    Tuti: Yes, they’re making additions to the website, including information about reservations. Because it’s a very small-scale operation, and those things take some time, I’m sure there’s more to come on it.

    (Recently I was looking at restaurant websites in New York City and was amazed at how slick and well-done they were. They all had menus – and not downloadable PDF ones – directions, and even listed where they sourced their ingredients!)

    Cat: Because Gregory is the chef and main cook, Frenchie is only open 5 days a week, probably so he could have a somewhat normal life : )

  • Betty
    July 17, 2011 4:04pm

    I’m sure there are quite a few things you don’t do nearly as often as people think you do. It disheartens me to see you refer to yourself as a loser, though, even in jest. I’m 50 (gulp) and I understand the pull of a former life and being on the other side of the fence from it, even though it means you’re what people would traditionally call “more successful”. I might lament the loss every once in a while and fantasize about doing it all over again, but I find those times a whole lot easier to manage from the vantage of a really pretty and comfy chair.

    I’m not you and I don’t know you, I’ve only been exposed to this little slice of you, the amuse bouche version of you, if you will. You might be a social misfit, I don’t know, I’ve never seen you in a social setting so I’ll have to take your word for that one. But you’re definitely not a loser.

  • July 17, 2011 4:19pm

    I love your reviews of the smaller and seemingly more charming (at least in my mind) places you enjoy. Personally I can’t remember when I’ve been to a big dinner; I so much prefer trying lots of small bites in a more casual setting. I’m sure I would love Frenchie Wine Bar.

  • July 17, 2011 4:28pm

    Four bottles? You lush!

  • July 17, 2011 4:45pm

    Love the shots of the pretty smoked fish – is that Meg Z with the dark eyes?
    I too prefer casual eating to formal white table cloth, after years of racing around the kitchen shooting at the Beard House, It’s hard to just sit and be waited upon in a fussy way – I wanna get up and help clear the dishes to move things along.
    Maybe it’s a New York thing…

  • July 17, 2011 5:18pm


    I recently moved to Portland, OR with hopes of going to cooking school and eventually becoming a career chef. I have to postpone that for a short time due to difficulty getting student loans, though in the meantime I had hoped I might be able to get some kind of entry level position at a restaurant and get experience that way. I don’t have any “real” experience besides a few years work as a ‘burger flipper’ in a student cafeteria during college–which is actually what made me interested in becoming a professional chef.

    I noticed that you had gotten your start at 16 (I’m 28, btw), and I assume you started off with no experience. What sort of position or work did you start out with? Do you have any advice for an aspiring chef in my position?

  • July 17, 2011 5:20pm

    It looks delicious! As always – your photos are a feast for the eyes!

  • July 17, 2011 5:38pm
    David Lebovitz

    Ben: I did start when I was 16, working in kitchens doing (very) menial tasks, which is where most people start. Check out my post Should You Go to Culinary School for some tips, but I generally recommend people work in a restaurant for a while like you did, paid or as a volunteer (intern) to see if they like the work before committing to a school.

    Personally, I’m not sure if school is a great idea if you have to borrow a lot of money. It’s a low-paying job and if you’re saddled with debt when you get out of school, it’s going to hard to catch up.

    Barbra: I’m only 1/4 of the lush quotient, in that group..

    Betty: It’s okay. For those of us who spent our lives in restaurant kitchens, we’re used to being outcasts. I do have to keep reminding myself to get out and see people…because I’m not trapped in the kitchen anymore
    : )

  • Doukissa
    July 17, 2011 7:04pm

    As a nondrinker, just wondering if it is acceptable to go to this wine bar or others, with friends of course, and not order any wine, but indulge in all the good dishes? Do you think that would be considered rude or odd, or what, since it is France? Just wondering because the food looks incredibly presentable and yummy, not to mention your thoughtful descriptions of what they are, w/o having to wait on the formalities of full dining. Thanks.

    Say, have you ever been to Mario Batali’s Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles? It’s got a wine bar and the food is sooo urbanly delicious. I took my son there for his birthday (he was a student chef at the time) and remember eating about 5 or 6 dishes, some of which were bruschette w/chicken livers, capers, & guanciale and something else; awesome beets with horseradish, a squash blossoms pizza that was for me unexpectedly delicious I guess ’cause of the cheese, not to mention some mouth watering lemon dessert. Just wondering.

  • July 17, 2011 10:13pm

    Thanks for the advice David. I’m pretty sure I want to become a chef because I seemed to like that active focused sort of work, so I’m mostly searching for a way to get my foot in the door. I hadn’t considered volunteering, since I still need time to make money for living expenses, but I suppose I could find a few hours a week to offer, which would at least be a start. Thanks for directing me to your earlier post too. That had a lot of good info.

  • July 18, 2011 12:22am

    Dang! That photo of the wedge of cantal with the escarole and white truffles is a MASTERPIECE of food porn. And, by the way, what kind of camera are you using these days? Your pictures just keep getting better and better! xox A

  • July 18, 2011 12:48am

    I always like your light and natural writting.

  • Thea
    July 18, 2011 5:21am

    My dear, the photos! They’ve got to be near as luscious as the food. And your deft writing style made the food read luscious indeed.

  • Gavrielle
    July 18, 2011 6:26am

    Really interesting reading your feelings about it all coming back to you during the taco-making. For non-chefs it’s sometimes hard to understand what it is that makes being a chef attractive, given the gruelling physical work (with everyone mainlining painkillers if Anthony Bourdain is to be believed), the long, antisocial hours, the heat, the burns…. I’ve always suspected it must be that camaraderie and the fun of the controlled chaos of service that is the draw, as well as the creative satisfaction and the satisfaction of completing a service. I know I couldn’t do it myself (too wimpy), but I’m really, really grateful to those who can and do.

  • July 18, 2011 8:21am

    Thank you for this beautiful post David. I, like you, don’t go out much after a long career as a professional chef. Nowadays, my blog is my restaurant! Alas, I do love any suggestions for places to go in Paris. There are so many, and so many that are comme ci, comme ca. Lovely to have a recommendation for a stellar one.

  • July 18, 2011 4:05pm

    My hubby and I tried and tried to get a table at Frenchie, but were unsuccessful. We ended up at Spring after a cancellation, which was great! David, have you been to the other “IT” restaurant Le Chateaubriand? I’m wondering if it is worth all the hype.

    • July 18, 2011 6:15pm
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve only eaten at Le Dauphin, their restaurant just down the street. I didn’t really like it all that much for a variety of reasons but I know other people do. I think I prefer food that’s less-edgy and more concentrated on ingredients.

  • July 21, 2011 3:05am

    Loved what you wrote about working in restaurants. I work in the restaurant industry and I agree — it’s hard to stop thinking about what goes into a meal and the service of it. What I’m finding more and more interesting are chefs’ tables and cooking classes, when you actually have the chance to bat around some ideas and ask questions.


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