PARIS – Not in the mood for yet another romantic dinner for two? Traveling solo and tired of watching the waiter clear away the table setting across from you? Maybe you’re hell-bent on practicing French and feel much more fluent after some Bordeaux? Whatever your reasons, dining at the bar certainly has its perks. Should you find yourself in the City of Lights, hungry for food, wine, and strangers, swap that seat in the salle for a stool at one of these great restaurant bars.
1 rue de la Banque, 75002; +33-01-42-60-07-12
What's to love: This cozy comptoire is the place to go to feast on cheese, charcuterie, and small plates. Too tired after lugging around the Louvre to navigate the French-only menu? Not to worry. The staff behind the bar will happily guide you through, pairing selections with just the right wines. And the friendly connoisseur seated next to you will likely have a suggestion or two of his or her own. Be sure to leave room for le cheesecake.
Good to know: If you're looking to bring home French treats, stock up at the wine cave, épicerie, and confiserie. The comptoire closes at 7:30 p.m., so plan your day accordingly.
20 rue Saint-Victor, 75005; +33-1-44-31-54-54
What's to love: The stark, industrial dining room offers few distractions from the inventive food prepared by triple-starred Michelin chef Yannick Alléno. Contemplate the subtleties of his dishes, while observing Alléno himself at work in the open kitchen. If you're planning a trip to Japan, the gentleman sitting next to you, photographing every aspect of his meal (and yours, you suspect), will be a great source of information. Dessert is an absolute must.
Good to know: Even for a seat at the bar, a reservation is advisable.
1 bis Passage Saint Sébastien, 75011; +33-1-43-55-07-52
What's to love: You'll feel like you're right in the mix perched on one of their mismatched vintage bar stools. While the vibe is oddly reminiscent of Cheers (clearly, this place has a lot of regulars), the food will remind you that you are in one of the world's greatest culinary hubs. Filled with Paris' version of the hipster, you'll probably make a few friends, or at least pick up some street style ideas.
Good to know: Don't get nervous when your cab driver takes you down a long, dark alley. Au Passage is located at the end.
3 rue Clément, 75006; +33-01-46-23-19-02
What's to love: You may have to elbow your way to the bar, but once seated, you will have the perfect perch from which to enjoy the jovial atmosphere. Be prepared to talk with your mouth full, as the chatty (and tipsy) clientele will want to know who you are, where you're from, and what you're drinking. After dinner, order an Armagnac to settle your meat-centric meal.
Good to know: J'Go has several locations, and I'm talking about the Saint-Germain outpost, which fills early with an after work crowd. Claim your spot before the 8 p.m. rush.