We owe the French a lot when it comes to food. They basically invented the concept of a restaurant and also figured out that baking a layer of cheese on top of onion soup makes onion soup worth eating. Yet somehow, French restaurants today have an unfair reputation for being sleepy and predictable.
But you won’t find mothball-filled dining rooms or dried-out beef bourguignon at any of the places on this guide. These aren’t just the best French restaurants in Seattle - they’re some of our favorite places to eat in the entire city.
You know about Bateau. Whether you saw Neil Patrick Harris get gushy about it on Instagram or not, you’re aware of its existence. Bateau looks like an elegant garden where you might have tea - until you see the display window showcasing raw cow torsos. Then you’ll realize you’re actually inside of Seattle’s unofficial temple of beef. Order a steak, watch the servers cross off that unique cut on a big chalkboard wall (where all of the available steaks are listed one-by-one), add some incredible sides like kale gratin and fries, and you’re set. Actually, don’t forget the off-menu burger, which is the best in the entire city. Then you’re set.
Just next door to Bateau is Bar Melusine, a distinctly white-and-seafoam-colored spot from the same team. Think of it as Bateau’s casual seafood cousin who’s really into teal. The food here trends more toward seafood, so have at some crab cakes, crispy salmon skin, and fresh oysters. But if you find yourself here in a jealous rage after leaning forward and catching a glimpse of someone over at Bateau swan diving into a burger, know that the one at Bar Melusine (which is slightly different) is much cheaper and just as good. Well, almost as good.
It’s fun at a French restaurant to pretend you’re in Paris for a fleeting moment before you’re zapped back to reality when you realize the “Eiffel Tower” looks an awful lot like the Space Needle, and there’s a screaming child at the table next to you blasting Paw Patrol on an iPad. That would never happen at Le Caviste. It’s the kind of spot that feels like a little bistro you’d stumble upon in some Parisian cobblestone alleyway. The menu of wine and charcuterie is entirely in French, the whole place has oak barrels all over the place, and the chandeliers make things pretty romantic. Merlot, champagne, bread, and cheese for dinner sound like a great idea.
Bastille is probably the most versatile French spot of the bunch. We like using it just as much for a serious date as we do for a weeknight hangout with friends. The steak frites here is one of the best plates of meat-and-potatoes in the city, and the bahn mi with lemongrass sausage and sriracha aioli will make you wish French restaurants always had some Vietnamese stuff on the menu. There’s also big round table with an indoor firepit that you can sit around. You’ll want to sit around it.
We’ll never let go of Pair - it’s a fantastic place to eat in general, and the menu just happens to be French. Not only is mostly everything $20 or less, but the food is delicious, and the countryside atmosphere makes us feel like we’re having a picnic at the park, only without the actual park. Go for the steak frites, wood-fired gigante beans with rosemary and feta, and fontina rigatoni mac and cheese.
For a truly excellent croque madame sandwich you can get anytime between the crack of dawn and 2am, Cafe Presse is your place. It’s an all-day (and night) cafe with great espresso, pastries, and a full menu of French classics. If you have a ton of work to get through, the fries with lemon mayo will stand by your side.
Le Pichet is Cafe Presse’s sister spot by Pike Place Market, and it’s a fantastic place to sit around and drink wine for an hour while you wait for your slow-roasted chicken with pancetta ragout to cook. It works really well for serious occasions like your parents being in town, your 14th date, or celebrating being able to renew your apartment lease without a rent increase.
A meal at L’Oursin is like slipping on a pair of sepia-lensed sunglasses. Nearly all of the interior, from the walls and chairs to the basket of citrus at the bar is a different shade of gold. You might mistake it for the set of a Wes Anderson movie. Aside from the mustard color palette, there’s also excellent food here. Enjoy it all with a glass of natural wine, which they specialize in. Also important: get the semi-frozen chocolate mousse for dessert.
If a restaurant’s going to specialize in steak frites, it would be best for everyone involved if they were good at making it, and in the case of Red Cow, they definitely are. It’s a sleek, not-stuffy space where you can choose your cut of beef as well as a sauce to go with, and each plate has a nice pile of crispy rosemary-infused fries ready for an aioli party. You shouldn’t stop there - the burger and the short rib croquettes are also very good.