The World in NYC: France

By Kelsey Oliver

The World in NYC: France

The World in NYC: France
Balthazar. Photo by Flickr user EssG

New York City’s culture is known to have a variety of impressive international influences such as Chinese, Korean, Irish, Indian, Italian, and Spanish – to name a few. One cultural influence with a particular importance to New Yorkers is of course the French one. Many books (such as Paris Versus New York by Vahram Muratyan) and movies (particularly ones by Woody Allen) muse on the differences of these two cities. No wonder that the French are slowly but surely influencing this city beyond food and wine. Currently, there are over 14,000 French expats living in New York City and about 75,000 living in New York State. New York today boasts the fifth highest French population in America.  With such a sizable and continually growing community, the cultural influence of NYC’s French citizenry is rapidly expanding across all areas and the French are probably one of the tightest knit communities in this city.

French Life in NYC

Beyond the impressive French cultural institutions on 5th Avenue,  many of the younger French inhabitants of New York are migrating towards Brooklyn, especially young families. The borough, with its rapidly expanding French community, has taken an active role in establishing the French language as a second language at many schools, and there are several bi-lingual elementary schools both in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Brooklyn has become famous in Paris too: “C’est tres Brooklyn” has become an expression for being cool. It helps that Brooklyn’s architecture feels European: Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens has been dubbed "Little France," because of the village-like feeling with substantial French influence in local shops and restaurants, including a few patisseries, bistros, and restaurants, such as the highly rated Provence en Boite from Chef Jean-Jacques Bernat, and Café Luluc. The style of these restaurants are genuinely French and even the hours in which they operate feel European.   

The highlight for the French community in NYC has to be the Bastille Day celebrations (French National Day, as it is known in France) on July 14th. French and Francophile New Yorkers have celebrated this holiday for over ten years on Fifth Avenue and 60th Street, and it draws big numbers of French food vendors (crepes, or macarons anyone?) and features beloved French pastimes such as Boule, French performances, and plenty of live music. You will find a similar, but slightly quieter scene in Tribeca, where streets will be closed on West Broadway between Beach and White Street.   

French influence on NYC doesn’t stop at some shops and holiday celebrations. French life in New York City begins at a young age for many children in Brooklyn.  Apart from the many French language programs at both public and private schools, ,there are plenty of opportunities for the children of both French expats and New Yorkers to practice la belle langue. A wide array of French language and French-themed summer camps are run each year across the five boroughs and New Jersey such as The Language and Laughter School, The Little Global Village, Bleu Blanc Rouge Camp, and many more. Each camp is designed for a specific age range and comfort level with the French language.

French Organizations in NYC

French Cultural Services
The French Cultural Services is a division of the French Embassy in the United States and serves as a means for cultural exchange between French and American citizens. The organization provides a wealth of information on visual and performing arts, film, television and new media, nongovernmental cooperation, French cultural programs, and events in New York.

FI:AF: French Institute  :  Alliance Française
This very active nonprofit organization offers a plethora of information on French culture in New York City. The organization is split into two parts – one part that teaches the French language, the second that works to promote the French arts. Membership to FI:AF includes special benefits to both French and Francophiles alike, including free film screenings, networking opportunities, and invitations to exclusive FI:AF events (our favorite ones are still the wine tastings!)

Rendez-Vous Meetup
The Rendez-Vous Meetup group was created in 2009 as a means for members to practice French and make new friends. Since its creation, the group has grown to roughly 800 members and has held over 200 events. Expect a wide variety of activities including park picnics, French cinema screenings, dinners, brunches, and weekly after-work events.

French Food in NYC

There are countless French restaurants in New York City, but we recommend a mix of some classic, established purveyors of French cuisine, and some newcomers to the French foodie scene. 

Table Verte
127 East 7th Street, New York
Table Verte, the first vegetarian French restaurant in downtown Manhattan opened in October 2012, and is the sister location to popular fondue restaurant, Taureau. The bistro is BYOB and their cuisine is traditional French fare. The décor is decidedly colorful and bright, and the bistro a perfect place for a great vegetarian meal, even if you’re not vegetarian.

380 Lafayette Street, New York
Much talked about Lafayette is Chef Andrew Carmellini’s fourth restaurant. This all-day brasserie boasts an excellent wine list and some exquisite cocktails, along with a vast bakery that features delicate French pastries.

La Sirene
558 Broome Street, New York
If you’re looking to impress someone, La Sirene should be on your go-to restaurant list in New York. The bistro seats only 25, with a menu crafted by Marseille-born chef/owner Didier Pawlicki which reflects the best of South France and the freshest ingredients of each season. Reservations for this tiny, but lovely, bistro are highly encouraged. 

Pates Et Traditions
52 Havemeyer Street, (between 7th & 6th Street), Brooklyn
“Cute,” “nice and casual,” “a gem,” - these are the words most commonly used to describe Pates et Traditions. The cuisine style is southern French, and word on the street is that their crepes alone are worth a visit.

26 Seats
168 Avenue B, New York
With a beautiful interior and a large menu of French fare, 26 Seats offers New Yorkers a lovely, French-inspired night out. Great service, non-touristy, and intimate – just make sure to call ahead and make a reservation as tables tend to fill up night after night.

80 Spring Street, New York
Last but not least, we have the famed Balthazar bistro and bakery. When Balthazar opened in 1997, it was propelled into the world of NYC cuisine, and through skill and popularity Balthazar has become a favorite among New Yorkers. Great food, and a killer atmosphere – the building was converted from a leather warehouse into an airy space that accommodates over 200 people. Its younger cousin restaurants Schiller’s Liquor Bar on the Lower East Side and Pastis in the Meatpacking District boast similar atmospheres with a slightly younger crowd. You won’t be disappointed at either one.

The French are certainly adding an amazing culture to this city – and if you haven’t been to France in a while, we’re sure you can catch up here pretty fast.

Article originally published : July 9, 2013