You can take a gastronomical tour of France at a group of restaurants located throughout the city. The atmosphere at the ones I've visited is bustling and lively, and the prices are reasonable. The best steak tartare I've ever had was at Pigalle, while the trout at Cafe d'Alsace was delicious.
Each one features the foods of a particular area.
Pigalle, 790 Eighth Ave. at 48th Street, focuses on foods from the southwest portion of France, where wild mushrooms, truffles, duck, foie gras, walnuts, chestnuts, hams and cheeses are abundant. Look for cassoulet and duck confit on the menu here.
Cafe d'Alsace, 1695 Second Ave. at 88th Street, features Alsatian cuisine from the northeast part of France, near the German border. Here you'll find: Truite au Riesling, a grilled trout filet in a Riesling sauce (delicious!); Choucroute Garnie, assorted sausages and braised pork belly over sauerkraut with Riesling; Baeckeofe, a traditional Alsatian casserole of lamb, oxtail, bacon and potatoes braised in pinot gris with onions and thyme; and Choucroute de Poissons.
Marseille, 630 Ninth Ave. at 44th St., has wonderful outdoor seating, a perfect spot for a glass of wine on a sunny afternoon. The food celebrates a mix of French, Italian, Greek and North African influences. Popular offerings are bouillabaisse, Tunisian chicken, short rib daube Provencale and steak frites.
Le Monde, 2885 Broadway, between 112th and 113th St., celebrates the cuisine of the Loire Valley. According to the Web site, "known as the 'Garden of France,' the Loire is home to some of the best-loved French dishes such as Coq Au Vin and Potato, Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart."
Nice Matin, 201 W. 79th at Amsterdam, offers tastes of the Nicoise region, on the eastern coast, a bit below the Alsatian region. On the menu you'll find Salade Nicoise, which includes olive oil poached tuna, raw vegetables, hard cooked eggs, olivade croutons with lemon and extra virgin olive oil; Pistou, a Nicoise vegetable soup with garlic and basil sauce; and Les Sardines Nicoise, broiled with Swiss chard, lemon and anchovy stuffing.
Maison, 630 Ninth Ave. at 44th St., features the cuisine of Brittany, a region that juts out into the Atlantic. At Maison, the menu focuses on the fish, shellfish and crepes that are found in quaint restaurants dotted along the seaside towns of Brittany.
French Roast, with locations at 85th and Broadway on the Upper West Side, and 11th Street and Sixth Avenue in the West Village, is always open for anything from drinks to brunch to dinner. "With the lively atmosphere of a Parisian bistro, both French Roasts pay homage to this most lively and cosmopolitan of cities," the Web site notes.
L'Express, 249 Park Ave. South at 20th Street, is a Lyonnaise restaurant that merges the traditional southern and northern influences of French cooking. The menu celebrates the meat and dairy products of the region, with daily sausage selections, charcuterie and cheese plates, pig's feet, sauteed tripe and Pike Dumplings," the Web site says.