So you’re going to Paris. Aaand just below “Taking a picture in a striped shirt and a beret under the Eiffel Tower” on your “To-Do” list is “Eat some mind-blowing food“.
If not, it should be.
And like most Paris rookies, you think, “Man, there is going to be so much good food there and I am going to eat it all!”
I mean, French food is the literal bread and butter of great cuisine (or baguette and buerre, as the case may be).
But believe it or not, it really isn’t that easy to find amazingly incredible food in Paris.
The reason being that there is so much crappy, tourist, imitation French food surrounding all of the easily accessible (ahem, touristy) locales in the city. And you wouldn’t be the first one to fall into these traps. In fact, many people that I have spoken with have been totally disappointed with their Parisian culinary experiences. Which is a huge shame.
As a 4-time Parisian visitor and avid eater, I am here to deliver a list of some of my faaavorite places to have an incredible meal in Paris. (Insert fanfare here, s’il vous plait)
Without further adieu:
Fontaine de Mars
129, rue Saint-Dominique
If the checkered table cloths and striped awnings don’t instantly draw you into this darling bistro, perhaps the essential French classic menu will. With a covered terrace along the courtyard and a charming interior with a patterned tile floor and neatly scattered tables that seems to be missing only a contemplative intellectual in the corner, Fontaine de Mars is packed most evenings with local regulars and tourists alike. I have dined twice now at Fontaine de Mars and I have been very satisfied with the no-fuss, straight forward French fare that has come to my table. Oddly enough, I had the same waitress on both occasions and received straight-forward, efficient French service. She told us what to order and what to skip over, even as she bustled through the rest of her tables. High points for not letting us see the bottom of our glasses!
Just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower, this is a good bet among many imitation brasseries in the area.
16 avenue de La Motte-Picquet
The first time I walked into L’Auberge Bressane, I was certain I had been pulled into a tourist trap. The wooden terrace and medieval-vibe décor (think large red leather chairs with brass nails) might seem a little off-putting, unless you simply love a little schmaltz with your dinner. And you are guaranteed to have a great meal here. Whatever you order, be sure to top it off with one of their light and fluffy soufflés. My mother and sister swear by the Gran Marnier soufflé, but I am a sucker for the Chartreuse and Truffle, where a steaming soufflé is brought table side, 3 truffles are placed on top to sink into the airy pastry, and then drizzled with chartreuse. I mean….do you need more convincing?
30, rue Gay Lussac
Les Papilles has given me the best food and dining experience in Paris on two separate occasions. Tucked away in a less-frequented tourist district a quick jaunt from Jardin Luxembourg, this small bistro serves as a wine and delicacy shop during the day. When it transforms into a seated restaurant in the evening, the wine shop aspect remains; you can peruse the walls for the wine of your choice, organized on price tiers. The tiny kitchen in the back pumps out an incredible set three course family style meal to each table at their own pace. Each course is thought out, down to the beautiful garnishes that sit at the bottom of your soup bowl (imagine pancetta, croutons, fried sweet potato, marscapone cream for you to pour your creamy squash soup on top of) and usually feature a Northern African flare. Every meal is finished with a cheese plate paired with compote and, of course, more wine.
If you make a reservation here, don’t be late! Late tables are handed over to walk-ins – a rare occasion as we saw nearly half a dozen people turned away at the door.
3 rue des Grands Degrés
I have dined now at Reminet three times, and I would still return for a fourth. This tiny little restaurant seats only a few tables at a time in their low-light cavern of a restaurant, just a stones throw from Notre Dame. The wait staff is extremely knowledgeable about every dish coming from their kitchen- from oysters to roasted game- and can always suggest a great wine pairing. I have opted for their specials on almost every occasion, which highlight in-season delights. Although their dessert menu is always tempting, I can never turn down a few cheeses and port; the cheese board is brought table side and each local fromage is described before being sliced fresh in front of you.
135 rue Saint-Dominique
One of celebrated Parisian Chef Christian Constant’s establishments, Les Cocottes is a fresh and modern take on French and Basque cuisine. The interior of the narrow galley-style restaurant is Paris chic, rather than the usual Paris charming of most bistros. Constant features dishes served in “cocottes,” individual sized cast iron pots that emanate incredible smells and are filled with rich flavors. Alternatively, there is an offering of beautiful fresh salads, if your daily baguette is weighing you down. With the cocotte de jour coming in at only 16 eu, and the most expensive dish landing at 32 eu, Le Cocottes is a safe way to experience Paris chic within a budget.
Au Petit Sud Ouest
46 av. de la Bourdonnais
Au Petit Sud Ouest dishes up one of France’s finest delicacies, fois gras, in a number of delicious varieties. If ever you wanted to be adventurous and try this interesting delicacy, this is the place to do it! Fresh and hand made from the passionate chef behind the menu, simply ask the hostess or waiter what they suggest and dive in. We fell in love with the hostess and co-owner, who took care of our table most of the night, making great suggestions with enthusiasm and knowledge- not to mention that she made us all feel like close friends with cheeky jokes throughout the night! I suggest sharing the fois gras as a starter as it is extremely rich. If you haven’t had your fill of fowl, follow up you starter with their signature duck confit or duck in your choice of sauce. Looking for something other than duck? You might find a salad that is duck free, though I suggest just dining elsewhere. This place is for fowl lovers and those ready to jump feet first in to some of the best dishes Paris has to offer! You may find yourself waddling home….
Café de Flore / Les Deaux Magot
Boulevard Saint Germain
If you are looking for the quintessential Parisian café experience, look no farther than Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots in Saint Germain des Pres. With tuxedoed waiters and rows of those darling woven café chairs, you basically wont be able to walk by. Snag a spot outside and watch the chic shoppers of this upscale neighborhood pass you by. Each with a long history of hosting Paris’s elite and intellectuals, these picture-perfect cafes have made a name for themselves as the crème de la crème of the famed Parisian café scene. Cozy in for a lovely afternoon lunch of real croque monsieur and Chablis, or simply rest your touring feet over their decadent hot chocolate. Oh, you’ve noticed that everything is overpriced? Well, of course, darling! Mixing with the Paris chic is no cheap task, though I will say that the hot chocolate is worth every last euro. You’re in Paris! Just sit back and enjoy the snobbery!
Jacquemart Andre Museum
158, bd Haussmann
If you want to take a break from your breakfast croissant on-the-go in Paris, you simply must drop in to the Sunday brunch at the Jacquemart Andre Museum. Your brunch includes a hot beverage of your choice, breads, eggs swimming in cream and a salad with cured ham or smoked salmon, all finished off with a treat from their colorful pastry cart. Queue up before the doors open at 11am, as the chic little dining room and terrace are popular among Parisians and visitors alike, but be sure to purchase your museum tickets on the way in, so you can stroll through the elegant mansion and explore the private collection and mansion of Edouard Andre after your meal.
1, rue du Pont Louis-Philippe
We stumbled into Chez Julian one gloomy afternoon for a quick lunch that quickly turned long as soon as we had a glimpse at the menu (and the cute waiters in tuxedos!). The patio is in a secluded pedestrian street lined with lavender plants, a tea shop, and a Gothic Cathedral which could not look more French if it tried. The interior, however, is just as stunning. With original painted ceilings and tiled floors, Chez Julian charmed us into “oohs” and “aahs” that only come from tourists like us. The lunch menu produced hearty meals that were perfect for our chilly afternoon, with lamb chops and roasted potatoes making na appearance next to, yet another, incredible bottle of wine.
Macaroons: La Carette
25 place des Vosges
Recommended to my mother nearly 5 years ago for the “best macaroon in Paris,” Le Carette has held that title in my mind since. Yes, above Laudree and other highly lauded places. This lesser known location on the Place Royale also offers simple lunches and a variety of pasteries, but we always duck in to grab a box or bag of colorful macaroons.
The best one? Salted Caramel. Though, pistaccio is also a contender.
Eclair-La Maison De Chou
5 rue Jean du Bellay
While you are strolling around the Il Saint Louis, taking in the quaint and quiet streets of this much-forgotten island behind Notre Dame, drop into La Maison du Chou for a little crème puff to take along with you. Pick your filling flavor from chocolate, caramel, original, or a more interesting flavor of the season like mango-passion fruit. These little French treats are light and airy -and easy to eat by the half dozen! Grab one (or 3!) to go, or a to-go box to enjoy by the Seine as you stroll home!
Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole
24 Rue Chanoinesse
This last recommendation comes with some hesitation. As we showed up for our reservation, I was ecstatic to see that this darling little place was where we were eating- I had seen photos of the façade before even arriving in Paris. It came highly recommended by friends who frequent the city. The entire place is completely charming- though you wont see many Parisians in there. Upon entering the tiny little restaurant, we were taken upstairs to sit in one of the small rooms up there. You can go into their wine cellar and pick from among the cobwebbed bottles arranged in every corner of the room.
Charming experience aside, the food was not top-notch and the service was not entirely attentive. However, if you are looking for an extremely unique experience, this is the place to go to.
Pro-Tip: If you really want that “local” experience, make your dinner reservations later in the evening, around 9pm. Earlier seating times are almost always occupied by tourists, and most will be pushed out the door more quickly to make room for the later local seating. You will be able to enjoy a slower meal surrounded by Parisians if you can stave off that hunger for a few hours!
So please, please don’t settle for a day-old crummy croque monsieur from some random street vendor. Find your way down a small street and see what quiet little place catches your fancy!
But the ONE thing you can always eat off the streets: crepes, of course.