Restaurants, Cafes, and Bistros
**Must-try places in my opinion.
In no particular order, some favorite places of mine.
It’s predictable to put this on my favorites list (see: pretty much every other American’s food reco list and find: Frenchie), but here it is. Personally, I prefer this to Frenchie’s restaurant across the street, which is good, but a little stuffy in my opinion and has a ridiculous three-month wait for reservations or some such craziness. The food and wine at the wine bar are equally good and the vibe is less stuffy.
Pot au chocolat: It’s all good here, and the menu varies, but they seem to always have this pot with olive oil and sea salt for dessert. If you’re looking for a conventional sweet chocolate dessert, this isn’t it, thanks to the liberal dousing of to-freakin-die-for south-of-France olive oil and salt, but it’s unique and definitely a must-try.
Royale de foie gras, chutney pomme poire, chataigne: No words other than YOU MUST EAT THIS.
Whatever burrata is on the menu
Reservations: not accepted for the wine bar. It opens at 7 and if you don’t want to wait for a table, get lined up outside by about 6:30. Also, it’s open Monday through Friday only, no weekends.
**Le Comptoir de Relais (6th)
Don’t let the fact that Anthony Bourdain came here turn you off for fear of too many tourists; this place is full of plenty of locals, too. Dinner is prix fixe and delicious (the cheese plate is unbelievable), but I prefer the lunch menu here because your options feel endless. I can’t remember the menu items verbatim because — warning for non-French speakers — the menu is entirely in French (which apparently makes the exact name of the dish hard for me to remember) so if you like what you see here, describe it to your server in English (I think all the servers here speak a little English) and they should be able to help you. Don’t forget to check out the daily specials written on the mirror inside, but if weather permits, sit outside. It’s Saint-Germain, so do as the Saint-Germainians do, which is lounge with wine and watch the world go by.
Reservations: No for lunch (though a line forms out front at peak hours so be prepared for that), yes for dinner
A dish that’s in the salad section: ham, white beans, red peppers, rocket, and bernaise sauce. (Note: Not on the menu in September 2013, so it may be seasonal to summer or retired. But ask for it and they may make it for you.)
Lavender crème brûlée (seasonal)
Heirloom tomato salad (seasonal)
Sweet pea tarte (seasonal)
Cheese plate (dinner only)
**L’Avant Comptoir (6th)
Technically, this is Le Comptoir de Relais’ little sister, though I wouldn’t call it that because it’s just as good, depending on what you’re in the mood for. Designed in theory to be a place to stop off for a bite before Le Comptoir (hence the name – avant means “before”), this place is all about small plates, crusty baguettes, and delicious glasses of wine and champagne. You could easily make this your meal spot.
Make sure to look up once you’re inside; it took me a couple of times for some reason to notice all the signs hanging from the ceiling, which are the actual menu items. There’s also a board with specials written on it and the first few times I went there, I thought that what was on that board was all that was available. (Chalk it up to sensory overload – in French.) I can’t remember everything I ate there, and there’s no menu online, so this list is not comprehensive. But if you go there, you’re already a winner. Congrats. You won’t go wrong with anything.
Sauteed mixed mushrooms
Croquettes de pied cochon (croquettes with pigs’ feet. Croquettes of anything – just get croquettes.)
Cured meat plate
Cute little place down the street from Verjus (see below). This is a fave of expats, which means the place will be 80 percent English-speaking tourists and 20 percent French people, but it’s still legit. If it’s on the menu, get the fried clams (palourdes frites) over creamed corn, pickled chilies, lemon, and basil – so creative and absolutely delicious. Also tried and also delish: green beans served with white bean hummus topped with sourdough bread crumbs. Walnut cake dessert was meh, but don’t let that stop you from coming. Nice wines and a great atmosphere, especially for a date.
Not to be confused with the New York version of Buvette (which is a ripoff of the Paris version). Good food, great people watching (in the now hipster-fied SoPi, or South Pigalle). No idea what I ordered as we had too much wine, but I liked it. And we found a pack of old birth control pills on the floor, so there’s that.
Mexican! In Paris! C’est vrai! This place is California taqueria in the front, swanky New York cocktail bar in the back; it’s like the mullet of Mexican food, only if we’re using the mullet analogy, it’s a spicy party in your mouth up front, and a spicy liquid party in your glass in back. You might glance at, and then forget about, the non-descript white door at the back of the taqueria, but don’t overlook it because that’s the door that gets you to the bar.
Reservations: Not accepted, so get there early. There are a few seats at a small bar in the restaurant and a couple of small tables.
La Guêpe Verte (bar): spicy tequila, cucumber, coriander, agave and lime. Warning: it’s got a kick.
Margarita in the taqueria – not the swanky back bar, especially if you’re watching your euros – because they’re delish and only 5 euros. These have a kick, too – must be the spicy pepper flakes they use to garnish the rim instead of salt.
Shredded pork tacos
Whatever open-faced, crispy-shell special they have that day
**Verjus Bar a Vins (1st)
Like Frenchie, Verjus has both a restaurant and a wine bar, and also like Frenchie, they’re only open Monday through Friday. I never ate at the restaurant, but this cute and tiny wine bar serves delicious small plates. The vibe here is my favorite in Paris. For some reason, most wine bars in Paris are brightly lit and the tables are arranged in a way that always reminds me a little of a church basement buffet, which as we all know is about as much fun as say, having a root canal without anesthesia or having a limb severed. I don’t know about you, but I like a little candle-lit ambiance with my glass of Bourgogne red, and Verjus nails it in terms of that. Bonus: it’s right across the street from the beautiful Palais Royale and just a five-minute walk from The Louvre.
Reservations: yes for restaurant, no for wine bar
Note: If you want to have drinks among real French people, speaking real French, don’t go here. This is expat central, which isn’t a bad thing, just a reality.
Buttermilk fried chicken
Burrata mozzarella, wild greens, smoked almonds and crimini mushrooms
Skillet broccoli with Korean rice cake, anchovy, and Parmesan: Yes, I’m recommending broccoli, but please believe me when I say that this is like crack broccoli, so you should try it.
Shoestring fries: If you’re just here for a week or so, skip these. If you’re an expat, or if you’ve been in Paris for a while, you might need an order of these. I, for one, had no idea how much I missed a crispy, skinny french fry until I had one.
Au Passage (11th):
Make a reservation or plan on sitting at the bar, which is a great seat for watching what goes down at the bar. Tasty bavette (steak), crab salad, carottes râpées, and bread with huge hunks of delicious french butter
I try hard to resist things that everyone tells me I should like, and this place always has a line. So naturally, I rolled my eyes at the French hipsters standing in line every time I walked by. What’s more, once inside, you might wonder what all the fuss is about; the shoddy decor is definitely nothing to write home about. But those hot, soothing, delicious noodle dishes saved my life on more than one icy-cold Paris night. This is also close to the Louvre, and if you’re looking for a less-expensive, non-French option, this place might be just the ticket for you.
Kimchi Lamen: Super-spicy (like really spicy, not wimpy-Paris pretend-to-be spicy) Korean-style pork on top of a steamy bowl of noodles and veggies. If you’re getting sick or are freezing cold (as is often the case in Paris) this hot bowl of deliciousness will open up your sinuses and soothe you for sure.
Maybe recommending a breakfast place in Paris feels counter-productive to your pursuit of croissants for breakfast. Whatever. Have two breakfasts and don’t think too hard about it. It’s Paris, and you’ll walk or Velib those calories off in no time. This place makes eggs the right (read: delicious) way: slow-cooked over low heat in butter, yielding creamy, rich eggs in your belly. Bonus points for the all-white upstairs loft. Whatever you get here will be good.
You find the best places by accident in Paris, just by wandering around, and that was definitely the case with this place. We were supposed to meet friends somewhere else and we got lost, so we took a load off here for a glass of wine. We ended up sitting next to some handsome and chatty French men – one of whom became a good friend – who not only made menu recos, but let us taste their food, too! (God I miss Paris. Where else in the world do hot men feed you?? Oh, right: Italy.) The owner is super-friendly, lots of fun (thanks for letting us plug our iPhones into the bar stereo system and drunkenly dance to our music of choice), and he’s French but has lived all over the world. This is a perfect place to relax after walking around Montmartre/Sacré Coeur.
Reservations: Technically yes, but I have a feeling they’ll be able to fit you in. Still, better not to chance it.
The burrata on the entrée menu. Sometimes they even have another burrata … because that’s just how they roll at Le G. Try the smoked burrata if they have it, but don’t forgo the regular for the smoked; get both.
This isn’t on the menu or even exclusive to Le G, but ask for a Get 27 (pronounced Jet), vodka, and Perrier. They make it all the time for my friends F and C, and ordering it will make you look like a French insider. It’s minty refreshing and it gets you really drunk. (See: the dancing in bar note above.)
Al Taglio (11th and 3rd)
Hey, don’t think I didn’t just see you rolling your eyes at the mere suggestion of eating pizza in Paris. I’m just trying to present all the tasty options, people, okay?? If you’re in France for an extended period of time, or if you’re lucky enough to have visited many times before, maybe you’re experiencing a little of what I call Fois Gras Fatigue (an appetite for anything but French food – totally a #firstworldproblem) and want to try something else. So try this – it’s really good. It’s not Italy (though it’s sold by the kilo like in Italy) and it’s not a New York slice, but it’s pretty darn delicious. I found the people who worked at the one in the 3rd much nicer, but if you want to explore outside the touristy Marais track, go to the 11th. (Note, I actually love the Marais; it’s touristy for a reason: because it’s awesome.)
Potato, truffle, mozzarella pizza
Pancetta, cream, persil pizza
Nutella and mascarpone pizza
Breizh Café (3rd)
You’re in France. You really ought to have at least one crêpe, don’t you think?? Don’t miss the gourmet store next door. They have tons of good stuff to buy/take back.
Reservations: Yes, depending on what day/when you go. As always, I say don’t chance it and make one.
Apple cider with your crêpe. Get your server to recommend one, but a pichet of this makes the experience.
A dessert crêpe, my personal preference is any crêpe that involves Nutella, salted caramel sauce chocolate sauce, and ice cream. Live a little because—did I mention?—YOU’RE IN FRANCE. You’re walking like it’s your job. You’ll burn those calories off in your sleep.
Crêperie de Josselin (14th)
Another great place to sample a traditional Breton crêpe, Crêperie de Josselin feels slightly more local than Breizh, but I think they’re equally good. Go here to get off the tourist path of the Marais and see something different. Must-tries at a crêpe place are tough for me because it depends on what you want inside, so go for it, but again I recommend some cider and for sure a dessert crêpe. They have a good prix fixe deal here for one savory, one dessert and a drink, so take advantage.