Since we arrived back from our month-long escapade in France, I’ve received a variety of requests for a recap of the places we ate in Paris. These questions are from readers who are heading to Paris soon (either in reality or in dreams—both valid!) or who simply love food (we should be best friends).
I’ve also received questions asking if I bought any special souvenirs abroad. This post is the answer. Although I picked up a few postcards whose photos I found particularly charming and splurged on small traditional cider pitcher and matching “bowls” in Brittany, the experiences I sought in France—how I wanted to spend my time, money, and energy—were centered around food. Museums and major sights were 40 percent of our Paris agenda. The other 60 percent consisted of me dragging Ben around the city because, “Oh my gosh, we have to go here—this place has the WORLD’S BEST CARAMELS.” Never mind that we took the metro for caramels. They were incredible (as were the chocolates we chased afterwards), and I’d do it all again.
It can be surprisingly hard to find a great meal in Paris without shelling out a fortune, and I do want to be clear that restaurants in France are expensive, particularly when compared to average cities in the U.S. Because I’d been dreaming about this trip (and French food) for years, we directed our budget towards meals.
When you travel to Paris and are about to spend your hard-earned moolah on food in one of the world’s greatest food capitols, the last thing you want is to eat a bad meal, and I hope this list may be somewhat helpful. All of the restaurants I listed have good-sized portions (unless I’ve noted otherwise), and none of them will serve you a tiny bit of foam and call it dinner (unless I’ve noted otherwise).
This list is organized into a few categories:
- Bakeries | Patisseries | Chocolate Shops | Gelato: My pieces of heaven.
- Macarons: I ate so many, they merited a separate section.
- Must-Eat Meals: These were some of the best, most memorable meals of our trip (and lives).
- Excellent Eats: Truly enjoyable and excellent options for lunch and dinner.
- Hit the Spot: Didn’t blow our minds, but no regrets and would recommend.
- Not Worth Repeating: Places we wouldn’t return.
I’ve also included the most valuable resources that helped me plan our eats below, so check those out for more options. I still have so many places I would have loved to try, but with limited time, resources, and digestive capability, a girl has to make choices. Here are ours:
BAKERIES | PATISSERIES | CHOCOLATE SHOPS | GELATO
Pierre Herme: Pierre doesn’t realize it, but we are in a relationship. I’m emotionally attached to his croissants (best we ate in Paris—be sure to have these three: plain butter, signature raspberry, and coffee) and macarons (more on those in a minute). Do note that not all Pierre Herme locations have a bakery, though happily the one in the 6th arrondissiment on Rue Bonaparte by our apartment did.
Eric Kayser: Best baguette in Paris. Eric’s Odeon baguette (which is loaded with yummy, crunchy grains) isn’t traditional, but it’s my hands down pick. I also developed a small obsession with the fig-stuffed wheat rolls.
Le Grenier a Pain: Award-winning bakery in Monmartre with a killer citron (lemon) tart. I’m only sad I was too full to eat the salmon and goat cheese fougasse right along with it.
Poilane: Poilane’s rustic, lightly tangy, and deeply complex sourdough is widely regarded as some of the best bread in the world (and it is shipped all over the world too). In a word, wonderful. You can purchase by the slice, or go for the entire 6-pound miche and carry it onto the plane with you. My toast will never be the same. Be sure to try their wood-fired desserts as well. The rustic apple tart was one of my favorite treats of the entire trip.
Jean-Charles Rochoux: My favorite chocolate shop overall, and I’m still pining away for their chocolate basil truffle. Ask the cashier to recommend a few flavors. You won’t be disappointed.
Patrick Roger: His chocolate-coated prailines are other-worldly. Be sure to note the life-sized lion sculptures made of chocolate in each of his shops (as if you could miss them).
Jaques Genin: Best. Caramels. Ever. You must go. And you must get the mango caramel. How does he squeeze in so much butter? Excellent chocolate and pates des fruits as well.
Amorino Gelato: A near-daily ritual. Generous servings, mix as many flavors as you like, and tasting is OK. Go for the speculoos, hazelnut, and coffee. Mmmm.
Bertillion Gelato: The Paris original. Higher prices and smaller servings than Amorino. It was a bit richer and perhaps a tiiiiny bit better, but for the value, I’d pick Amorino.
Patisseries, in general: At 4 pm each day, pop into a patisserie and pick something that looks yummy. We had great success, and I’m sure you will too.
Paris has a handful of celebrated macaron shops, so of course I had to try them all for “research” purposes. I had one winner over all, but particular flavors at some of the different shops really stole my heart. I recommend you try them all, then decide for yourself.
Pierre Herme: Hands-down favorite. Pillowy soft and filled with layers of complex, creative flavor. The ginger-coconut-cinnamon-lime, passion fruit-chocolate, raspberry-rose-yogurt, and straight-up dark chocolate were the most memorable.
Laduree: My second favorite. Their strawberry popseed was one of my favorites that I tried the entire trip, and I went back the last day just to have it one more time. Laduree also has adorable tea salons where I highly recommend you treat yourself to some luxury with a fabulous pastry and café viennois (coffee with a big bowl of whipped cream).
Carette: I took my sister to Carette’s tea salon (similar idea to Laduree) for her birthday. Fun experience (and the pistachio and cassis macs were particularly outstanding), but if I could only choose one salon, it would be Laduree.
Dalloyau: A mix of classic flavors with a few creative specials. The congag mac was incredible.
Fauchon: Head to their store on Place Madeline for an overwhelming foodie experience, all in pink and black shiny paper. Everything glitters, including some of the macarons, but the meringues were too hard for my taste.
MUST EAT MEALS
Les Papilles: Best meal of our the trip, and undoubtably one of the best of our lives. There’s no menu. Pay a flat fee for four courses, and you’ll adore every bite. Now, when my mind wanders during the day, I catch myself fantasizing about the braised lamb shoulder we had as our main course. I didn’t even think I liked lamb prior to this experience. I was mistaken. Reservations a must.
Bistrot Paul Bert: This neighborhood spot has received acclaim from The New York Times, yet is absolutely unassuming. The service was superb, the prices absolutely fair, and the meal unforgettable. Paul Bert is widely reputed for having some of the best (if not the best) steak-frites in Paris. Just don’t try to order your steak beyond medium—they won’t serve it. Dessert here is a must.
Breizh Cafe: Authentic Brittany buckwheat galettes (savory crepes), dessert crepes, and cider. The owner hails from Brittany an offers the real deal. So amazing, we went twice. Make reservations, even for lunch, and don’t forget to order the salted caramel crepe for dessert.
L’Avant Comptoir: This standing-only wine and tapas bar offers a wide menu of small plates and wines. The menu hangs from the ceiling, it’s bursting with energy, and is the kind of place you come to eat and drink far too much and make lots of friends doing it. I loved the high-energy, and the opportunity to try creative twists on French classics. (Foie gras skewkers? Prosciutto and artichoke waffle? Boudin noir savory macaron? Bring it!) They also set out enormous baskets of fabulous bread and slabs of the best butter I have ever eaten in my life. It has so much flavor and was so gloriously soft, it was almost like a dip—which is exactly how we ate it.
Cuisine de Bar: Delightful tartines (think open-faced sammie loaded with flavor), served on Poilane bread (see above for Poilane info). After I expressed interest in the incredible the sea salt placed on the table, our server gave me a little container to bring home. (I later returned and purchased a 3-kilo bag that I’m depleting rapidly.) I enjoyed this spot so much, we went twice.
Da Rosa: Part high-quality deli, part restaurant, part wine bar, this spot offers a salivating selection of high-quality Spanish meats, cheeses, and olives. Can one live on bread, meat, and cheese alone? After eating at Da Rosa, I’m willing to venture a yes (provided I can still have dessert).
Chez Paul: An excellent, classic bistro offering French staples at very fair prices. Between the rabbit, steak, and swordfish at our table, everyone was happy. The fried dandelion green, poached egg, and bacon salad I had for a starter was excellent too (perhaps because there was more bacon than greens).
Le Village: A gem in Monmartre (by the Sacre Couer/Moulin Rouge). Fabulously untouristy and the location of our first croque madames of the trip. Hello eggy, cheesy, hammy, sammie heaven.
Café Le Precope: One of the oldest restaurants in Paris and a favorite of Ben Franklin. Wonderful French classics and great service.
La Rotisserie: Right on the banks of the Seine and serving the best coq au vin of the trip. Great service and the fire-roasted meats were yummy.
HIT THE SPOT
Les Antiquaires: I was a bit nervous to try a place so near The Orsay (a major tourist site), but this café was more than fine. Go for their giant, wonderful salads, one of which includes a softball-sized serving of burrata (a creamy cheese made by angels) surrounded by prosciutto.
Chez Georges: Definite neighborhood vibe, friendly service, cheap wine, and good, filling basic food. If I lived nearby, I would be a regular.
Café du Marche: Near(ish) to the Eiffle tower. Giant salads, tasty burgers, really tasty fries, all at great prices. We wound up eating here twice because we were in the same neighborhood and searching for a staple.
Restaurant Polidor: This place has been around since 1845 (as has its plumbing). It’s jam packed with happy diners, and the food is no-frills but completely tasty.
Pizza Sant’Antonio: The giant 11 euro pizza pies were just what the hungry travelers ordered after a long day of exploring.
NOT WORTH REPEATING (but read this anyway!)
I want to preface this section by saying—none of these places were bad. I just have some hesitation recommending them, for the reasons I’ve listed below.
Cave la Bourgone: Inexpensive (relatively), but you get what you pay for—Ben’s steak was fairly chewy, and my salad was more toasted bread than greens or cheese.
L’Ebouillante: If you are looking to sit outside and aren’t too fussy about your food, this place is just right. I loved being out on the sidewalk, but the food wasn’t particularly memorable.
La Cremerie: In a super touristy spot in Monmartre, and priced to match. Go for the atmosphere if you like, but don’t have your heart set on a great meal.
L’Atlas Brasserie: An easy, decent dinner option in St. Germain on busting Rue de Buci, but nothing revolutionary. They do offer a large menu with a wide-range of options, so this could be a good choice for larger (pickier) parties.
Le Reflets du Scene: Good if you need a bite after visiting the Louvre, but not for much else. Nice service.
Frenchie Wine Bar: If I money were of no consequence, this restaurant would be listed as a “Must Eat.” The food is some of the best we had in France, but the portions were teeeeeeny tiny and expensive for their size. If you are a big foodie and don’t mind dropping some serious $$ to fill yourself up, it’s worth going. Warning: no reservations and the wait can be formidable.
EATING IN PARIS | Resources
I found these resources to be extremely helpful when planning our meals and sweet excursions. David Lebovtiz’s recommendations were particularly reliable and led us to some of our most memorial experiences.
My Paris + Dining Tips by David Lebovtiz
10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris by David Lebovtiz
The Paris 10: Must Tastes by Dorie Greenspan
Common Ordering Mistakes in Paris by David Lebovtiz
French to English Food Glossary by Patricia Wells