While Paris is a meat eater’s paradis, there are pockets of places that are vegetarian-friendly, or are completely vegetarian. As a sideline to my guest post Vegetarian Restaurants in Paris, here are my tips for dining out and getting by.
If you’re looking for a typical ‘Parisian’ meal, don’t limit yourself to bistros and brasseries. Nowadays, Parisian cuisine includes ethnic dining. There’s excellent Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern restaurants that offer lots of options. The good Indian places are clustered by La Chapelle, behind the gare du Nord, and the Asian places are mostly in the 13th. Couscous restaurants are scattered across the city. L’Atlas (12, blvd St. Germain) is a favorite, and offers a lot of seafood couscous selections.
If you eat cheese, crêperies are good places to go for authentic French food. Note that if you want a buckwheat ‘crêpe’, they might not know what you’re talking about since they’re called a galette au sarrasin; galette is the term for a crêpe made with buckwheat. Curiously, sometimes they’ll call it a crêpe de blé noir, too. Check links below for addresses I recommend.
Cafés at lunch usually have lots of main course-sized salads and you can certainly ask for that croque Monsieur without the jambon. Bakeries and pastry shops all sell le sandwiches and invariably offer one well-stuffed with cheese. In French, crudités means ‘vegetables’, which will likely be lettuce and tomato, and sometimes comes on sandwiches. A salade de crudités is a salad composed of various vegetables.
‘Salade’ means ‘salad’ in French, but it also means ‘lettuce’. So if you ask for sandwich or soup with salade you might just get a mere leaf or two of lettuce alongside. If you want a plain green salad, ask for “une salade verte”.
It’s very uncommon to order just soup or salad for dinner in a restaurant as a meal. At lunch, it’s more acceptable. Most waiters might look taken aback if you order a salad for dinner, but it’s mostly because they’re surprised, not offended.
As with any special requests in Paris, be nice. Service people, including waiters, are used to calling the shots, so you want them on your side. It’s helpful to first apologize for asking for special assistance. Remember: they’re doing you a favor. In spite of their reputation, French people can be quite helpful and if prompted, will take care of you pretty well—if they want to.
Be aware that in France, if you tell them you’re vegetarian or that you don’t eat meat, they might just assume you don’t eat beef. Some don’t consider chicken or pork ‘meat’ since they’re not sold in butcher shops, but at charcuteries and volailleurs. It’s a cultural difference so just make your preference known when ordering.
There’s a few good natural food stores in Paris, including the chains Naturalia and biocoop, where you can stock up if you want to do your own cooking or for snacks. They have organic vegetables, tofu, soy products and other staples.
The two organic markets are Raspail (Sunday) and Batignolles (Saturday.) The first is a little chic (think women in fur coats with matching children), while the second is more laid-back. Most of the outdoor markets have one or more stands that sell products that are biologique (organic) or ‘bio’. See below for locations.
Vegetarian Paris Links
Please note that like other businesses, vegetarian restaurants come and go. Always call ahead.
Menu Translation Guide
Vegetarians Restaurants in Paris
Consider taking a vegetarian cooking class at La Cucina di Terresa
Two Dining Guides to Paris
Vegetarian Paris: Comprehensive guide to vegetarian restaurants, juice bars, organic food shops, and organic bakeries. (Updated annually)
French Vegetarian Society
Cuisine Végétarienne Gourmand: Click on bonnes adresses for list of restaurants
Paris Outdoor Market List
Yoga in Paris
My tips for gluten-free dining in Paris
Annuaire-Parisien: List of vegetarian restaurants in Paris
L’As du Fallafel: Great budget dining spot in the Marais
Gridskipper list some vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Paris
Site for Eco-Friendly Bed & Breakfasts in Paris
Eat-Out Paris: List of vegetarian restaurants in Paris
Two crêperies I recommend: Crêperie Bretonne and Breizh Café
Compilation of Paris Favorites
Mon Vieil Ami has a vegetable-friendly menu.
10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris