Clotilde Dusoulier is the ultimate Parisian insider, one shares her tasty tales of life in Paris on her blog, Chocolate and Zucchini. In this very handy guide, a native Parisian happily leads us around Paris, taking us from little-known specialty food shops and classic bistros to authentic Japanese noodle bars and wine tasting venues.
One of my favorite parts of Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris are tips on how restaurants and food shops work here. For example, knowing that you’re not a “customer” but a “guest” explains a lot of things to foreigners, who are used to the Customer is King attitude.
Other cultural tips, like keeping your hands on the table while you’re eating and not resting your bread on the edge of your plate, are explained so you can avoid making a faux pas, as I did shortly after I arrived in Paris and was scolded for my bread infraction by the host at a dinner party.
And I always thought it was rude to scold guests! Who knew?
This is a highly-personalized list of places to eat from someone intensely interested in finding good food, not afraid to explore some of the lesser-known addresses and neighborhoods, including a Togolese wine bar (pg 132), a soup and dumpling restaurant, and an oyster bar (pg 242) up by the Gare de l’Est that I thought no one else ever heard of. Good lord—it’s in there! There are a few of the standards, and upscale hot spots, but I appreciated most the places that are off-beat, and my book is riddled with post-its, marking off places that I want to follow up on.
While there’s a few recipes tucked in the pages, its compact size makes this is a book you could pack along* and use as your guide to the markets, chocolate shops, and specialty stores. It’s the next best thing to hitting the streets of Paris with Clotilde as your culinary guide. But if you’re stuck at home, you can make some of the wonderful sounding recipes, and dream about your next trip to Paris in the meantime.
(*I should take my own advice. This morning I was poking around Belleville and started getting hungry for lunch. I thought to myself, “Hmm. I wonder where that Vietnamese sandwich shop is that Clotilde was raving about is?” So I wandered aimlessly a bit, then finally settled on a pho shop and accidentally ordered a steaming bowl…heaped with les tripeaux! Bleech. Of course, when I managed to finish it off, as best I could, and stepped out the door, there it was (pg 105), right there in front of me. Stupid boy!)
Residing in Paris for almost 20 years, Alexander Lobrano has become known for his dispatches to Gourmet magazine about the local dining scene. Being a rabid gourmand, Hungry For Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 102 Best Restaurants, has too much information to stick in your pocket or bag for the day; savvy travelers should just jot down addresses prior to heading out.
When I got the book, I started flipping through it, jumping in and out of various chapters listlessly. But the writing was so good, I wanted to do it justice and read it front-to-back, and found it to be not just a list of restaurants, but a truly superb read.
Hungry For Paris is full of highly-personalized stories about his favorite restaurants. Listings are not merely a recitation of the menu with prices and specialties: it’s a book of essays, ones you’ll want to curl up in a chair to imagine yourself dining in traditional bistros, three-star restaurants, and local haunts, where folks with wet hair come for nourishment after their a shower following their midday rendez-vous d’amour. He’s not embarrassed to talk about why he wants to be seated in a certain place—around French people, so he (and you) can get “the better service that is always metered out to the French by the French.”
To get this, at the beginning are great tips about dining in Paris, from what to expect (and not to) in a restaurant, to how to appreciate the professional service one gets in a restaurant in France, which is often confused for being aloof.
Mr. Lobrano deflects critics in advance: at the end of the book, he notes a list of restaurants that he’s omitted, and why. It’s a great read and warns us away from a few well-known tourist traps, such as Allard and Bofinger, each of which gets a well-deserved dressing down.
Although I’m not sure I agree with his assessment that “…there’s no city in the world where you eat better. Period.”—I do think there’s some excellent food to be had in Paris if you know where to look.
And both of these books will lead you right to it.
Other Recommended Paris Dining Guides