If you’re coming to Paris, here are some of my favorite places to get something really good to eat. Most aren’t fancy, but are more places where you’ll find a good mix of Parisians with a few visitors as well. Most of them are moderately priced, except where noted.
It’s always wise call ahead to make sure they’re open and make a reservation. Restaurants in France like to know who’s coming in that evening and unlike major cities in the US, you can usually get a table the same day or week, unless the restaurant is particularly well-known. If you can’t make it, canceling your reservation is very much appreciated.
Some of the places I’ve written up elsewhere on the site and you can use the search engine to read more about them. And you can also browse my Paris Restaurant archives to read through all the listings.
A La Biche au Bois
45, Av Ledru Rollin, tel: 01 43 43 34 38, (M: Gare de Lyon). Two 2 blocks from the Gare de Lyon train station. Not fancy but a lot of fun, and great food. Order one of the fixed menus and save room for the cheese course. For starters, try to get through a gargantuan salade Perigordine, topped with a big chunk of foie gras. Many game dishes depending on the season. Closed weekends.
A La Petite Chaise
36, rue de Grenelle, tel: 01 42 22 13 35, (M: Bac or Sèvres-Bablyon). The oldest restaurant in Paris, classically-attired waiters bring food that is perfectly correct. Expect the classics done the way they’ve been done for a while. Open every day, including Sundays.
18, rue Jean-Nicot, tel: 01 53 59 96 96, (M: Invalides, or La Tour-Maubourg). Enjoyable tapas-style bar, more upscale than anything in Spain, with fabulous hams from wild acorn-fed pigs. For dessert, stop down the street at Secco bakery for an almond-scented financier.
Bistrot Paul Bert
18, rue Paul Bert, tel: 01 43 72 24 01, (M: Faidberbe-Chaligny). Although you won’t be the only one in the dining room who’s discovered this gem, it still gets high marks for its sensible wine list and spot-on versions of French bistro food. The famed steak-frites can only be ordered rare, and the desserts rank right up there with the best pâtissieres in Paris. Reasonable three-course menus are scribbled on a blackboard. Their sister restaurant down the street, Le 6 Paul Bert, is one of my favorite places to dine in Paris.
109, rue Vieille du Temple, tel: 01 42 72 13 77, (M: St. Paul or St. Sébastian Froissart). Terrific crêpes and buckwheat galettes, right in the middle of the bustling Marais. Using organic buckwheat and Bordier butter, wash your meal down with sparkling apple cider or lait ribot – Breton buttermilk.
1, rue Jules Vallès, tel: 01 43 71 49 52, (M: Faidherbe-Chaligny) and 27, rue du Dragon, tel: 01 45 48 29 68, (M: Sèvres-Babylon). Chef Cyril Lignac took over these two Parisian addresses and revamped the dining rooms and the menus. The menus feature updated French classics, and the desserts are particular standouts. Open every day of the week. The Left Bank restaurant is more intimate restaurant whereas the bistro on the rue Jules Vallès is a pristine Parisian bistro. Across the street is the excellent bakery, La Pâtisserie, which makes the desserts and breads for the restaurants.
7, rue du Faubourg Montmarte, tel: 01 47 70 86 29, (M: Grands Boulevards). Folks come here for the value-priced meals rather than for fine dining. So if you stick to standards like roast chicken, frisée salad, and buttered radishes, you’ll be – well, fine. Just keep expectations low and enjoy the surroundings and classic servers. The fabulous dining room is justifiably famous and it’s not uncommon to be seated at a table with other diners. No reservations but the line moves quickly.
117, rue du Cherche-Midi, tel: 01 45 48 52 40, (M: Duroc or Falguière). Reliably good French bistro food, a genre that is increasing difficult to find in Paris. Friendly service and enormous portions (some of the dishes are available in half-sizes), the Grand Marnier dessert soufflé is a must, and the duck confit is among the best in Paris. Prices on the higher side, but worth it for the quality.
10, rue Belzunce, tel: 01 44 53 06 20, (M: Gare de Nord). During the winter, there’s a chalkboard with “hunters specials”, which features superbly fresh game. On my last visit, I had a mound of tiny scallops piled up in their shells, drizzles with luscious Brittany butter and herbs, then a succulent wild pigeon with foie gras, ending with an unfortunate chocolate soufflé with little flavor. Now I never leave without ending a meal with a classic Breton kouign aman which oozes and butter and caramel from every delectable crusty layer. Just a note that many items on the fixed price menu carry supplements, which have risen sharply upward in recent years. Reservations essential.
47, rue de Bretagne, tel: 01 42 72 36 26, (M: Filles du Calvaire). People are divided on Chez Omar, but the place has a lot going for it. It’s open every day but doesn’t take reservations, so you don’t need to decide to go weeks in advance (although the disorganized line is rather taxing), and you can have North African couscous or a pretty fine steak-frites. Service can be chaotic, and you’ll be surrounded by a big mix of people, from locals to out-of-towners. I stay away from the blasé first courses, saving room for the lovely pastries, which are from Bague de Kenza, a wonderful Algerian bakery in Paris. (Note: When presented with the large platter, you pay by how many you take.)
13, rue de Charonne, tel: 01 47 00 34 57, (M: Ledru-Rollin). One of the good, true remaining bistros in Paris that serves well-made French food. I like their giant Côte de Boeuf (for 2) as well as the dandelion salad with crisp bacon and a poached egg on top. Duck confit, steak-frites, and a few seafood selections are offered, as well as entrées like oeufs mayonnaise and plates of good charcuterie. The food is rustic, as is the atmosphere, but it’s a popular place with French diners, especially on Sundays when many other places are closed.
Cuisine de Bar
8, rue Cherche-Midi, tel: 01 45 48 45 69, (M: Sevres-Babylon) and 38, rue de Debelleyme, tel: 01 44 61 83 40, (M: Filles du Calvaire). Open-faced tartines, or sandwiches, served on pain Poîlane, the famed bakery next door. I am addicted to the sardines and olive oil with crushed salt as well as the sliced chicken with garlic mayonnaise and capers. If the French had come up with the sushi-bar, it would be like this. No reservations.
62, rue de Seine, tel: 01 40 51 00 09, (M: Mabillon or Odeon) and 7, rue Rouget d l’Île (1st). A favorite place to sit and have a lunch or dinner, grazing on the best Spanish hams, simple salads, and the best olives and wines from France, Italy, and Spain. Be sure to pick up a bag of Pimandes and chocolate-covered sauternes-soaked raisins, too.
6, Rue Clément (Marché Saint-Germain), tel: 01 43 26 19 02, (M: Mabillon). Traditional French food with a focus on Gascony. Skip the cassoulet (go to Gascony instead), and head for roasted pork and lamb. The fatty terrine Pot de Lou pastifret will require plenty of wine as an accompaniment and the pain perdu (French toast) for dessert are caramelized slabs of bread that will leave you satisfied for the rest of the day. (There is another location at Drouot, but I find the food better at the Saint-Germain spot.)
La Rôtisserie du Beaujolais
19, quai de la Tournelle, tel: 01 43 54 17 47, (M: Sully Morland or Cardinale Lemoine). Spit-roasted meats spin continuously, at this Seine-side restaurant. Roasted game and chicken are good bets. Open Sunday.
123, rue Saint-Honoré, tel: 01 42 21 92 40, (M: Louvre-Rivoli). This outpost of the other La Régalade (located out in the 14th) has good food, skillfully prepared. A pre-fixed menu hovers around €33 with supplements for special fare, such as various game dishes in season.
L’As du Fallafel
34, rue des Rosiers (M: St. Paul), closed Friday pm and Saturday. Join the crowd clamoring at the window while they prepare your fallafel with lightning-fast speed. Certainly a dive, and definitely popular. (I wish they would cook the fries more, though. Who wants soggy frites?) Fans of the fallafel might want to cross the river and hit Maoz, which makes a worthy (and dare I say better?) adversary.
12, St. Germaine-des-Prés, tel: 01 44 07 23 66, (M: Maubert-Mutualité). Pleasant Moroccan food; think couscous and tagines. There’s better couscous in town, but vegetarians will appreciate the variety of seafood tagines when they’ve become tired of feeling short-changed by the meat-heavy menus in Paris.
70, rue Baudricourt, tel: 01 45 70 91 75, (M: Tolbiac or Maison Blanche). A favorite spot for Vietnamese food. Inexpensive and authentic, expect your find yourself jammed elbow-to-elbow with fellow diners. Closed Monday.
Le Garde Robe
41, rue de l’Arbre Sec, tel: 01 49 26 90 60, (M: Louvre-Rivoli). This wine bar serves ‘natural’ wines and the friendly staff is happy to help you with suggestions. Although it gets crowded at peak hours, if you snag a table, you can order board of charcuterie and cheeses to make a nice meal.
10, rue du Marche Saint-Honoré, (M: Tuilleries). Authentic Parisian wine bar and a great place for a rustic lunch or simple sandwich at the counter, washed down with a glass (or two) of wine. I like to stop in late afternoon for a sip or two, accompanied with a most generous plate of their good charcuterie.
3, rue Sainte Beuve, tel: 01 45 49 10 40, (M: Notre Dame-des-Champs). Compact restaurant serving excellent cuisine traditionnelle, using the freshest of ingredients. Delicious.
84, quai de l’Hôtel de Ville, tel: 01 42 77 63 98, (M: Hôtel de Ville or Pont Marie). This hole-in-the-wall bistro serves well-made French classics without the fuss (or price) of other places. Classic French without any pretense. In season, you’ll find game dishes. Open seven days a week.
19, place des Vosges, tel: 01 42 78 44 64, (M: Bastille). Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday, this is a fine spot to sit under the arches of the gorgeous Place des Vosges. Standard French fare (the fixed menu is your best bet), generous salads, and Berthillon ice cream. Some people note, however, that the service can be brusque. No reservations or credit cards.
170, rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, tel: 01 40 05 01 01, (M: Gare du Nord). This Indian restaurant is completely vegetarian, making it a good choice for folks avoiding meat, or who want a change from having to be content with a salad at a bistro. The food is very good and the place is spotless.
6, rue Bailleul, tel: 01 45 96 05 72, (M: Louvre-Rivoli). A move to this larger, spiffier location meant an upgrade in the meals from the previous location, tucked away in the 9th. The fixed dinner menu allows you to taste a lot of various dishes using the freshest ingredients, which change daily, from the open kitchen of chef Daniel Rose. Lunch is less expensive but just as intriguing. Reservations a must.
52, rue Richelieu, tel: 01 42 97 54 40, (M: Bourse, Quartre-Septembre, or Pyramides). Inventive cuisine by Braden Perkins that changes daily, and seasonally. Fixed menus feature a range of ingredients, techniques and cultures, which all come together in multi-course menus that will surprise and delight. There is a casual wine bar downstairs (no reservations) that serves light fare, great frites, and an intriguing selection of wines by the glass.
13, rue Terneaux, tel: 01 43 57 75 56, (M: Parmentier or Oberkampf). Contemporary French food without any gimmicks or pretense. Villaret uses very fresh ingredients and fish dishes are particular stand outs. Wine-lovers will swoon over the extensive list.
West Country Girl
6, passage Saint Ambroise. tel: 01 47 00 72 54, (M: St Maur). You’ll think you’re lost in this small passage, but the warm welcome at this true Breton crêperie will made you realize you’re in the right place. Well-made crêpes and buckwheat galettes, along with sparkling cider and oysters on the weekends, will transport you right to the Atlantic coast of France.
You can find lots more suggestions and recommendations in my Paris Restaurant archives.
Some of my recommended Paris dining and travel guides:
- Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris
- Pâtisseries in Paris
- Hungry for Paris
- Zagat Paris
- Markets of Paris
- Eating and Drinking in Paris: French Menu Reader
For information and listings of my top places for chocolate in Paris, I’ve devoted an entire chapter to those listings including addresses and specialties in my book, The Great Book of Chocolate, and more of my favorite Paris guides are listed here.
My Paris Pastry App and E-Book
For those with smartphones, you can download my Paris Pastry app, filled with over 300 of my favorite addresses for pastries, chocolate, breads, hot chocolate, and ice cream all across the city. The app and e-book (which is also available for the Kindle) are packed with features, like location maps, color photos, opening hours, and tips on specialties to check out while you’re there.
Dining Tips in Paris
Visiting and dining in Paris all boils down to one rule: How You Get Treated is Directly Proportional to the Way that you Behave and Present Yourself.
It’s taken me a few years to get used to the fact that I can’t run to the corner bakery for bread wearing sweatpants and flipflops, nor can I wolf down pastries on the métro without getting disapproving stares. So don’t be afraid to dress a bit better than you would at home and to practice a few words of your high-school French. Believe me, even the feeblest attempt at a little French will take you much further than you can imagine in Paris.
Here are some tips and answers to many commonly asked questions:
Water and Wine
It’s never required that you order a pricey bottle of water. Be like the French and ask for a carafe d’eau. If you want to order a bottle of water, ask for gazeuse (with gas) or plat (flat, without gas). Be sure to specify when you order. Would you go into a restaurant in the United States and tell a waiter “I’ll have a soda”?
Ice is rarely given, although if you’re lucky, you may get a cube. Asking for a lot of ice will generally means an extra cube.
Wine by the carafe is normally good and inexpensive in Paris. Unlike in the US, the wine in the carafe is usually of good quality, which is why many French people order carafes. Check the blackboard to see what the wine of the moment or month might be, which is usually a good value. When in doubt, ordering Côte du Rhône is reliably good red wine.
If you order two appetizers, or a bowl of soup for a main course, the waiter may be taken aback. Don’t take it as an insult; it’s just not done in restaurants (it’s something you could do in a café without raising eyebrows). Proper dining in France is taken seriously, but if you’d rather eat lightly, just explain to the waiter you’ve had so many delicious pastries that day, you need something lighter. That, my friends, they’ll understand.
Meat and Fish
Ordering meat rare, or bleu means that you like nearly raw meat, hardly cooked, which is how many French people eat beef. Saignante is rare, à point (to the point) is medium-rare, and bien cuit or semelle (shoe leather) is well-done—or as we say in the restaurant business, “at your own risk”. If you like your steak well-done, due to the high quality of the beef, a restaurant that specializes in beef may not allow you to order it that was so don’t be surprised if they refuse to cook it that way.
Cuts of meat in France don’t correspond to most cuts of meat in America (and elsewhere) due to different methods of butchering. And the varieties of fish available often aren’t available in other countries and are called by their French name, naturally. Waiters sometimes know the translation – but not always – so if you’re very concerned about which cut of meat is which (or which fish is which) when you dine out, you may want to get a French Menu Translation Guide.
Oh-la-la! Everyone wants a buttery croissant in Paris – and why not? Just be sure to ask for a croissant au beurre, which is made with pure butter, rather than a croissant ordinaire, made with other fats. Pure-butter croissants are long and straight, whereas the ones made with other fats are usually very curved. Note that some bakeries do not actually make their croissants on the premises (mon dieu!) – butter or otherwise; they buy the pre-formed croissants and bake them in their ovens. A very good bakery will make them from scratch. And, of course, those are always worth seeking out.
Lunch and Dinner Hours
Many folks want to dine in non-touristed restaurants, surrounded by “locals”. If you want to eat amongst Parisians, opt for the later seating. Few in Paris eat dinner before 8pm and most will reserve at table for later than that, especially on weekends. Some restaurants have early seatings to accommodate out-of-towners, but locals will generally opt to eat later.
Lunch starts in most restaurants at noon, but places start filling up at 1pm. Tip: If you go to a café and just want coffee, don’t sit at tables set up with silverware and glasses; those are for diners.
Don’t assume your waiter is rude just because he doesn’t introduce himself by name and tell you his life story and rush over to refill your water after each sip. Unlike American restaurants with large staffs, restaurants in Paris often only have one or two people serving an entire dining room with no busboys. They are really busy! And when they have to deal with English speakers or people figuring out menus, that slows down their entire process. Don’t think they’re necessarily impolite. Realize that dining in France is important so relax and enjoy your meal.
You are also considered a guest in France when you go to a restaurant, not just a customer. So you should act like you’re in someone’s home, and being demanding or bossy won’t get you very far. If you have a special request, asking nicely and apologizing is your best bet. It’s not being obsequious, it’s normal. Special requests and food allergies seem to be rare in France and they’re simply not used to adjusting menus for special dietary preferences.
There is a perception the French are rude which is probably because you never come across anyone rude in America. In Paris, it’s imperative to say ‘Bonjour Madame/Monsieur’ when entering a shop or restaurant, and ‘Merci Madame/Monsieur’ when leaving. There is an equally incorrect perception that Americans are impolite since they don’t acknowledge the salesclerks in their shops, which is like being invited into someone’s home and stepping inside without saying hello.
Bread and Butter
Only in fine dining rooms will you be given a bread plate. Normally you place your bread on the tabletop, not on your plate. Butter is rarely served with bread, but it’s usually okay to ask for it. This may answer your question, “How do the French stay so thin?”
Once you place your order in a restaurant, I advise not making any changes, which disrupts the flow of things. For some reason, once that ticket is submitted to the kitchen, you’re pretty much committed to what you’ve ordered.
At least once, you will order some unimaginable organ by mistake. When it happens to me I think of it as an instant French lesson. You will also probably get served a steak that’s not cooked exactly the way you expect it, fish will be served with the head on and bones in (taking them out before cooking dries the fish out, they rightly say), and other foibles. If something is obviously wrong, like your ordered a rare steak in a nice restaurant and it comes out gray inside, or the soup or cheese is ice-cold, you should bring it to the attention of the waiter. In lower-priced restaurants and cafés, you should keep your expectations equally modest, though.
Talking vs. Shouting
Americans talk LOUDLY. If you don’t believe it, watch cable television “news” for a few minutes. It’s gotten so that restaurant reviews in the United States now include ‘sound’ ratings to denote the volume in restaurants. Many of us are used to speaking loudly, especially when we get into groups. If you’ve ever tried to have a peaceful dinner next to a table celebrating their annual office party, you know what I’m talking about. In Paris, people will modulate their voices so as not to disturb other diners; keeping your voice down will endear you to the locals much better.
Except during the morning hours, each time you order café, you will be served a small cup of dark, espresso-like coffee. If you want coffee with milk, when ordering ask for a café crème, not after they bring it. You may get a funny look if you ask for a café au lait, which is coffee with milk served in a bowl, always at home, for breakfast. Café noisette is an espresso with a touch of milk.
No one will automatically bring milk with coffee. If you don’t understand why, assume it’s the same reason that McDonald’s in the United States don’t serve red wine. If you want milk with your coffee, you need to specify each time to each waiter in each restaurant. There’s no master-file on how each visitor to France takes their coffee. (Although come to think of it, with the famous French bureaucracy and staggering paperwork, perhaps they’d be willing to take that on.)
Here’s a list of my recommended places for drinking coffee in Paris.
After dining, you’ll need to ask for the check when you want it, called ‘l’addition’—it’s considered very impolite to give a guest the check before they’ve asked for it.
Tips are always included in the amount shown on the check. In Paris, it’s fine to round-up in smaller restaurants, such as if the check is 19€, it’s normal to leave 1€ or so extra if you get very good service, but never required. In general, it’s acceptable to leave up to 5% extra for very attentive service. But some Parisians get upset that Americans leave generous tips, rightfully fearing it will lead to future earnings expectations.
If I could tell visitors to Paris one thing that’ll improve their dining experience, it’s to chill out. Yes, you might get some odd sausage instead of the soup you were expecting, or the steak may be cooked a bit more than you’re used to. (And the tables will to too close together, the service may be pokey, and you’ll have to ask at least twice for water.) But dining in France is not meant to be rushed and you don’t travel to experience things to be like back home, do you?
So take advantage of the leisurely service, inexpensive wine, and multiple courses and relax and enjoy yourself.
As of January 1, 2008, all restaurants, bars, and cafés in France are non-smoking. Smoking is allowed only outdoors. Unfortunately a large number of Parisians smoke so if you go to a café or restaurant and dine outside, there will likely be smokers at nearby tables. If you have an aversion to smoke, you might want to eat inside.
Restaurants and cafés are often not well-ventilated, which locals seem to prefer. (If you open a window, someone will rush over to close it because of a perception that drafts are bad for you, even in the heat of summer.) Air-conditioning is still a rarity as well: even if advertised, don’t expect the full-on blast of cold air you’d get elsewhere. If you are the type of person to get warm in unventilated places, dress in layers so you can remove a sweater or overshirt if it gets too warm for you.
Two Final Notes
One favorite travel tip is to scan your passport and store in a secure place online, such as in a cloud service. That way if you lose your passport, you can access a copy in case it’s lost or stolen.
And lastly, while Paris is a relatively safe city, there is a certain amount of petty crime. When dining out, avoid putting handbags on booths next to you (some folks get their wallets lifted by diners who come in, sit down, the abruptly leave), or leaving them on the floor or hanging off your chair. If dining in an unfamiliar area at night, have the restaurant call you a taxi home. And avoid using your smartphone or other devices on public transit as they are too-often swiped from users.
More of My Tips for Paris Travel:
- 10 Common Ordering Mistakes People Make in Paris
- Paris Transit Options
- Gluten-Free Eating in Paris
- Paris Favorites
- 10 Romantic and Sexy Things to Do in Paris
- Paris Cooking Classes & Wine Tasting Programs
- 10 Things to Do With Kids in Paris
- 10 Delicious Things Not to Miss in Paris
- Tipping in Paris
- Cookware Shops in Paris
- Romantic restaurants in Paris
- Health Care Tips for Travelers to France
- Where to Find the Best Steak Frites in Paris
- Accessible Travel in Paris
- Getting Money in Paris
- Paris Dining Blog Posts
- Where is the best duck confit in Paris?
- Paris Dining Guides
- Finding A Hotel in Paris
- Paris Airport Transfers
- Ways To Save Money in Paris
- Some Favorite Paris Restaurants
- Vegetarian Dining Tips for Paris and a list of Vegetarian Restaurants
- Where to Find a Great Hamburger in Paris (Kid-friendly)
- Sunday Dining in Paris
- Renting a Vacation Apartment in Paris
Helpful websites about Paris, most in English:
- American Hospital of Paris
- Batobus: Seine shuttle service
- Centre Pompidou
- Flea Markets: Vide greniers and brocantes
- France Time Zones
- French Banking Terms
- French Civil Service
- How to telephone France
- La Mosquée: A Paris Mosque
- Musée de Louvre
- Musée d’Orsay
- Paris Museum Pass
- Paris Tourism Office
- RATP: Paris métro, bus and RER
- SOS Helpline
- The City of Paris
- Vélib: Paris’ Bike Program
- World Time Zones