Paris | An Eating Guide
I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Paris with my husband last January for my birthday. Naturally the trip mostly revolved around food (and art). I’ve had several people ask for recommendations, so I want to share a few tips I learned along the way and some of my favorite spots to eat! This is by no means an all-inclusive guide, but hopefully a good starting point. Also apologies for the photo quality–I don’t love lugging a large camera into restaurants, so these are mostly iPhone images.
1. As in most places, bread and pastries are freshest in the morning, but you may have to wait in line for them! Unlike the way we shop in the good ol’ US of A, most Parisians get fresh bread almost daily.
2. Dinner in Paris usually doesn’t start until around 7:30pm, so don’t be surprised if restaurants are empty before that (other than in touristy places). Some places don’t even take reservations before 7:00 or 7:30. If you love a lively atmosphere, wait a little later to go.
3. If you want to splurge on a Michelin starred restaurant, be aware that the prices tend to be much higher than what we’re used to for dinner at high end places (I’m talking €200+ per person). Lunch is a much more affordable time to sample Michelin starred restaurants.
4. The good news is that tax (VAT) and tip (15% service charge) is typically included in menu prices. You’ll often see it itemized on your receipt. You’re always welcome to add an extra tip for very good service, but it isn’t expected.
5. Bottled water is offered at most restaurants (usually €5-7 at nice places). If you want tap water, ask for it specifically. There was only one restaurant where we didn’t drink bottled water, and we spent the entire next day (our last day) in bed feeling like death. It’s not that the water is necessarily bad, but it can have different bacteria than the water you (and your body) is used to. It’s up to you, but I will be drinking and happily paying for bottled water next time I’m in Paris.
6. Be aware that some restaurants don’t allow hotel concierges to confirm your reservation because tourists are less likely to show up. I had to ask reallllly nicely to get our concierge to confirm a couple of our reservations.
7. Plan ahead for nice meals; tables are difficult to get at hotspots. If there’s somewhere you don’t want to miss, do some research to find out when they release reservations (or check back very frequently).
8. If you have internet at your hotel, but no global data plan, take a screenshot of maps before you leave so you can access them in your photos without service. Hotel concierges can also be good resources for getting walking maps/directions.
9. Most restaurants accept Mastercard & Visa (some take Amex). Check before you go to see whether your card has foreign transaction fees, which are often around 3% and add up very quickly. Amex cards and most travel credit cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees.
10. Another helpful hint for getting around: the last two digits of the zipcode in Parisian addresses indicate the arrondissement or neighborhood (1-20).
Where to eat in Paris:
Bread: Eric Kayser Boulangerie, multiple locations
What’s a trip to Paris without some freshly baked bread? Even though this is a chain, there was a long line of locals there every morning. We had perfectly flakey croissants (like the chocolate one my husband is happily munching on in the photo), fresh baguettes for a picnic, sandwiches, and quiches.
If you want a little taste of Paris closer to home, there are now three Eric Kayser locations in New York City.
Cheese: Fromagerie Laurent Dubois, Latin Quarter
When we decided to have a Parisian picnic, I knew that the cheese had to be top notch. We went on a scavenger hunt of sorts to gather all of the ingredients (pictured), but I didn’t want to leave the cheese shopping to chance. I did some research and read glowing reviews of Laurent Dubois. We were definitely not disappointed! Though the staff of the tiny shop didn’t speak much english, we were perfectly able to get what we wanted. Don’t miss out on trying samples while you’re in there!
47 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75005
Macarons + Pastries: Gérard Mulot, Saint Germain
This was my first taste of French macarons, and there was no turning back! Spoiled for life. We stumbled upon this little gem while walking in Saint Germain (I believe there are a couple other locations, too) and went back several times during our 5 days in Paris. We brought a huge box of them home–highly recommended for plane munchies.
Aside from the macarons, they had other beautiful pastries, bread, and chocolates. I can vouch for half the flavors of macarons, the opera, and the chocolate tart. All amazing! The staff didn’t speak much English, but didn’t seem annoyed at us pointing to what we wanted. There’s a €15 minimum for credit cards. Once you see the cases of confections and adorable pink boxes, you’ll have no trouble spending that much, though.
Hot Chocolate + Pretty Pasteries: Angelina, Rivoli/Louvre
This spot probably doesn’t need much introduction. It’s been around for over a century, and they’re still producing some of the most beautiful pastries and their world famous hot chocolate. If you want to sit in the tea room to enjoy your treats, I recommend arriving early because the line gets quite long. Otherwise, you can grab your goodies to-go in a much shorter and quickly moving line at the pastry case. We just picked up an Angelina sweet for our picnic (pictured above). The original tea room is a very short walk from the Louvre and across the street from the Tuileries Gardens. At the very least, peer through the window at the pastry case and beautifully appointed tea room when you’re nearby. It’s worth a look.
226 rue de Rivoli, 75001
Crêpes + Galettes: Little Breizh, Saint Germain
If you want some authentic crêpes, wind your way through the streets of Saint Germain to this precious place. It’s super easy to miss because it’s a small space on a tiny street, but get there before noon for lunch if you want to avoid a long line. There are only a handful of tables inside, so it backs up during peak time.
I started with a buckwheat galette filled with spinach, cheese, and a egg (pictured) and a glass of cider, and ended with a chocolate-filled crêpe. All excellent and very reasonable. They’re not quite as cheap as the €3 crêpes from the street vendors, but they’re way better and still an inexpensive lunch.
11 Rue Grégoire de Tours, 75006
Special Occasion Lunch: Ze Kitchen Galerie, Saint Germain
If Michelin star dining is on your checklist, lunch is a much more affordable time to experience it (relatively affordable, of course). Ze Kitchen Galerie is one part art gallery and one part outstanding restaurant. As an artist and food lover, this was an obvious choice for my birthday lunch.
ZKG offers 2- and 3-course pre fixe lunch menus (€40/€48) as well as a 6-course tasting menu for €72. The Asian-infused food was just as beautiful and artfully crafted as the art on the wall. The service was impeccable. I highly recommend ZKG if you’re looking for a special occasion lunch spot–or just a special lunch.
4 rue des Grands-Augustins, 75006
Unique Dining Experience: Le Chateaubriand, Bastille
If you are an adventurous eater and love good food, I can’t recommend Le Chateaubriand enough. The space is somewhat unassuming for such a highly acclaimed place, but it’s refreshing to have such an excellent meal without a stuffy atmosphere.
We elected to get the 6-course surprise tasting menu. We ended up getting 9 different plates of food, all of which were excellently prepared, cutting edge, and different from anything I’ve ever experienced (like the fried shrimp with raspberry dust pictured). The service was great and the meal goes relatively quickly and smoothly since most people order the surprise menu.
You can make reservations 14 days in advance for the first seating from 7:30-8:30pm or you can show up for the second seating starting at 9:30 pm. They only take parties of 4 people or less. If you don’t like having surprises ruined, I recommend getting a 7:30pm reservation. Otherwise you’ll see everyone around you getting the plates you’re about to be served. There is no doubt in my mind why Le Chateaubriand has received so much praise and acclaim. For €60 (I think it went up to €65), this has got to be the best value for any restaurant ranked in the World’s Top 50 Restaurants!
129 Avenue Parmentier, 75011
Traditional French Dinner: L’Ilot Vache, Île Saint-Louis
I won’t tell you the whole saga of how we ended up dining here, but I will say that it was exactly the charming, traditional French restaurant I hoped for after walking a few miles in rain and in heels.
L’Ilot Vache offers traditional French dishes like soupe de poisson, boeuf bourguignon, and duck confit (pictured). It was all delicious and well executed. They offer a la carte dining and a set menu at €36.
You’ll find this quaint restaurant on Île Saint-Louis, which is one of the two islands in the Seine river (the other is Île de la Cité, where Notre Dame is). The name means “island cow,” and you’ll find cute cow decorations and lots of other quaint details inside.
35 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, 75004
Chic Bistro: La Régalade Conservatoire, Opéra
For a fresh take on bistro dining–complete with black-and-white checker board floor–make your way to La Régalade Conservatoire. It was named one of Conde Nast Traveler’s Best New Restaurants in 2013, and it did not disappoint. It features updated versions of traditional Gallic dishes in the seasonal €37 set dinner menu. Go on the later end for a more energetic atmosphere. There was only one other couple when we arrived at 7:30pm, but was quite full when we left.
Side note: I love to check out the bathrooms in restaurants, and the bathrooms here are super cool! It’s a bit of a maze to get there, but you get a glimpse of the lobby of the adjacent Hotel de Nell on the way.
11 Rue du Conservatoire, 75009
Other dinner spots that we didn’t make it to, but come highly recommended:
80 Rue de Charonne, 75011
43 Rue Godefroy Cavaignac, 75011
Le Petit Zinc, Saint Germain
11 Rue Saint-Benoît, 75006