If I had a dollar for every time someone has told me they don’t want to go to Paris (or France, really) because they don’t like French food or they think the service will be terrible, I could probably afford that lovely little Parisian pied-à-terre I’ve always dreamed of. I’d like to dedicate this post to dispelling the myth that French food isn’t palatable and the people are rude. It’s quite the opposite. It’s actually very enjoyable to eat & drink in Paris, or anywhere in France. The key is to be gracious, open-minded, and even a little adventurous. Here’s how to eat & drink in Paris like a real Parisian.
Blending in Like a Real Parisian
There are a few things to understand before eating in Paris (or a lot of European cities, for that matter). Most importantly, don’t be in a rush. As Americans we tend to want to “eat and run” because we always have somewhere else we need to be. We are always in a hurry, and that’s not the case when it comes to dining in Paris. Once seated, that table is usually yours for however long you’d like it. You will often need to get a server’s attention as well as ask for the bill. Don’t assume this means the service is bad. It’s just the way it is. Your server doesn’t want to disturb the enjoyment of your meal and your experience. Personally, I am always so annoyed with American waitstaff that constantly come by your table and interrupt your conversation with, “How is everything?” For the last time, it’s fine. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.
Be polite and attempt a little French when speaking to your waitstaff. You should prepare ahead of time and make sure you’re comfortable with at least the pleasantries – Bonjour/bonsoir, Merci, and of course how to request the bill, l’addition s’il vous plait. Your server will know immediately that you’re American, but it’s the effort that is appreciated.
If you want something, ask for it. Do you want another cup of coffee? A glass of water, perhaps? You just need to speak up and ask for it. Parisian and other European restaurants don’t automatically bring you that glass of ice water like they do here. Be prepared to choose between still, sparkling, or tap water. Bottom line, just politely ask your server for whatever you need.
Where to Dine and What to Eat
On our most recent trip to Paris, we explored some new places and visited a couple of old favorites. From bistros to cafes and crêperies, this is a great list of places to eat & drink. I’ve also recommended what you should order. Remember, be adventurous!
Breakfast (petit dejeuner)
La Crêperie – A cozy spot for a casual breakfast and savory crepes. If your first thought when you hear the word crepe is Nutella, then La Crêperie will change your mind with its selection of egg, ham, and mushroom crepes.
Pain Pain, Montmartre – Literally translating to bread bread, this is a carb lovers paradise. Every kind of soft, crispy, warm, flakey, sweet or savory bread and pastry can be found here. The croissants are some of the best in the city and the atmosphere is just as sweet with whimsical wallpaper and velvet chairs.
Lunch (le déjeuner)
Le Deux Magots – This is a popular spot once frequented by Hemingway and Picasso among others. It’s one of the oldest cafes in Paris and waiters are dressed in traditional black tie. It’s also a good spot for breakfast or brasserie fare, but we enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the lunch crowd here. As with any French cafe, seating outside is where it’s at, but step inside for a look back in time.
Maison Kayser – Sometimes you just need a quick pit stop while out sightseeing. The Kayser House: Bakeries Eric Kayser is a small chain of boulangeries serving all kinds of breakfast pastries and sandwiches. We grabbed a couple of deli sandwiches, two Coke Lights (yep, no Diet Coke here), and treated ourselves to beignets. They’re not quite like the New Orleans version but very, very good. It’s a casual place with counter service.
La Maison Stella Cadente (located in Provins, France) – An easy day trip by train and well worth the excursion. The town of Provins is beautiful and reminds me of Beauty & the Beast. Lunch at La Maison Stella Cadente is an experience I’ll never forget. This bed and breakfast has an unusual decor. Imagine stepping into Marie Antoinette’s home on the set of Alice in Wonderland and you’re getting close. It’s completely fabulous and beautiful. The food and wine are also quite remarkable with outstanding service. I think our lunch was upwards of 3 hours and worth every second. I mentioned it in my Paris Winter Travel Guide because it’s a great change of pace from the bustling city of Paris and so easy to get to.
Le Bistro Marbeuf – We stumbled upon this place a little accidentally. We had plans to eat elsewhere but they ended up not being open, so with a little research of the neighborhood we found Le Bistro Marbeuf. It was full of locals and quite cozy. We were seated at a table by the window and enjoyed traditional Lyonnaise specialties alongside a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau (we happened to be there during this celebration). I had a prawn risotto that was amazing. If you want all the Paris feels, this place is a must.
Le Relais de l’Entrecôte – How can you come to Paris without having steak frites? I mean, steak paired with French fries? Duh… It’s a little bit of an interesting process here. You’ll want to arrive at least a half hour, maybe more, before they open because the line will be out the door. There are a couple of seatings for dinner so you’ll be seated and served pretty quickly. It feels a little like an assembly line but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s touristy, but the experience is memorable and the steak frites are good.
Les Apôtres de Pigalle – For a fun, multi-course, tapas style experience head to Les Apôtres. This place is tiny so reservations are a must and can actually be acquired through Facebook messenger. That being said, don’t be afraid to get cozy. You’ll be seated pretty close to your neighbor, but just roll with it. Remember, be open-minded. There are some wide ranging and non traditional dishes here. The guacamole rivaled anything we get here in Texas, actually. You’ll also find duck breast and sweet potato fries to share. Order lots of things and try them all. It’s a fun and delicious experience that I can’t recommend enough.
Ramen Bowl – We always crave Asian food no matter where we are, and Ramen Bowl checked all the boxes. I could have eaten five plates of the wagyu beef. The ramen bowls are exceptional along with the dumplings. I’m pretty much salivating just thinking about it. The atmosphere is also fun and a bit edgy with upbeat music and a great bar. And there’s an Instagrammable art wall for some fun photos.
L’Ange 20 – We are repeat visitors here and will continue to come back. We fell in love with L’Ange 20 a few years ago when it was in a smaller location and couldn’t wait to come back to see the new digs in the Marais. Service is outstanding and the food is well above par. Let your waiter help with a wine pairing – they’re very knowledgeable about the wine list. Plan for a long evening of sipping and savoring. Reservations here are also a must.
La Jacobine – If you’re looking for that hidden gem of a restaurant, La Jacobine delivers. It’s located down a slightly narrow passageway in the Latin Quarter and you’ll need reservations to get in. That doesn’t mean it’s too exclusive, snobby, or expensive. It’s just really good and everyone wants to eat here. You must get the Coq au vin as well as the escargot. Remember, be adventurous! The snails here are to die for. We even ordered a second round. They’re served piping hot in their shells with snail tongs, so hopefully you can avoid that Pretty Woman moment (“slippery little suckers”). I thought I had it down but somehow managed to fling one in the process. It made for a pretty good laugh. The staff is very kind and service is exceptional here. It’s a small restaurant so be ready to get cozy.
Cocktails & Coffee
Galleries Lafayette Haussmann – We love a good rooftop and during the winter they set up an ice cube like structure to take your cocktails in without freezing. You can see the Eiffel Tower clearly from this spot, too! First, wind your way through all the floors in this amazing department store. It’s the flagship and it’s gorgeous. And if you haven’t spent all your money by the time you reach the top, treat yourself to a drink on the roof.
Cafe Hugo – Another fun stop in Le Marais! We enjoyed a bottle of wine here before dinner one evening and spent the time people watching and asking ourselves, are we really here right now? It’s one of the best places to get that “Paris cafe feel” and I think it’s evident even more so at night. Inside is charming but outside is always where it’s at for me. You can just picture Victor Hugo writing The Hunchback of Notre-Dame over a cigarette and brandy. I have no idea if he smoke or drank, but the romantic in me can’t help but picture this scene.
Cafe Brasserie Aux PTT on Rue Cler – Spend some time strolling up and down Rue Cler then sit down like a local at Aux PTT. It’s very old school and a great spot for a coffee and people watching while you rest your feet. You’ll find locals here because it reminds them of how the French cafe experience used to be. For most Americans, I suggest ordering a grand crème. It’s essentially espresso based coffee with milk and grand means you’ll get the big American size you’re used to. To order like a Parisian, ask for a noisette. It’s espresso with a drop of cream and it’s perfect. You can also grab a macaron from Ladurée on Rue Cler, too.
Maison Sauvage, Saint-Germain-des-Prés – Maison Sauvage provides a very unique environment on an otherwise very Parisian looking street. You’ll immediately notice the ivy covered exterior, which is what drew us to it. I definitely want to return and try the food here, because we really just stopped by for pre-dinner cocktails. A bottle of wine later and I was ready to just stay put. The terrace is one of those dimly lit romantic spaces where you feel like you could be in a movie. It’s pretty special and worth a visit.
Have you been to any of these places? I’d love to hear about your experience, or tell me another place you’d recommend as a must when in Paris. I’m already making my list for next year!
Thank you for stopping by and reading!
Xo – Erin
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