In honor of Bastille Day, July 14th, we decided to put together a joint post to share our 14 Favorite Foodie Experiences within the city of light. Yes the French can sometimes be snotty, and their cheese stinky, but there is no culture which better elevates and celebrates the art of fine food. We’ve been to Paris nearly 20 times between us, and six times together, and no matter what we always leave wanting more – more haute dogs, more country pate, and of course more macarons. We tend to forgo the five stars for neighborhood spots with a mix of locals and tourists. And we always love a good cocktail. Some choices are established (you can’t argue with success) and others hidden gems (we like to do our research). Regardless, each is a place we return to again and again to experice that certain “je ne sais quoi” which defines this ancient city. Bon Appetit!
- Frenchie Bar à Vins (okay we lied – this is our top pick): nestled in the 2nd, directly across the street from the much lauded Frenchie, chef Gregory Marchand’s wine bar serves much the same menu in a less formal shared plate experience. From the well priced wine list, to his standout takes on french classics, this spot is not to be missed. Unlike the restaurant, they don’t take reservations, so get there early to score a prime spot. Read more about Frenchie Bar du Vin.
- L’Avenue – make reservations for a weekday lunch, and pay way too much for a club sandwich at this “see and be seen spot” on avenue Montaigne. It’s really not about the food here, more about the social study of the Chanel clad ladies who lunch. Try and score a coveted cafe seat if weather permits. And be sure to order a side of the decadent whipped potatoes which are strangely perfect for dipping the chips which come with your sandwich.
- Bar 30 at the Sofitel Faubourg San Honore – This is our favorite place to stay in Paris and much of our love for the hotel stems from this jewel box bar which is the perfect place to start or end your evening. The bartenders take great pride in crafting creative cocktails with the very freshest ingredients – and be sure to say hello to our favorite mixologist Aurele.
- Hot Dogs en Baguette from the green kiosk in the park across from the American Embassy at the beginning of the Champs Elysees at the Place de la Concorde. No visit to Paris is complete without one It’s a simple and brilliant process where they partially hollow out a baguette, stuff it with a hot dog, pile on the greyere and put it under a broiler until it is bubbly and toasty. Need we say more? And they pair perfectly with lots of mustard (dijon of course) and a stack Paprika Pringles.
- Chez Georges – behind the Palais Royal, on the tiny side street Rue de Mail you will find a french bistro which harkens back to the 1920s. The cramped tables, the crusty old waitresses in starched uniforms, and the old zinc bar combine to create an authentic experience. But it is the food, all well executed french classics, which have kept this place bustling for generations.
- Ladurée – we know they are now in NYC, and that there are a million small bakeries scattered around Paris which may lay claim to better macarons. But much of the joy of Ladurée is the experience. Go to the location on Rue Royale and wait in line on the carry-out side – it moves fast. You’ll be transported back to childhood while picking your pastry and grin from ear to ear while watching them wrap it up in an exquisite box. And while the macarons are fantastic – don’t miss the amazing elephant ears. They are perfection.
- Au Bon Accueil – tucked away on a small street at the base of the Eiffel Tower is this small charmer. Formal, but not fussy, look for a creative take on the french standards you know and love. The servers are friendly and the crowd the right mix of locals and tourists. Plus the majestic view of the illuminated landmark on your way out the door provides the perfect end note to a decidedly Parisian evening.
- A Sunday lunch of Roasted Chicken at Drouant - the elegant french dining room dates back to the 1880s. Noted Chef Antoine Westerman is now at the helm and his Roasted Chicken is not to be missed (available Sunday lunch only). The expertly roasted bird is served family style on a silver platter with lots of au jus and piles of crispy frites. It pairs perfectly with a nice cold bottle of Sancerre. We can’t imagine a more civilized way to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon.
- Le Castiglione – This bustling cafe located along Rue Saint Honore is a perfect place to take a break from shopping and grab a light bite. It is also an easy spot to start your day with coffee and tartine. And like L’Avenue this spot is as much about the people watching as the food.
- Au Moulin a Vent - This spot in the Latin Quarter is our go to for Chateaubriand. The old school charmer looks much as it did at inception in 1946 – replete with white table-clothes, red leather banquettes and aproned waiters. The menu is full of french staples like frog legs, escargot and haricot verts with crab, all made beautifully. But Au Moulin a Vent is is all about the bouffe, the corresponding sauces and the accompanying fried potatoes. Save room for dessert – both the Floating Island and Profiteroles are tops. Read more about Au Moulin a Vent.
- Cantine at Merci – On the lower level of Merci, the uber hip concept store located in the Marias, you’ll find a hidden lunch spot. After perusing the store’s well edited assortment of home goods, apparel, and accessories, head downtairs for a light lunch in the bright modern space. Decidedly french, the menu is limited to wonderfully creative cold salads, soup and a few plats de jour. Add in a glass or two of Rosé, an espresso and and a few slices of baguette, and you’re all set for a tres Parisian lunch experience.
- Aux Lyonnais – Alain Ducasse is now at the helm of the historic bistro dating back to 1890. He has returned the room to it’s early 20th century elegance with lots of Art Nouveau and Art Deco stylings. Like it’s name, the food owes it’s influence to Lyon. We especially enjoy the charcuterie, poached eggs with crayfish and the cassoulet. The baked to order soufflés are a wonderful grace-note to an elegant evening.
- Le Defender – this cosy bar tucked inside the Hotel du Louvre is a true hidden gem. Dark and sexy, it is the perfect spot to grab a drink before dinner or to enjoy a night cap. Ice cold martini’s, and a wide array of champagne by the glass, set the tone to sit back and tuck in to this serene spot.
- Café Ruc – while we are all about french classics, we also love a good burger. The one at Cafe Ruc is a stand-out – with a gooey melted cheese topper. Part of the overtly hip Costes Group, this corner cafe is packed with art and fashion types. Take a break from sight seeing at the nearby Louvre and Palais Royal for a leisurely lunch in the chic dining room or at the sidewalk cafe.
There you have it. But before we sign off, a few more pieces of advice. Make dinner reservations before you arrive (and lunch reservations at nicer spots like L’Avenue and Drouant). The french don’t understand the concept of walk-ins and popular places are booked weeks in advance. Email your hotel concierge five or six weeks before you go for help making these arragements. Hailing a taxi in Paris is an impossibility and finding a cab stand can be confusing. So ask your waiter to call a taxi as you finish dessert. Finally, although almost all of these spots have an English menu, and an English speaking wait staff, a few words in French will go a long way to build goodwill and assure you are well taken care of.