Paris, one of my favorite cities in the world, and one I return to again and again. I fell in love with this beautiful, romantic city the moment I stepped out of the airport taxi 25 years ago, and it has never waned. And my memories are many…Chuck proposed to me in Paris, we spent our 15th Anniversary there (in the same hotel), and have enjoyed many visits with relative and friends who live in this beautiful city. I try to return every year, if only for a long weekend, to explore new areas or revisit my old favorite haunts. It always has the comfortable feel of spending time with an old, special friend.
It is easy to find the top Michelin rated restaurants in any city or to get a laundry list of restaurants that has your head spinning. But it is much harder to find the smaller, more casual Bistro type places, with great food and service. A sampling of our favorites
- Au Passage – cozy, local, casual, rustic, great food, and reasonable – 1b Passage Saint-Sébastien, 75011 Paris, France,+33 1 43 55 07 50
- Frenchie – My favorite dinner in Paris. Gregory Marchand’s small, extremely good neighborhood restaurant with an extraordinary tasting menu under $100. They have a very lively wine bar across the street where you can have some small tastes or just a drink before your dinner (the restaurant has two seating a night). Book a month in advance as this chef has a cult-following and is always booked.
- Frenchie Bar A Vin – 6 Rue De Nil (33-1/40-39-96-19) – no reservations wine bar is closed on the weekends but Sunday dinner is filled people from the food industry. Try the homemade tortellini with sheep milk ricotta and peas. Great international wine list.
- Les Bouquinistes – Chef Cuy Savoy creates a warm atmosphere in his contemporary restaurant, with a creative menu, and prices that won’t break the bank (on the left bank with amazing views of the Seine and Notre-Dame).
- Pavillon Ledoyen – Chef Yannick Alleno’s restaurant is touted the most innovative in Paris. He has recently introduced a scaled down menu for lunch for 72 euros.
- Le Villaret – best restaurant we went to on our trip last year – a combo of traditional and imaginative contemporary cooking – wonderful food & service, 13 Rue Ternaux, +33 1 43 57 89 76
- Le Bistrot Paul Bert – The menu at this perennial favorite is seasonally-minded, and a carnivore’s paradise. Not for the faint of heart, or appetite. 18 Rue Paul Bert, +33 1 43 72 24 01
- Semilla, Paris – We eat here every time we are in Paris. It is just perfect, from the space, the food and the friendly service. The bartender gave us a warm welcome back even though it had been a year since we were there last. Order anything on the menu and you won’t be disappointed. If you can reserve one of the tables in the window grab it, as I think it (along with the bar) are the best seats in the house. (+33-1-43-54-34-50)
My Other Favorite Restaurants
- 6036 – 11th Arr., resto6036.com – Chef Haruka Casters plays up seasonal small plates with an Asian theme in his 14 seat restaurant.
- Aux Deux Amis – 45 rue Oberkampf (011-33-1-58-30-38-13)- Chef David Vincent-Loyola inventive tapas has this restaurant as standing room only!
- Champeaux – Alain Ducasse’s new brasserie at Le Halles.
- Clown Bar – Serious small-plates restaurant. Chef, Sota Atsumi, who trained with Joël Robuchon, grab a stool facing the open kitchen and watch the chef’s turn out these modern French dishes like haricot verts with strawberries and feta. 114 rue Amelot; clown-bar-paris.fr.
- Freddys – 54 Rue De Seine (33-1/43-54-34-50) serving wine by the glass and daily changing tapas…terrines, charcuterie, & grilled fish. Walk in only, try tasty morsels.
Jones – 43 ue Godefroy Cavaignac, http://jonescaferestaurant.com – An 11th arrondissement restaurant with fresh, well-sourced ingredients and a wonderful wine list covering all regions in France.
- L’Amis Louis – 32 Rue De Vertbois (33-1/48-87-77-48) – clubby bistro near the Square du Temple. Reservations are required but difficult. Try the roast chicken with frites, the beef, and the pate de fois gras.
L’Arcane – restaurantlarcane.com (Departures Nov 2019 recommendation) – in Montmartre run by Swiss chef Laurent Magnin and his wife, Sophie. No Menu, as each meal is a wonderful surprise.
L’Avant Comptoir – the small, tapas like, bar right next door to Le Comptoir. Same wonderful
- La Buvette – 67 rue St-Maur (011-33-9-83-56-94-11) Camille Fourmont re-purposed a cheese shop into this neighborhood aperitif-hour hangout. You can buy inexpensive bottles to take home, but I recommend drinking them there pared with Galician sardines or broad beans sprinkled with bergamot.
- LaForge – restaurant-la-forge-paris5.com – (Departures Nov 2019) – Located on rue Pascal (5th Arr) with orchids and white tablecloths and home-style cuisine from the French southwest. Run by chef Jean-Francois Le Guillou and may be the nicest restaurateur in Paris. Lots of regulars and great people watching.
- La Rotisserie d’Argent – Chuck found this listed when he searched for the best coq au van in Paris. Will try it and see.
- Le Cinq – Alain Ducasse’s three star restaurant at the Four Seasons George V hotel. Don’t miss the after-dinner cart filled with small sweets.
- Les Bouquinistes – Guy Savoy’s bistro right on the Seine and his elegant dishes, plated so beautifully you will want to pull out that camera… lesbouquinistes.com
- Le Bistro du Peintre – reasonable, but excellent, bistro in the Bastille that has been around since 1902.
Le Dauphin – a unique wine bar covered in marble by architect Rem Koolhaas and small plates made by chef Inaki Aizpitarte, who also runs the the bistro Le Chateaubriand next door. There’s a tasting menu at lunch; dinner brings very creative tapas dishes. restaurantledauphin.net
- Le Timbre – reasonable, pleasantly cramped space. 3 course, 26 euro prix fix lunch where everyone eats what Charles Danet cooks that day.
- Le Verre Vole – Cyril Bordarier’s Paris intimate wine bar where you can buy the bottle or drink it with snacks at the bar. They serve a market menu alongside the standard charcuterie and cheese plates. Don’t get frightened off by the scrappy storefront, the wine selection and cooking are amazing. leverrevole.fr
- Le Petit Lutetia – cozy brasserie done in classic 1920 style. 107 rue de Sevres (+33-1-45-48-33-53)
- Le Servan – 32 rue St-Maur, http://leservan.com – Bistro from Tatiana and Katia Levha is a nice repreave from the raucous wine haunts. The food blends the French technique with the flavors of the sisters Asian upbringing.
- Les Cocottes – 135 rue St-Dominique (maisonconstant.com) – Chef Christian Constant opened this wonderful restaurant across the street from the Eiffel Tower with great food at reasonable prices (3 course prix fixe $30, and also has a la carte menu). High tables & long counter lined with stools isn’t inviting to linger so don’t plan to spend the evening here.
- Les Philosophes – order the daily lunch special with a glass of wine – heaven. 28 rue Vieille du Temple (+33-1-48-87-49-64, caffeine.com)
- Neige d’ Ete – (15th Arr. neigedete.fr) – Chef Hideki Nishi prepares modern Franch cuisine (salmon with a Gorgonzola millefeuille!).
- Restaurant ES – (Seventh Arr. restaurant-es.com) – Chef Takayuki Honjo prepares simple, market-driven dishes, which are delicate in flavor and graphic in presentation.
- Septime & Septime La Cave – 80 rue de Charonne & 3 rue Basfroi, http://septime-charonne.fr – Chef Bertrand Grebaut has an astonishing ability to transform three ingredients into an extraordinary dish. Hospitable and a cellar stocked with elegant wines make this a hot reservation to obtain but worth the effort. If you can’t get in try his wine bar, Septime La Cave across the street.
- Spring – Chicago Chef, Daniel Rose, is so wildly popular he is on his second, larger place but with the same wonderful food. springparis.fr
- Table – table.paris – (Departures Nov 2019) – Bruno Verjus, with out formal culinary training received a Michelin star in 2018. He has an open kitchen where you can watch the team at work.
- Vantre – vantre.fr – (Departures Nov 2019) – located off the Place de la Republique, with marble topped tables and unvarnished hardwood floors, looks like any neighborhood bistro, but you are in for a wonderful surprise (Beyonce and Jay-Z ate here). Chef Iacopo Chomel’s menu stands out for the excellence of his ingredients and the simplicity of their preparation. Great eine list also.
- Verjus – 52 rue de Richelieu (verjusparis.com) near the Louvre – Book the tasting menu ($75) and perfect wine pairing ($60) at this busy bistro a vins behind the Palais Royal. The downstairs wine bar offers small plates. Serving dinner only (but they opened Ellsoworth just down the street where you can have lunch (@ $20).
- Yam T”cha – Michelin star winning chef, Adeline Grattard, opened this small French-Asian dining room. Daily chaining tasking menu.
- Yard & Back Yard – 6 rue de Mont Louis (011-33-1-40-09-70-30) The open kitchen at this former construction yard turns out dishes like cider-steamed mussels, tender pork shoulder cooked in milk, and smoked trout with horseradish. Back Yard, right next door, serves wine and snacks. The terrace is always packed with visiting winemakers, so you know what you should order!
Restaurants We Didn’t Like
- Baleta – 5 rue de Pontoise, restaurant-baieta-paris.fr, new Left Bank opened by Chef Julia Sedefdijian (earned a Michelin star at 21 years old, the youngest ever!) is, like many young chefs, trying to replace the old fashioned stuffiness of high-end restaurants. Liked it our first trip (but the restaurant had just opened and hadn’t gotten much press as yet). Went back the following year and again that year on another trip and it was nowhere near the original meal (keeps getting great write-ups). Full of US tourists, rushed service and the menu doesn’t change the two years I was there. Skip it, there are too many wonderful restaurants in Paris.
- Chez L’Ami Jean – Another restaurant we liked but returning it was a disappointment.
- Le Comptoir – –was a good solid Bistro with a known chef, Yves Camdeborde. 9, Carrefour de L’Odeon, though quality has gone down hill last time I visited. Best for lunch, though you will have to stand in line as they don’t take reservations (line starts around 11:30 for noon opening.
Pastisseries & Cafes
- Carette – patisseries with tables nestled beneath the arches of the Place des Vosges. Prix fixe dejeuner is 18.50 euros.
- Ble Sucre – patisserie across the leafy Square Trousseau (12th Arrondissement). Run by Fabrice Le Bourdat, former pastry chef at Le Bristol. Have the kouign-amann, caramelized cross between a palmier and a croissant.
- La Palette – café for a café crème and tartine. 43 rue de Siene (cafelapaletteparis.com)
- Le Nemours – a Louvre-staffer café haunt. 2 galarie de Nemours
And where to get the best Macaroons
- Hugo & Victor – 40 Boulevard Raspail – one of my favorites. Natural, additive free and organic and really flavorful
- Pierre Herme – 18 rue Sainte-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie – another favorite from this famous pastry chef. He keeps reinventing flavors and ingredients so you never tire of eating them.
- La Maison du Chocolate – 225 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore – if you are a chocoholic these are your first choice. Using French meringue they get a softer, less cookie like shell and all the meringue flavors are filled with their famous chocolate.
- Sadaharu Aoki – 35 rue de Vaugirard – Japanese ingredients such as yuzu, matcha and black sesame seeds make these delicious macaroons quite unique.
- Laduree – 14 rue de Castiglione – the most famous bakery for macaroons, and never disappointing as they focus on the best quality ingredients and seasonal flavors.
- Pierre Marcolini – 235 Rue Saint-Honore – this famous Belgium Chocolatier sets his apart by the selection of almonds he uses.
- Acide – 24 rue des Moines – handmade, offering fun, rotating flavors
- Fachon – 30 place de la Madeleine – where you can also get any luxury food, pastry…has 22 flavors. Try the tea macarons as they are really special.
What to do between meals? Some tips to explore my second home.
Visit the most famous sites in Paris, including the Effel Tower, Notre Dame, Arch de Triumph, and walk the street Saint Germain. Or you can have more food & wine.
Food Tour and/or Wine Tasting (of course, we now eat & drink between meals!)
- Paris By Mouth – www.parisbymouth.com – these women are amazing, with very small groups taking three hour food or wine bar tours. You will love every minute of it.
Concerts – try www.classictic.com to reserve seats
- Saint-Sulpice Church – amazing organ
- La Sainte Chapelle Church – the stained glass is the most beautiful I have seen. See a concert as the sun sets. We saw Vivaldi twice!
- Musee Rodin
- Musee d”orsay
- Musee des Arts Decoratifs
- Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature
- Musee Nissim de Camondo
- Musee Picasso Paris
- The Louvre of course!
Small Luxury Boutique Hotels
L’Hotel – 13 Rue des Beaux Arts (33 144 41 9900) – Build in 1828, Oscar Wilde took up residence at the end of the 19th century and lived at L’Hotel until his death, famously claiming to ‘live above his means’. In 1967, it became the place to be seen in Paris, with every famous visitor to the city passing through it’s doors, from Salvador Dali, Princess Grace, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor to Richard Burton, Jim Morrison and Serge Gainsbourg. It has since had a stunning overhaul by legendary designer Jacques Garcia, which won many accolades and awards.
With 20 bedrooms, it is the smallest 5 star hotel in Paris. There is a pool set into the vaults for guests to enjoy in privacy, a famous Michelin starred Le Restaurant and the chic Le Bar.
Relais Christine – 3 Rue Christine (33 1 40 51 60 80) – Tucked away down a narrow street in the Left Ban, is this hidden treasure. A grand mansion house, with a pretty courtyard, and dotted with greenery. Once a medieval abbey, today is a charming boutique hotel. The hotel is filled with old world charm, from old fireplaces to vaulted ceilings, and wood paneling hung with portraits from Paris past.
Saint James Paris – On the Right Bank, a few steps from the Champs-Elysees, it is a 100 year old chateau surrounded by its own private garden. 48 unique rooms, with spa, a wonderful restaurant, and library bar.
Interesting, Reasonable Hotels
- Grand Pigalle – (Pigalle, grandpigalle.com) rooms from $215/night. Owners are the Experimental Cocktail Club’s founders (NY & London). Minibars are stocked with all the ingredients and tools to make the bartenders recipe of the day.
- Hotel Bourg Tibourg – 19 rue du Bourg Tibourg (+33-1-42-78-47-39, bourgtibourg.com) rooms from $305/night
- Hotel Montalembert – 3 rue de Montalembert (+33-1-45-49-68-68, hotel-montalembert) rooms from $315/night.
- Molitor – Trocadero (mgallery.com) rooms from $250/night. Old 1920’s swimming club that opened in 2014 as a hot boutique hotel. Great bistro, Yannick Alleno, and two massive pools, one outdoors, are two of the main perks.
- Hotel Providence – 90 rue Rene Boulanger (hotelprovidenceparis.com) Restaurateur Pierre Moussie and his wife revamped and 1850’s brothel into a stunning hotel, with 18 rooms furnished in vintage detail. From $168 / night.
Misc. But Must Sees
Les Catacombes de Paris – underground catacombs. Don’t miss this, an interesting adventure. 1 avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, +33 1 43 22 47 63, closed Mon., www.catacombes.paris.fr
Crypte Archeologique du Parvis de Notre-Dame – underground crypt museum, 7 parvis de Notre-Dame, place Jean-Paul II,+31 1 55 42 50 10, closed Mon., www.crypte.paris.fr
The Paris Highline – Promenade Plantee Parkway – unusual, elevated park east of the Bastille, built on railway tracks.
Bastille Market – The best in the city. Thursday and Sunday, and definitely arrive hungry!
- Le Syndicat – serves cocktails made only with French products
- Mabel – rum focused in the 2nd Arr.
- La Candelaria – taqueria
- Hero – great Korean fried chicken
- Lulu White – Art Nouveau bar in South Pigalle
- Glass – casual party bar in S. Pigalle
- Dirty Dick – tiki temple in S Pigalle
- Baton Rouge – New Orleans inspired in Pigalle
- Grand Pigalle Hotel – bar in lobby and bottled cocktails in every room
- Experimental Cocktail Club
- Sherry Butt
- Hotel Costes – ultra chic hotel lounge
- Hotel du Nord – not a hotel, but is a restaurant named after a 1938 film, on the Canal St. Martin. Lively young crowd and very reasonable.
January 9, 2014 – Recommendations and comments from my friends Nick and Dona who just got back from Paris
- Creperie de Josselin, 67, Rue du Montparnass. Maybe my best meal. It is among many other crepe establishments, but this was the only one with a line out the door – all the rest seemed to be mostly empty! It is a very fast paced environment, but friendly. Watch the chef produce magic at break neck speed while you wait in line, well worth the wait.
- Le Soufflé, 36 Rue Mont Thabor. A bit stuffy, but they sat us even without a reservation. Devine soufflé -I had the cheese followed by wild boar, Dona had soufflé de foie gras – indescribable texture and taste. We had caramel soufflé and crème brulee for desert. All perfect.
- La Villaret, your recommendation. They were very gracious seating us even though they were booked completely with reservations. The owner explained everything in English and was very friendly. Wonderful experience.
- Paris by Mouth. Great time and learned a lot. Our son became a cheese convert, he loved it!
August 25, 2016 – recommendations from my fellow foodie friend Jim who travels to Paris on a regular basis.
- In the Marais – L’As du Felaffel is always great for the best felaffel – and it has a sit-down restaurant attached. Always lines for the take-out.
- Across the street is a terrific branch of the Tel Aviv restaurant MIZNON. Deeelish. Who knew that a whole roasted cauliflower could be so sublime? https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d5504756-Reviews-Miznon-Paris_Ile_de_France.html
- In Montparnasse on the rue de Gaite – for soul-fulfilling Auvergne food: Le Plomb du Cantal. They serve aligot, that fab whipped potato concoction with cantal cheese. Friendly, crowded, tasty. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d784439-Reviews-Le_Plomb_du_Cantal-Paris_Ile_de_France.html
- Also in Montparnasse – Le Fils de la Ferme – a wonderful small gem. http://www.filsdelaferme.com/filsdelaferme/Accueil.html