Paris is the ultimate foodie destination, and many visitors plan itineraries revolving around food by making restaurant reservations in advance, planning fresh market visits, and indulging in classic French dishes, pastries, and drinks.
In order to navigate where to find the best of these dishes, we have compiled a list of the top foods and the best places to enjoy them.
The flaky layers and buttery taste of a croissant are surely on the top rung of the most desired and beloved dishes of France, but all croissants are not created equal, with many falling short of the desired texture and taste. Here are two that are worth the trip.
Maison Landemaine is a small chain of bakeries specializing in artisan methods of bread and pastry making. Each location has its own baking facility and ovens, so the breads are baked hourly. If you are lucky enough, you may get a warm croissant straight out of the oven, cooling on a baking tray, but if not, rest assured you will still get a tasty delight.
In 2018, a small, neighborhood bakery, La Maison d’Isabelle on Boulevard Saint-Germain des Pres in the Latin Quarter, won the much-contested annual award for the best croissant in Paris. They use a superior grade of butter and organic flour to produce their award-winning croissants.
2. Onion Soup
A warm beef broth with caramelized onions swirling in it, a smattering of croutons mixed in, and, finally, a layer of Gruyere cheese melted on top of the crock are the key ingredients of a great onion soup. However, beware of tourist restaurants that serve a watered-down, tasteless version with little or no flavor.
Le Bistrot de Vosges, minutes from the Place des Vosges, specializes in the hearty cuisine from the Aveyron region of France. Their onion soup has a strong but not overpowering beef broth and thick, gooey cheese on top
A legendary cafe also legendary for its version of onion soup, Au Pied de Cochon is one of the few cafes/bistros open 24 hours and is a magnet for late-night party people who crave a hot bowl of soup after their merrymaking at bars and clubs.
3. Croque Monsieur
This is the French version of the American comfort food grilled cheese. A standard dish at almost every Paris cafe, it’s prepared with an open face on bread with a brush of bechamel sauce, then a layer of ham, then a layer of Gruyere, and cooked in a frying pan with a bit of butter. The classic version is served on pain de mie, similar to white bread in the U.S. but of a much higher quality. Many cafes make it with poilane, a sourdough bread that gives it a bit of a crunch.
Vins des Pyrenees in the Marais serves a decadent interpretation of croque monsieur, using Gouda cheese flecked with bits of truffle on thick slices of pain de mie, along with a great wine list from the Pyrenees mountain range.
A more delicate and lighter version of croque monsieur with the crusts cut off is served at Sebastien Gaudard, a cafe and tea salon near the Louvre. They bake their own bread and use high-grade Comte cheese.
It’s traditional for croque monsieur to be served with a side of mixed greens. On most menus that have croque monsieur, they also list a croque madame, which is the same, except it’s served with a fried egg on top.
The competition is fierce in Paris for the best macarons, and it seems that almost every other storefront in Paris has its version of the uber-popular treat.
Although Laduree is the most popular and well-known producer of macarons in France, we have another favorite instead. Pierre Herme is the real king of macarons, and not only does he feature popular flavors such as vanilla, coffee, raspberry, and lemon; he also stocks novel flavors including milk chocolate and passion fruit, creme brulee, rose, and their signature flavor, Ispahan, made with lychee, rose, and raspberry.
Macarons at Cafe Carette are a standout with their intense flavors and sublime texture. At teatime, you can enjoy a selection of five, along with a drink of your choice, for 15 euros. Cafe Carrette also has a takeout bakery counter, and you can buy them by the piece for 2 euros each. We love the salted butter caramel and cherry the most.
5. Steak Frites
A simple dish of steak and fries is elevated to a much higher standard in France, where the quality of the meat and the crispness of the fries is paramount in producing top-notch steak frites.
Le Relais de l’Entrecote is the go-to restaurant for Parisians for their steak frites. They offer a one-price menu, and the only thing you have a choice of is dessert and wine. Once you are seated, the only questions the waitperson asks you are how you want your meat cooked and what kind of wine you want. A few minutes later, you are served a house salad of fresh greens tossed with some walnuts and vinaigrette dressing. After that, a plate with sliced steak accompanied by their secret and delicious Bearnaise-like sauce and a mound of crispy frites arrives. As if that’s not satisfying enough, about 20 minutes later, the waitperson offers you a second plate of steak and fries. Now the only big decision you have is choosing one dessert from a list of a dozen.
Le Relais de l’Entrecote has three locations in Paris: Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Montparnasse, and right off the Champs-Elysees. They are open for lunch and dinner but do not take reservations, so make sure you get there at 11:45 for lunch or 6:45 for dinner to avoid the lines.
6. Beef Bourguignon
A slow-cooked stew of beef, red wine, carrots, pearl onions, and bacon, beef bourguignon is from the Burgundy region of France, which is known for its fine wine and the earthy food that goes with it.
Beef bourguignon is getting more difficult to find at Parisian restaurants, but we suggest two that serve authentic versions.
A little bistro tucked away on a narrow side street in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Chez Fernand serves intensely flavored beef bourguignon. When you eat this dish, you’ll taste the Burgundy wine, and the meat is so tender, it melts in your mouth.
Au Bourguignon du Marais in the Marais district prides itself on its authentic Burgundy cuisine and extensive wine list. Their version of beef bourguignon is served in a mini cast iron Le Creuset pot.
Authentic crepes come from the French countryside of France, Brittany. The savory ones, which are also named galettes, are made with buckwheat flour and are usually served with a hard apple cider.
La Cidrerie du Marais offers the Brittany-style crepes in about 12 varieties, and you can also custom build your crepe with a selection of ingredients including eggs, goat and Swiss cheese, mushrooms, potatoes, bacon, and onions. The crepes are served with a selection of pure and sparkling ciders produced in Brittany. Make sure to leave room for a decadent, sweet crepe such as Nutella and whipped cream, sauteed apples, and chocolate with chocolate syrup.
A more upscale venue for Brittany-style crepes is Breizh Cafe, which features an extensive list of gourmet crepes, some with unusual pairings, such as white chocolate and matcha tea, smoked herring and potatoes, mozzarella, basil and tomatoes, and poached peaches with raspberry sauce and mint.
Pro Tip: La Cidrerie du Marais and Breizh Cafe only use buckwheat flour, which is gluten-free, in their crepes.
No worries about your souffle falling when you go to a souffle restaurant in Paris.
Aptly named Le Souffle near the Tuileries Garden, prepares a full menu of souffles. If you want the true immersion experience, order the three-course souffle menu at just under 40 euros, which includes a small starter souffle, a main course souffle, and a dessert souffle. If that’s too much souffle for you, you can order from the a la carte menu, which includes a duck and salmon main course. Popular savory souffles include cheese, spinach, and chicken. Grand Marnier, chocolate with chocolate syrup, and raspberry with a rhubarb sauce are just a few of the sweet ones.
Pro Tip: Order a half-portion savory souffle so you have enough room for a full-sized dessert one.
9. Hot Chocolate
Although hot chocolate was not invented in France, the French version is quite remarkable.
Les Deux Magots, the iconic Left Bank cafe in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, where Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, and Simone de Beauvoir hung out, serves a thick, velvety hot chocolate in a little pot.
The first tea salon in Paris, which has survived since the early 1900s, Laduree serves such a rich hot chocolate, you may have to dilute it with hot milk or water. You may also purchase a cup to go at their retail shop next door (on Rue Royale, near Rue Saint-Honore).
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