Paris has a estimated 40,000 restaurants and there’s always something new on the scene. With that said, it’s nearly impossible to label a small handful of eateries as “the” places where Parisians love to eat, drink, and be merry. When I dine with my (French) boyfriend and newfound Parisian amis, they tell me that like Americans in New York, Chicago, and LA, the French want to try what’s new, too—logical, n’est ce pas?
Since moving here two years ago, I’ve made a dubious effort to seek out places that weren’t on my radar during the 15 year span I traveled here before calling the City of Light my second home. Looking at the enormous pile of business cards that I continue to collect from each and every dining experience, it’s safe to say I’ve eaten a lot in this great city (thank goodness for all that walking!).
But the restaurants on this list aren’t all French—far from it—and no, you don’t always need to sport your Sunday best wares either. Paris is a cultural melting pot of unparalleled cuisine that extends far beyond a savory beef bourguignon or fluffy omelet. While there’s nothing wrong with people-watching at Les Deux Magots, sipping a kir while capturing the sunset at Cafe Marly, or standing in line for all-you-can-eat steak frites at Le Relais de l’Entrecôte, give one (or several) of these other local favorites a try the next time you’re seeking a quality and convivial meal in Paris.
Café Pinson is a healthy yet delicious respite that offers too-good-to-be-true gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan cuisine—a nice break if you’ve been overindulging, or a welcome addition for those who aspire to lead a clean lifestyle. From the juices to the salads to the sandwiches, everything is fresh and organic. The flavorful vegan cheese served with garlic toast and portobello “burger” with leek fondue and Breton curry have gotten me through some serious comfort food cravings sans a complete carb- and fat-induced hangover. Bonus points for the space that is as light and airy as you’ll feel upon leaving from a guilt-free meal that’s a far cry from carrot sticks and fat-free dip.
This unpretentious and boho-chic restaurant was inspired by the Jule Verne classic novel Michel Strogoff. There’s an entire section of the menu dedicated to unique tartars that invite you to transport your palate outside of France. Served with home fries or a mixed salad, choose between creative preparations (think the use of coriander, ginger confit, dried tomatoes, pomegranate, candied lemon) made with beef, veal, duck, salmon, and tuna. Other standouts include the ceviche offerings and mains such as “BB” beef balls stuffed with burrata and spices. Yes, you can find a little bit of everything here.
I have Portuguese neighbors, so it’s always a welcome treat when we share an aperitif together because there’s bound to be some homemade salt cod fritters on offer. When they don’t feel like getting down and dirty with oil and flour, they head to Nossa Churrasqueira and suggested I do the same—let’s just say it was a great suggestion. The rotisserie chicken took me back to a memorable meal I had in Lisbon, right down to the homemade (and firey) prir piri sauce. If you can’t take the heat, opt for the creamy garlic, Jack Daniels, or curry sauces, all of which are made in-house. There’s also a variety of toasted sandwiches (think sardine rillette, pickled peppers, and cheese), dishes of the day, and small bites such as those tasty cod fritters and chorizo flambéed tableside.
Previously an orphanage in the 16th century, I am obsessed with what is now a bustling covered market since the year 2000. While this is definitely a spot tourists love to check out (especially since Anthony Bourdain visited it), it was the locals who actually campaigned to have the market while preserving the integrity of the historical building. It became a regular spot for me because it was close to my first apartment, so it wasn’t long before I started seeing familiar faces. On the right side you’ll find several stalls offering fresh produce (including organic), while the left is dedicated to small eateries where you can dine or take away some amazing African, Japanese, Italian, Lebanese, and other varieties of authentic cuisine. The place gets packed, so I typically get there right when the lunch hour hits (around noon) so I can score a table and avoid the lines. Come Sunday and you can catch brunch at L’Estaminet where you can partake of seasonally-inspired dishes—19 euros for two courses and 24 euros for three.
If you’re looking for the perfect way to while away the hours on weekend afternoon, head over to the Bois de Vincennes for a stroll before settling in for a leisurely lunch at Chalet des Iles. While the inside is oozing with historic charm, the sprawling terrace amongst lush greenery is where you want to be when the weather is in your favor. Children are playing in the grass while their parents are sipping a fine wine and having a lively conversation with friends and family—it’s truly a charming and magical respite if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle. Not to mention, the food is as equally appeasing and the menu changes every six months depending on the market and what’s in season. I almost always gravitate towards the fish preparations like a melt-in-your-mouth salmon, but my S.O. typically opts for the meatier options on offer—only to be washed down with a good Bordeaux, of course. No matter what you choose, each plate is like an edible (and delicious) work of art.
Locals love the fact that the newer location of this Vietnamese eatery in Chinatown is much more spacious (200-plus seats), so there’s no more waiting in a long line to get your pho fix. There are seven different soups to choose from, each varying in ingredients such as quail eggs, shrimp patties, pork, beef, chicken, and (of course) those slurp-worthy noodles. I love to go with a group because there are several other tasty shareable dishes to nosh on, to include steamed moon-shaped crepes stuffed with shrimp or pork; a dynamite green papaya salad tossed in a zesty dressing; and crispy nem with all the fresh fixings for wrapping.
As the name suggests, this restaurant (the second location after Lyon) is all about mozzarella cheese, but not that tasteless chewing gum variety. I’m talking about authentic fromage from a producer in Italy that only supplies to Mozzato and Élysée Palace—the president’s house. There are several varieties to choose from, to include a creamy stracciatella, a rich affumicata (smoked), a milky tressia, and an “I’ll start my diet tomorrow” burrata with imported Italian white truffles. While there are some staple mains such fusilli with black truffle cream and smoked scamorza that deserve attention, this is yet another place that’s best visited with a group—because there’s nothing better than sharing a hubcapped-sized platter comprised of generous portions of cheese, grilled veggies, and charcuterie among friends. I’ve eaten here with my 100 percent Italian ami and their fromage gets her enthusiastic seal of approval.
While everyone is clamouring for a fried chickpea fix at As du Falafel a short walk away, Miznon is marching to the beat of its on drummer by offering spot-on pita sandwiches. In terms of authenticity—especially considering there are an abundance of grab-and-go places in the area—Miznon originated in Tel Aviv and the staff is primarily Israeli. This is not your average sandwich shop: It’s inviting in the way that it’s clean, friendly, and you’re not second-guessing whether or not you’re consuming some mystery meat disguised under a pool of sauce. Along with hearty carnivore offerings such as lamb kabobs, the vegetarian options are reason enough to visit Mizon. Where else can you get a steamed artichoke with tahini dip and roasted cauliflower wrapped in parchment paper to-go? Be still my beating heart. There is a small dining room, but it’s typically packed, so I choose to bring my meal to the nearby Place-des-Vosges for a more relaxing alfresco dining experience.
Burgers are in fact a thing in Paris and as a gal from the Midwest, I had no problem jumping on this beefy bandwagon. There are three other locations, but I can only speak to the one in my neighborhood—though the feedback I receive is relatively consistent. I first visited PNY on the Fourth of July as I was feeling majorly nostalgic for a family barbecue, complete with my brother’s signature hamburgers. While nothing can replace specific memories, the Vintage Cheeseburger (cheddar, mustard, ketchup, pickles) definitely put a smile on my face. Juicy, the perfect ratio of ingredients, full of flavor—and the crisp and perfectly salted fries were the cherry on top. You’ll also find more ambitious options that involve chili, smoked pork belly, onion confit, and yes, a tribute to the Big Mac, secret sauce and all. Despite being a burger joint (though you’ll find chicken sandwiches, too), don’t look for fast-food service. Everything is made-to-order, so chill out. Patience is a virtue.