Breizh Cafe

On a rainy day in Paris, there’s little else as satisfying as a savory crêpe served up in a warm little cafe. There are many crêperies in Paris, but as long as you’re so close to Brittany, their place of origin, you might as well seek out the real item. Breizh Cafe brings the hearty country cuisine of Brittany to the Marais with dozens of types of crêpes, sweet and savory, and a variety of hard cider.

Interior, Breizh Cafe

We arrived for a late lunch at quarter to three, but the place was still packed. Breizh Cafe has gotten a lot of press and is listed in a number of guidebooks, but don’t be put off by the menus in English and Japanese. Surprisingly, their crêpes are also big in Japan, where Breizh Cafe has another outpost. The staff is equally international, with French managers, Japanese chefs and a British waiter all at work on that particular day. The unifying factor for everyone here seems to be the love of crêpes.  (more…)

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Le Royal Turenne, Paris

With all the tips given so far for finding a good place to eat in a touristy area in Paris, a distinction must be made: there are places to eat, and then there are places to drink. If you walk by an outdoor cafe on the sunny side of the street and see that it’s full of French people, chances are it’s popular because it is bien situé.

There’s nothing wrong with the food at Royal Turenne on rue Turenne in the Marais. We had a steak au poivre there which sufficed perfectly for the first, very jet-lagged dinner in Paris. But we returned again and again not for a meal but for a seat on that terrace, watching the world go by over a cafe au lait or a kir royale.  (more…)

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Chez Janou

This little Provence-style bistro on a quiet corner in the Marais is no longer a neighborhood secret. If you arrive here on a nice evening, you won’t be the only one looking wistfully at the sidewalk tables, hoping to be seated.

Exterior, Chez Janou

So if the hostess tells you they’re “complets” (the French version of “we’re fully committed”), she’s not kidding. After two failed attempts to dine at this Chez Janou on two separate nights, I walked up for the third time, at the very start of dinner service, and tried again for a table.  (more…)

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Robert et Louise, Paris

If you’re a stranger in a strange land, sometimes it’s better to ditch the guidebook and get lost, as former Frugal Traveler Matt Gross recently did in Paris. After all, all the other tourists are probably reading the same guide books as you are.

Exterior, Robert et Louise

But when it comes to walking into a restaurant blind, what should you consider? First of all, don’t be afraid to keep walking. It would be easy to settle on the first vaguely familiar place that comes along. (Presumably this the secret of Olive Garden’s success in NYC, a city full of good Italian restaurants, and the baffling success of Starbucks in Paris.) But the best finds usually come after some investigation. (more…)

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Le Petit Marché, Paris

The Marais neighborhood on Paris’ right bank may be known for its excellent shops, cool crowd and Galliano’s meltdown, but for great dining, most Parisians head elsewhere. Seemingly as soon as the area became trendy several years ago, the restaurants started catering to tourists looking for convenience over quality.

Interior, Le Petit Marche

There are still some very good meals to be had here for a reasonable price, and since we were staying in the Marais this past trip to Paris, we decided to dine in depth in this one particular neighborhood. One key is to head away from main drag and look for places off the beaten path – as on the quiet rue Béarn just north of the Place des Vosges. Here a local crowd gathers at the outdoor tables of Le Petit Marché, a modern Parisian bistro with a pan-Asian spin to the classics.


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Le Grand Colbert

Tiled Floor, Le Grand Colbert

If you have a fantasy version of a Parisian restaurant as a warm, inviting place with soaring ceilings, flattering lighting and fin-de-siecle decor, chances are it’s not your imagination at all, but an amalgamation of the many films shot at Le Grand Colbert. This gem of a restaurant served as the backdrop in Something’s Gotta Give, and like the best movie stars, it looks even better in person.  (more…)

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Paris Dining Map

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Aux Deux Amis

The word “hipster” may be permanently attached to the word “Williamsburg” in New York, but the hipster is an international phenomenon. At Aux Deux Amis in Oberkampf, a trendy neighborhood in Paris, guys with chunky framed glasses, mustaches and vintage plaid overcoats and their female hipster counterparts crowd around the bar, waiting for a table.

Interior, Aux Deux Amis

Fortunately, Parisian hipsters’ reference point seems to Serge Gainsbourg’s late ’60s/early ’70s Paris, not Valley Girl‘s 1983. The owners of this new bistro have followed suit, keeping the ’70s decor of the café that used to exist here – neon lights, Formica wood paneling à la Welcome to the Johnsons, mirrors, a beige-ish color to the walls. It’s a way of dining as one’s parents would have, but with irony.  (more…)

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Mini Palais

By day seven of our Paris trip, D. and I had eaten a lot of decadent French food. We braced ourselves for lunch at Mini Palais, the new restaurant installed in a wing of the famous Grand Palais, where all the elaborate Chanel shows take place. Surely this would be the pinnacle of decadent French-ness.

Interior 2, Mini Palais

But already from the looks of things when we walked in, Mini Palais was not what we had expected. We were hoping for something classically romantic, like the Last Year at Marienbad themed Chanel show, but what we got was something between the grimness of the smoldering earth theme and the chilliness of the iceberg theme. Mini Palais has the soaring ceilings and huge French windows you would expect, but the dreary gray and beige tones of the decor and industrial lighting quashed any ideas of romance. If you didn’t know you were in a palace, you might think you were in a corporate dining hall. (more…)

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On the corner of chic and expensive sits L’Avenue, a stone’s throw from the Plaza Athenée. During Paris fashion week, this tony restaurant has some of the best people watching in the world. A table outside on a sunny afternoon comes with a view: well dressed women walking by Dior, Chanel and Chloe, stopping in for lunch, often with kisses all around as they greet friends at neighboring tables.  (more…)

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La Maison Mère

When you think Parisian food, do you think filet mignon or pastrami? Tarte au chocolat or cheesecake? If the answer is the former, it’s time to revisit Paris, because the latest dining trend sweeping the city is cuisine new yorkais.

Cheeseburger, La Maison Mere

Traveling across the Atlantic to patronize ever-encroaching American chains like Starbucks is not recommended, but new Parisian places like Marcel and La Maison Mère are worth a visit to experience the French take on delicatessen classics. Basically imagine a Cordon Bleu student interning at Katz’s, and you’ve got the picture.  (more…)

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La Bellevilloise

Main Hall, La Bellevilloise

Once a communist club founded in 1887, La Bellevilloise still provides a valuable service to the people. Nightly live music and DJ sessions draw in a local crowd from hip, young 20th arrondissement, and the well-stocked bar turns out great cocktails as fast as they can drink them.  (more…)

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La Régalade Saint-Honoré, Paris

Interior, La Régalade Saint-Honore

Even better than a good restaurant in the middle of nowhere is a good restaurant in the center of town. One of the only faults of La Régalade, started by Yves Camdeborde in 1992 and turned over in 2004 to up-and-coming chef Bruno Doucet, was its location in the southern 14th arrondissement – horrid by Parisian standards. After several years at the helm at La Régalade in the 14th, Doucet opened another branch of the restaurant on Saint-Honoré, right by the Louvre. How convenient! Now he is installed in the open kitchen at this sharp new bistro moderne, which has been a tough reservation since it opened last year. (more…)

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Aux Fins Gourmets, Paris

As entertaining as it is to visit new, trendy restaurants in Paris, it would be criminal to spend a week there and not eat at least one meal in a classic bistro. Thus, we descended upon the 51-year-old Aux Fins Gourmets in the Seventh one night, drawn by the restaurant’s signature dish, duck confit.

Interior, Aux Fins Gourmets

Like most traditional French bistros, Aux Fins Gourmets is brightly lit and convivial. A mostly local crowd filled the place at around 9pm, the standard dinner hour here. There are not a lot of surprises at this neighborhood place, but that’s exactly the point. It was an oasis of calm on a busy Saturday night on the Left Bank. (more…)

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La Société, Paris

Towards the end of our meal at this newish Parisian restaurant across from the church of Saint Germain, flashbulbs started popping nearby. Usually this is an indication that tourists are taking photos of themselves in the restaurant, but not here. The tables of German editors, Swedes, and a handful of French fashion types wouldn’t dare. It was the paparazzi, who had been waiting outside for hours to catch models arriving and leaving the restaurant, ushered into the night by black SUVs.

Interior, La Société

I have no idea how we got a table here. Perhaps it helps to show up the night before, reasonably well-dressed and speaking French, and ask for a reservation in person, as we did. But on a quiet Sunday night, when most of Paris was shuttered, La Société was the place to be. (more…)

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