There are few places in this world more famous for their cuisine than Paris, be it a baguette on the street, or an entire evening spent dining (because, in Paris, dining is THE event of the night, not necessarily the prelude to bar-hopping). Food in Paris can be as much of an attraction to the city as the Louvre is.
When it comes to discovering a new place, you can do the typical museum/famous site circuit, but there is no better way to learn the story of a place than through their food. A country’s cuisine is is often a history lesson in the foreign influences they’ve had, the times of economic boom or strife they’ve experienced, the wars they’ve fought, and the local flora and fauna. So, pack your bags, book your flight, and get over to this magical city.
Food In Paris – A Visitor’s Must-Do Guide
When you daydream about strolling the streets of Paris, chances are, there’s a baguette in your hand. Go to a local boulangerie, grab a baguette fresh out of the oven, and nibble as you wander these magical streets. While you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bad baguette in the city, you can hunt for the best of the best by checking out one of the winners of the Concours de la meilleure baguette de Paris (competition for the best baguette in Paris).
The Jambon-Burre is the all-star of Paris’s street food. A quick-lunch staple in the city, this sandwich made with Parisian ham, butter and a crusty baguette, is easy to grab just about everywhere in the city. Classic, delicious, filling, and inexpensive. Perfection.
3. Steak Tartare
The first time I went to Paris, I ordered steak tartare because it was one of the few things I thought I could read on the menu. Needless to say, when chopped raw steak arrived, I was…surprised. In the spirit of adventure, I dove right in, and to my surprise, absolutely loved it! When you talk about food in Paris, you can’t avoid steak tartare. A classic Parisian dish, steak tartare is ground raw meat seasoned with capers, pepper and topped with a raw egg, with an interesting origin starting in central Asia. A dish not to be missed.
Falafel might not be the first thing that pops into your head when you think of food in Paris, but with the melting-pot status of Paris, Falafel is just as common as a Jambon-Burre for a quick and delicious lunch. Head over to the Jewish quarter of La Marais, take in a bit of the post-WWII history, and dine on some of the best Falafel in the world.
With their popularity exploding globally, it’s highly likely that you’ve had the opportunity to have a macaron or two, but there are simply nothing like macarons in Paris. Specialty macaron shops dot the city, and offer combinations from the classic to the avant-gardè. Do not leave the city without indulging in these freshly-baked, luxurious little bites.
6. Croissants and Pastries
They’re cheap. They’re buttery. They’re delicious. These stunning pastries are absolutely ubiquitous, and may seem simple, but to be done right, the level of skill and labor involved in making them is considerable. A classic french breakfast on-the-go, grab a crispy, flaky croissant or pain au chocolat at your local boulangerie in the morning, and get on with your day, the Parisian way.
7. Steak Frites
Steak Frites – literally steak and french fries, is another Parisian bistro standard that is simple and delicious. A great filling meal when you want something a little more hearty than a light bite at the bistro or cafe. No one does steak frites quite like Paris. La Relais De l’Entrecôte is the classic spot to get traditional French Steak Frites, but Au Bœuf Couronné in La Vilette, the former epicenter of the beef trade, serves fabulous cuts from French raised cows, and is not to be missed if you’re in the area.
You have to do it. You’re in Paris, you have to do it. Who knows, you just might love it! Classically served with lots of garlic, herbs and butter (how could you go wrong), the snails themselves are quite mild and tend to take on the flavor of what they’re cooked in, so if you’re craving something a little more adventurous, look for more modern spins on escargot with curry or cheese sauces.
Fromage is such a beloved part of French cuisine that it has earned its own standalone course in dinners, served in between the main course and dessert. France boasts over 300 native varieties of cheese – from the classic Camembert to the bold and pungent Epoisses, to the creamy Le Saint – Félicien, there is truly something spectacular for every palate out there.
While a common protein in France, duck, or canard is not frequently seen on menus many other places in the world. From the cured and slow-cooked-in-it’s-own-juices duck confit to the fresh salade landaise to the rich canard à l’orange, there’s an option for just about everyone. Be sure to eat a little duck in the city that does it better than just about anywhere else on Earth.
Don’t be expecting a Hershey’s Kiss here. The chocolat you can find in Paris is on an entirely different level than what you can find in most other places in the world. Rich, delicious, and with some of the best chocolatiers in the world local to Paris, you’ll find some of the very creative combinations. Richart is worth a pilgrimage for modern, elegant chocolates, and À la Mère de Famille for a stop steeped in the history of chocolate, having been founded more than 260 years ago. Do you really need an excuse? Eat some chocolate in Paris.
12. Onion Soup
With humble beginnings as a peasant dish, the onion soup is hearty with deeply caramelized onions in beef broth and wine, served with crispy croutons and gruyere cheese. This recipe is simple, but takes time to do it right, and you won’t often find variations on the basic recipe, because this is one of the cases where you simply don’t mess with perfection. Terminus Nord is a classic spot to get gratinée à l’oignon and a fabulous dinner in a classic Parisian setting.
Another dish that doesn’t necessarily come to mind when you think about food in Paris, but with the large number of North African immigrants in the city, couscous restaurants are everywhere, serving up many different regional cuisines. Couscous is so popular, in fact, that it was voted Paris’s Favorite Dish in 2006. Check out Le 404 for some outstanding couscous in a stunning, yet cozy setting.
Let’s be honest, most of us eat oysters for all of the delicious stuff they’re served in, but Paris is home to some absolutely stunning oysters. Check out Huîtrerie Régis for some of the best oysters and prawns in Paris, but get there super early, as the place is tiny with only about 15 seats.