I spent one-third of 2010 living and eating in Paris. Is there really anything to do in Paris besides eat? I suppose shopping, when I’m not eating. After now 16 weeks there, I found so many tiny food gems that lured me back on more than one occasion. While I can’t go so far as to say that the following list is the absolute best in show, because I really can only speak for myself and my friends, but I can say that (1) I’m picky (just ask those who know me well) and (2) these spots left their mark with me, in more ways than one (just ask my bathroom scale).
So for all my friends, colleagues, family members and readers of Eat Boutique who email regularly asking “Where should I eat in Paris?” I have produced this list of my favorites. Since I’ve always thought of “boutique” as a way of being small, exclusive & handmade, like more than a shop but, rather, a way of shopping or even eating, I shall now encourage you to eat boutique. In Paris.
Fave lunch: Le Miroir in the 18Ãªme (Montmartre)
When I visit Paris, I spend a lot of time in Montmartre. Many afternoons, I gaze out on the roof tops and setting sun from this flat in the 18Ãªme, belly full after a delicious lunch at Le Miroir. Just around the corner from the flat, this modern style bistro serves an efficient and charming two- or three-course meal that ends with the most perfect cafe gourmand in Paris. The cafe gourmand is a relatively new Paris phenomenon that consists of 2-3 tiny desserts displayed on a plate with a strong, short espresso. Some places do cafe gourmands better than others, but you always remember your first. My first and my favorite is at Le Miroir. Le Miroir, 94 eue des Martyrs, 75018, Paris. Telephone: +33 (0)1 46 06 50 73. Metro: Abbesses or Pigalle.
Fave wine bar: Le Baron Rouge in 12Ãªme
Stand or sit or push your way into this dive spot just around the corner from Square Trousseau and below the Bastille neighborhood. Le Baron Rouge is pretty much a hole in the wall, with rickety tables and wine barrels that substitute for a flat spot to rest your glass. But don’t let the comfy look fool you. This wine list is vast and the meat plates are divine, adequately covered with a bit of this or a bit of that, typically porky and always delicious. Be prepared to make new friends during the evening hours, when you’re squished up against the locals and expats alike. Try their raw oysters, shucked right on the sidewalk. Le Baron Rouge, 1 rue Théophile Roussel, 75012 Paris. Telephone: +33 (0)1 43 43 14 32. Metro: Gare de Lyon.
Fave ‘Spanish-dive’ wine bar: Le Cap Horn in 4Ãªme (Marais)
When you’ve had enough of those truly French wine bars – and let’s be honest here, while all that damn good French wine makes you mad you were born in the wrong country, sometimes you need a break from all the awesomeness – I head over to this mellow Spanish spot in the Marais. It really isn’t anything special but the service has always been warm, which is a pleasant break from the French wine bars, and the wine and cocktails are generally Spanish. Well, except for that super-dry, ice-cold rose I sipped on the sunny, warm day when the Icelandic volcano had canceled my flight home. As if 11 straight weeks in Paris weren’t enough, the volcano made it 12. Thank you, Iceland! Le Cap Horn, 8 rue de Birague, 75004, Paris. Metro: Saint Paul.
Fave bistro: Le Petit Pontoise in the 5Ãªme (Latin Quarter)
I dined on bistro fare multiple times over across the city of light. I visited every single bistro you each told me to visit – the hidden gems, the super trendy ones, the place your aunt loved on her visit 10 years ago, and many of the spots on everyone’s must eat lists. It wasn’t until I met this nutty old Parisian woman who practically booked my table at Le Petit Pontoise, saying it was the best bistro on the Left Bank. For me, it was the best bistro in all of Paris. My guest and I were cramped up against our fellow diners, elbow to elbow, our forks practically in their escargot, but we were so happy. The food was really, really good. The wait was wonderfully long but wonderfully worth it. I went back three times in three weeks. I can’t say it was truly Parisian because the staff were so genuinely nice (much of the time). But just go. (A little advice: When you feel like you’ve waited too long for your meal, when you feel like everyone’s eaten in the restaurant before you, when you feel like you’re going to die from hunger, don’t ask where your food is. That’s when the staff becomes truly Parisian. I witnessed it and it wasn’t pretty. So just don’t do it. But don’t let that stop you from going. Seriously.) Le Petit Pontoise, 9 rue de Pontoise, 75005, Paris. Metro: Maubert-Mutualite. Telephone: +33 (0)1-43-29-25-20.
Fave salads: Rose Bakery in the 9Ãªme
Ah, Rose Bakery, where have you been all my life?! This British-flavored export is now a chain and has great weekend brunches (if you can get a seat) but I adore the weekday lunch menu, especially the multicolored, super fresh salad plates that are assembled just for me. (And I’ve forgiven the “chain” fact because the spirit is so very small, exclusive and totally made by hand.) I choose five vegetarian dishes (typically salads of some sort) and they plate it up with a smile. The service is swift but friendly, and it’s best to try speaking English first, as many of the British waitstaff speak very limited French. Everything is organic, and tastes like it, and I found my favorite green tea hidden amid all the British products on the clumsy shelves. I’ve been so tempted to lug home some of their gigantic jars of jam. I’m not quite sure what I’d do with a gallon of rhubarb-vanilla-rosemary-passion fruit-mango-rose-scented jam (I exaggerate but, geez, they do squeeze many flavors into each) but I do feel I must have one at some point. Or now. Anyone have half a suitcase free on their next trip? Rose Bakery, 46 rue des Martyrs, 75009, Paris. Telephone: +33 (0)1 42 82 12 80. Metro: Pigalle or Saint Georges. There is a second Rose Bakery at 30 rue Debelleyme, 75003, Paris. Telephone: +33 (0)1 49 96 54 01. Metro: Filles du Calvaire or Saint-Sébastien – Froissart.
Fave bread: Coquelicot in the 18Ãªme (Montmartre)
I ate a lot of bread in Paris. Some of it was very good. In fact, I remain amazed at how some of the very best baguettes were on every nook and corner of Paris. But, Coquelicot is in a hemisphere all their own. While their baguettes are very good, everything else there is just fantastic too. Being that I spent a lot of time in Montmartre, sometimes up way too early for any sensible French person, I waited for the world to wake up all too often in a back table at Coquelicot, chugging their cafe creme and slathering butter and jam on their baguette halves. Their take-away sandwiches are equally delicious. And don’t even get me started on their frighteningly-plump Madeline cookies.
Fave fruit tarts: Les Petits Mitrons in the 18Ãªme (Montmartre)
On your next visit to Paris, you should endeavor with vigor to be invited to a brunch party, a Sunday afternoon fete that is very “open house” in style, where sweet and savory foods are served liberally with wine, equally liberally. When I got the invitation and the gentle direction to consider bringing the best fruit tart in the world from Les Petits Mitrons, I was skeptical. Fruit in pastry feels like something the Americans have mastered. Take, for instance, pie. We rock at pie. Pie is our thing. We beat our chests singing the praises of our pies. I have since discovered, to my delight, that the French aren’t so bad at fruit in pastry either. In fact, this tart was one of the hits of the brunch! Les Petits Mitrons, 26 rue Lepic, Paris, 75018, Paris. Telephone +33 (0)1-46-06-10-29. Metro: Blanche or Abbesses.
Fave caramels: Jacques Genin in the 3Ãªme (Marais)
I suppose I need to take this moment to apologize to all my friends. When I left Paris, I was certain I had packed two or five metal containers full of Jacques Genin’s other-worldly mango passion fruit caramels. And not the small containers. The severely large containers that house thirty or forty individually-wrapped buttery caramels. Sometime between take off from Charles de Gaulle and seeing YOU over the course of the summer, they all disappeared. I don’t think I ate them all, but they do cause this weird euphoria and do go down so easily that I can’t really recall. This is my heartfelt apology to you. I’ll make it up to you someday. In Paris. Take a peek at their other goodies. Jacques Genin, 133 rue de Turenne, 75003, Paris. Telephone: +33 (0)1 45 77 29 01. Metro: Temple.
Fave pub: The Pure Malt in the 4Ãªme (Marais)
Whirlwind trips to Paris are hard. They sound luxurious, but one night in Paris is just plain hard, especially for someone like my husband, who’s just not quite found his people there. He’s Irish, but lured me into this Scottish pub across the street from our hotel on one random evening this past fall. We grabbed two points, watched a rugby game, got to know the slightly restless but incredibly friendly regulars, and made this spot our home for an hour or two. The rain was pouring down outside and our cheeks were rosy from the beer and the sweet chit chat with folks we barely knew but who also felt like home. I imagine this spot is packed during the late evening hours, but just before our 8pm dinner (early by Paris standards), it was perfect. The Pure Malt, 4 Rue Caron, 75004 Paris. Telephone: +33 (0)1 42 76 03 77. Metro: Saint-Paul.
Fave produce market: Marché Raspail in the 6Ãªme (St Germain)
I’m not even going to begin to defend the prices at this organic market. Just a short walk from the northwest corner of the Luxembourg Gardens, the Marché Raspail is organic and expensive, mainly because it’s located down one of the very affluent residential streets of St Germain. Sure, you may pay more for a pear there than at any other market in Paris, but that damn pear is going to be perfect. This market takes place every Sunday morning, until around 2pm, and plays hosts to farmers, cheese makers, bakers, butchers and all sorts of handmade crafters. I visited nearly every week for a loaf of hearty bread, a heavy bar of demi-sel Bretagne butter, a couple sausages and a few veggies. (A little advice: The ladies who make crepes on demand, filling them with sweet or savory goodies, do indeed make pretty decent crepes. They’re nothing like Breizh Cafe but desperate times…) Marché Raspail is actually at the corner of Boulevard Raspail and Rue de Rennes. Métro: Rennes.
Fave crepe: Breizh Cafe in the 3Ãªme (Haute Marais)
The folks at Breizh Cafe don’t make just another crepe. They make real crepes, the kind that are inspired by a Bretagne boy’s chef adventures around the globe, including a stay in Tokyo. Mastermind Bertrand Larcher returned to France and his establishment turns out the most delicious buckwheat flour crepes (really called galletes) that I’ve ever tasted. They’re broad, healthy and firm, a strong canvas for the rich homemade caramel sauce or the combinations of savory flavors (think vegetables, seafood, eggs, and cheese, oh yes, cheese). I always wash everything down with a yeasty bubbly cider which almost, but not quite, plays good substitute for a nice champagne. (A little advice: Make a reservation. Please don’t show up at 12pm and think, “Gosh, it’s early enough. I’m sure I’ll get a table!” Except by some miracle from God, you will not. So call a day or two ahead. That shouldn’t be hard for us Americans, as most of them speak wonderful English.) Briezh Cafe, 109 rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris. Telephone: +33 (0)1 42 72 13 77. Metro: République.
Fave sandwich to takeaway: L’Avant Comptoir in the 6Ãªme (St Germain)
You’re certainly welcome to try to squeeze into this tiny place next door to the now infamous Le Comptoir du Relais restaurant in St Germain, but why hassle when you can slide right on up to the little window of L’Avant Comptoir for fresh, exciting takeaway sandwiches. Inside, you’ll get funky tapas that include all sorts of piggy parts. At the window, you’ll watch the staff make a savory style crepe and fill it with whatever your heart desires. Their whiteboard lists off the specials of the day, and I tend to try one of those. My last folded sandwich was stuffed with arugula, mushrooms and so many things, well, it was hard to keep track. But back at my Paris flat, served sliced with a glass of red wine, I was in heaven and for less than ten Euros. L’Avant Comptoir, 9 carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006, Paris. Telephone: +33 (0)8 26 10 10 87. Metro: Odeon.
Fave teatime experience: The Grande Mosquee in the 5Ãªme (Latin Quarter)
I’ve done the fancy teatime at the Ritz in Boston because I get a kick out of all that pomp and love tiny foods (scones, biscuits, sandwiches) of all kinds. In Paris, I got a different sort of tea experience at the Grand Mosquee after a long walk through the Jardin des Plantes. Imagine a multi-umbrella covered patio, adorned with cafe-style chairs and gorgeous middle eastern tiles. I took note of the rich blue hues and quite relaxed clientele. We sat in our private nook and simply waited for little fancy glasses of sweet mint tea to descend upon us. A few chilly rain drops fell but under those umbrellas, and flush with all that natural sugar, we weren’t bothered. We talked and stared and thought hard about how we need to take teatime way more often. (A little advice: Take the metro all the way to Gare d’Austerlitz on a bright day. Walk through the Jardin des Plantes until you find yourself in this tea-soaked patio on the other end. You’ll swear you had the perfect day.) The Grand Mosquee, 39 rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 75005 Paris. Telephone: +33 (0)1 45 35 97 33. Metro: Jussieu.
Fave macaron: Pierre Herme in the 6Ãªme (St Germain)
There are about as many macaron bakers in Paris as there are cafes in Paris. Scratch that, there are probably more macaron bakers than cafes. I tried three or four of them, including the legendary Laduree. Even after way too many taste tests and probably as many fights with some of my French friends, I remain enamored with the crazy flavor combos at Pierre Herme. I’ll throw back five of those chocolate & passion fruit treats anytime. Any. Time. With champagne, of course. Pierre Herme, 72 rue Bonaparte, 75006, Paris. Telephone: +33 (0)1 43 54 47 77. Metro: Saint Sulpice or Mabillion.
Of course, with all this said, Paris is an ever changing city, always under renovation and always buzzing with new restaurant openings. Perhaps you have a favorite hidden gem in Paris that you’re certain would be perfect for me? Tell me about it in the comments. Merci!
All photos by Maggie Battista, except for the gorgeous espresso shot at the lead, which was taken by Arthur Rabate.