When you come to Paris, you know you’re going to find fabulous food but the city is also a hotbed for tourist traps. Some of which, like the roadside creperies, are inexpensive, delicious indulgences that will keep you fuelled as you see the sites and maybe get you some new followers on Instagram.
This 3 part post is all about a variety of fare at a range of prices, that will take you from breakfast to dinner, throughout the arondissements. I’ve chosen only to include restaurants I’ve been to on more than one occasion, which have stood out. I really enjoy food and I don't make recommendations lightly so if it's on this list, chances are that it will please. So you get where I’m coming from, I appreciate value but I’m also open to a splurge. Above all, food has to be tasty, fresh, and good service is a nice touch.
A note about service in Paris. You’ve probably heard that Paris is not big on it, that people are generally rude. That’s a bit of a misnomer. In France, being a waiter is a profession or “métier” and servers are serious about their craft and so are the chefs. This means that no one gets excited to hear you want to replace the carefully selected item on the menu with another option; that you want something on the side; or that you think a certain dish would be great if you could just add grilled chicken. The perspective is that the restaurant staff are the experts, and you, as the guest, should just let them do their job. Many North Americans perceive this as being rude but for the French, it's the diner being rude. It’s cultural: the ritual of eating is sacred here and people take great pride in it. That said, some places are open to accommodating you. Just ask nicely and always make sure to say, bonjour!
(photo credit: Verjus Facebook)
I've decided to start with the dinner spots first because that's what most people are keen to experience. I've promised you 20 and I've numbered them so you can keep me honest but these are in no particular order of preference. To avoid disappointment, makes sure to check hours - many are closed Mondays and a few close on the weekend. More to come!
1. Ellsworth is all about small sharing plates that are actually quite robust - you’ll get a at least a few bites. The menu is varied, fresh, and changes based on market offerings. The buttermilk fried chicken is a staple. You can quickly overspend here if you’re not paying attention because it’s all delicious. Staff speak English and they are quite friendly though sometimes they seem in over their heads. It gets busy here so use the online booking service to reserve your table. Note that they also do an excellent brunch on Sunday but unlike most of Paris, they will ask for the table back after 90 minutes, which can feel rushed, especially if you’ve just dropped a lot of money and are enjoying your mimosas.
2. Juveniles offers an extensive and fabulous wine list, with a creative twist on a classic French menu in a cave-type setting. You may feel a bit squished here but that is part of Juveniles’ charm. A great spot to experience bistro dining in Paris. The menu is constantly changing and reflects seasonal delights. Excellent service and nice vibe. Servers also speak English.
3. Verjus is the sister restaurant to Ellsworth, Verjus offers a more intimate and slightly more sophisticated dining setting with a three to four course menu, you will not be disappointed. They do excellent wine pairings and the service is consistently friendly and on point. Staff speak English and go out of their way to provide a solid dining experience. Best to book ahead but if you do have to wait, they have a wine bar just below the main dining level where you will happily kill time with some bevvies and appies.
4. Saturne is the only restaurant on my list with a Michelin star. It’s well earned and remains accessible and not at all ostentatious. Set menu at lunch (no wine) will run you 45 euros. It is amazing value for the food which combines innovative flavours and texture, making each dish a delightful surprise. Saturne specializes in natural wines and organic fare. Everything is handmade with a focus on simplicity, quality and doing things right; this is reflected in the warm, minimalist decor. Fun fact: You can order the Sommelier’s best picks online - the site features over 1,000 rare, natural wines and liquors (either organic or biodynamic, sulphite free, harvested by hand, produced with minimum intervention). If you’re only in town for the weekend, take note, Saturne will be closed.
5. Clown Bar is the sister restaurant to Saturne, Clown Bar takes a more rustic, bistro approach. The space will bring you back in time with its clown-themed tiles from 1902. You’ll find foie gras peppered generously throughout the menu as well as broad selection of meats done to perfection. There are fish and veggie options but these are not the focus. You can do small sharing plates here or three to four courses to be paired with more delicious natural wines. Drinks and appies outside on the small terrace is also an option here. This is a place to see and be seen.
6. Rech is renowned chef, Alain Ducasse’s seafood restaurant in the 17th. It is a fine dining experience in a minimalist, woodsy white environment. The preparation is both stunning and scrumptious and the creative plates will have your palate dancing. The wine list is on par with what you’d expect at a Ducasse restaurant and wines by the glass are also plentiful and varied. Service is excellent if not a bit stiff but that’s also part of its charm. Ordering tip: the oysters are Rech’s hot ticket item, so if you’re thinking of a seafood platter maybe go à la carte and get more oysters than langoustines, which may be less electrifying. Fun fact: I’ve noticed that diners are segregated - there is the French floor and the international floor. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the internationals are generally more gregarious than the French clientele and this arrangement likely suits everyone!
7. La Belle Maison is another fantastic seafood restaurant in the Pigalle area and it's a great way to start your night in this part of town. As the name suggests (the Pretty House), this is a charming, low key spot which has everything going for it - fresh creative menu, excellent service, fair prices in simple, blue and white decor. The razor clams are possibly the best outside Brittany and the mains offer a symphony of flavours. Oh, and the wine list...it’s solid and not all of it is listed, so just ask. We asked if they happened to have a Meursault and the waiter was able to dig one up! Full disclosure, we ended up with a Sancerre at a fraction of the price.
8. Chez George in the 17th represents a quintessential French bistro experience with its crisp white tablecloths and serious but welcoming waiters in black aprons. It has been around since 1926 and has a reputation for impeccable service and traditional French fare, done very well, accompanied by an equivalent wine list. You will start off with some of the most delicious bread, “fait maison” (homemade), and butter. This is a rarity in France - usually you don’t get the butter because it’s considered that this extra indulgence may spoil your meal. The foie gras is exceptional, again, fait maison. The mains are generous and they do fish just as well as they do braised meat. Dessert is highly recommended and if you order the baba au rhum (pastry drenched in booze), they will leave the bottle on the table. If you go for the profiteroles, the pitcher of hot chocolate sauce stays on the table so you can top up as you see fit. Chez Georges is an ideal spot if you’re seeing a show at the Palais des Congrès or staying in the north west of Paris.