Eating in France is serious. If navigated correctly, it can reach beyond the plate into richer memories, inspired creativity and greater understanding of the world. When the French eat they take their time and above all they share their passion for flavors, quality, technique and tradition. These are some of my favorite spots in an ever evolving guide to Paris.
Practical information for eating in Paris
The French like to eat at two times in the day and not in-between. This was something that took me a long time to get used to coming from New York and having access to everything 24/7. Lunch is typically served between 12pm – 2:30pm and dinner between 7pm – 9pm. Some places are open later but don’t expect to have much luck if you like to dine at 10:30pm or a late lunch around 3. Of course there are exceptions but in general as a rule of thumb plan to eat at 1pm and 8pm.
Another important tip, you must make reservations. Most places in Paris are quite small and as a culture they only order the amount of food they will serve so they like to know how many seatings they have. I have a few places on my list that are more casual that do not require a reservation, otherwise, plan ahead. The websites are always clear on their policy if reservations are needed or not.
Additionally, you do not have to tip in France unless, of course, the service was wonderful and you want to give a gesture of appreciation. If you do tip, do not add it to the credit card, leave it in cash on the table. I found this blog post about tipping very useful. And for god’s sake, do not rush through your meal. The French will spend a good few hours over dinner and wine. Enjoy it, savor it. Your waiter is not being rude for not asking you if you need anything or rushing out your dishes, the French let you be and your meal blossoms before you in due time. Your waiter will also not rush you out, so feel free to to enjoy your dining experience and once you are ready to leave flag down your waiter and ask for the check, “l’addition, S’il vous plaît”. Lastly, in Paris, everyone speaks english so don’t be scared, though as custom you should always greet everyone when you walk in with a “Bonjour” and you can never use “merci” enough.
My favorite restaurants in Paris
Le Chateaubriand~ Perhaps this is my number one restaurant in Paris. This is where I dined on my birthday last night. A tasting menu of natural wines and improvisational cooking that tickles your brain all while being set in a warm, unpretentious old French space.
Fragments~ My favorite coffee spot, great breakfast foods, PERFECT cappuccino, cozy. It’s quite small so don’t be afraid if you have to wait a bit for a table, I’ve never had to wait longer than 5mins… or just don’t try to do here during fashion week when all the New Yorkers are in town. It’s my favorite place to spend a rainy afternoon reading.
Candelaria~If I’m in Paris, I’m stopping by here for lunch to get my major taco fix! It’s the only place in France to get a “real” taco IMO. It’s a speakeasy type situation, you can either eat at the super casual taco counter or make your way past the kitchen through a door which leads to a pretty little bar / dining room. I only go for lunch when it’s chill but if you’re young it’s a great night spot where the backroom is for drinking and hanging out with the cool kids.
Dersou~ One of my favorite modern eats of Paris, it offers only a tasting menu with cocktail pairing of asian fusion world cuisine. It’s the perfect date spot you’re a foodie.
Les Chouettes~ Really beautiful interior, perfect place to have dinner when you want something nicer but not “fancy”. Wonderful fish dishes, sophisticated all around.
Treize~ BISCUITS. Literally Charleston, southern American biscuits in the heart of France. I love their “not fried chicken” and bloody mary. The woman who started it is from Charleston and is always there to greet you from behind the kitchen with a warm “HEY Y’ALL”. But seriously, the hot out of the oven biscuits are life. They are tucked away in a charming courtyard.
La Mary Celeste~ I’ve actually only been here a few times for cocktails but it’s a pretty little candle lit bar. I hear the food is good.
East Mamma~ Italian, very hip, designed decor, a place you would expect to find in New York. I wasn’t blow away by the food but it’s a fun experience. It is part of Big Mamma’s group which has a handful of cute places all over Paris each with their own vibes.
Septime~ Ugh, I haven’t actually been here yet but I know so many people who have gone and loved it and it is the #1 recommended place to eat in Paris. It’s been, for me at least, impossible to get a reservation because I don’t plan my trips three months in advance. They got the sustainable restaurant award and came in #35 of the 50 best restaurants. They also have a wine bar, Septime La Cave, and a seafood spot, Clamato.
L’Aprege~ Really one of the most special restaurants in the world, the kind of meal you don’t forget. Watch Chef’s Table on Alain Passard then you will understand why. Also, I still love my dress from that night.
Clown Bar~ Great natural wine menu, small but adventurous seasonal menu makes this a spot for the foodies and young chef’s of Paris. It’s next to the old circus and supposedly was were the clowns hung out to drink back in the day. I don’t know about that but I do know the old, painted clown bar and mirrors are magical.
Verjus~ Perhaps one of my favorite date spots in Paris. Fresh, smart, seasonal food, cozy simple setting.
Ellsworth~You go for the fried chicken.
Carbon~ New spot in Paris opened by a woman from Argentina, this is all about wood fired cooking in a really beautiful distressed French bistro setting.
Kinugawa~ SUSHI!!! This is my new favorite go-to sushi spot, I wish I could eat the entire menu. Must have reservations.
Balagan~Also new to the scene, Israeli cuisine in a sleek, modern, cool setting. I loved all the starters.
Miss Bánh mì~ My favorite lunch spot! Very quick and casual and sooooo delicious.
Derriere~ cool atmosphere. I like to eat in the courtyard when the weather is nice.
Hotel Costes~ Really beautiful, balances old world glamour with modern cool. Has a wonderful dining courtyard in the center of the restaurant. Food is excellent but the best aspect to this place is that that serve mid-day and late at night when everything else is closed. It’s great for people watching, very chic, hip, fashion crowd.
Ralph’s~ In the Ralph Lauren mansion, this place is so beautiful. I love it in the summer to eat outside in the courtyard listening to old jazz, very romantic.
Le Grand Véfour~ Perhaps the most recommended Paris restaurant for special occasions and it’s easy to see why from the historic and beautiful setting to the very best of Parisian table service. The food was some of the most proper, exquisite food I have ever eaten.
Le Timbre~ Very beautiful, fresh, modern French food in a cozy unpretentious setting.
Hotel Amour Restaurant~ I love this place for brunch! Seriously the best bread and butter in all of Paris IMO.
Le Dome du Marais~ Pretty.
Cafe Marly~ I like to eat on the terrace here for lunch and enjoy the view of the Louvre and Eiffel Tower. They do a lot of turnover because of the location so don’t expect attentive or friendly service but they get the job done and the views are wonderful.
Relay of the Entrecote~ These are all over Paris and it’s the same experience no matter which one you go to and they only serve one thing, steak and fries, and it’s perfect. My dream is to be able to make their steak sauce! No reservations, you just line up outside, the line moves quickly.
114 Faubourg~ Your typical fancy Michelin Star place but I still dream about the salad I had here.
Buvette~ Cute little spot
Les Fines Gueules~ I have been going to this romantic little spot for years. Seasonal chalkboard menu, amazing wine cave, perfect spot for dinner during the week.
Monsieur Bleu~Very sophisticated chic spot with an incredible view of the Eiffel Tower. A see-and-be-seen spot, lots of politicians, fashion people, and French celebrities here.
Claus Paris~ It’s kind of the “it” breakfast place in Paris, at least the cool Americans think so.
Du Pain et Des Idées~ a truly traditional Paris bakery that is magnifique! Real foodies talk about this place as if it is holy.
Auberge Bressane~ Two things, cream chicken and soufflé.
Frenchie~ Everybody loves Frenchie. I’ve actually never been but I want to go but everyone loves it so I feel good about that.
Le Dauphin~ Great wine bar and tapas, very foodie culture, can get really crowded late at night.
Le Ruisseau~ I love to come here late at night, a very hole in the wall burger joint that is to die for. You can also order to go if there is a line.
Cafe Charlot~ Cute bistro, hip fashion crowd.
Tomo~ Great Japanese bakery, wonderful Matcha as well.
Scaramouche~ Icecream from Provence!
Jacques Genin~ Wonderful, special chocolates made in house from the highest quality ingredients.
For drinks only:
Bar Hemingway~ For history alone you have to do this at least once in Paris. Cocktails come with a rose in your glass and it’s just all so glamorous.
Caveau de la Huchette ~ Amazing jazz club in a cave, perfect place to listen to live music, sip a martini and watch great dancers sway to the tunes. This was the place featured in La-La-Land.
Ballroom du Beef Club~ Underground speakeasy, the unmarked entrance is next door (to the left) of Beef Club. You go in, you go down the stairs and into a very 1920s candle lit champagne and cocktail lounge
Little Red Door~ Cute, cozy little cocktail spot with really interesting house drinks.
Hoppy Corner~ New to Paris, great craft brew selection
Cafe de Flore~ I’m putting this in the drinks section because I’ve done both eating and drinking here and I found the food abysmal I guess because it’s so overwhelmed with a high turnover of tourists they don’t have to try? … I think the champagne is over priced and the service is abrasive. However, I do think it is a wonderful spot to have afternoon tea if you can score a spot outside or in the window because the people-watching is fabulous and the Instagram with the Cafe de Flore logo is timeless.
Angelina~ Another insanely tourist spot but it has to be said, their hot chocolate is the best in the world and everyone should experience it at least once. Tip, I prefer the one at Versailles.
Recommended places from people I trust I have not tried yet but are on my list:
Petrelle // Le Servan // Astrance // Comice // Clover // Merci-Merci // Au Passage // The Bocca della Verita // Bistrot les Papilles // Chez La Vieille // DAROCO // Lou Lou // Papillon // Jules Verne // QUINSOU // MELT // Guy Savoy // The Grand Restaurant Jean-Francois Piege // La Scene // Mustache // Hero // Cafe Oberkampf // Cantine California // Sushi B // JIN sushi // Yam T’cha // Okuda // Cafe de la Nouvelle Mairie// Le Verre Volé // L’etiquette // Elmer // Pontochoux // Robert et Louise // Bouillon Chartier // L’Avant Comptoir // TOMY&Co // Lasserre // La Bourse la Vie // Le Gabriel // Rech // Lapérouse // Fichon // Blé Surcé // Rose Bakery // Cibus // Le Grand Colbert // Poliane (bakery) // Fish la Boissonerie // Coutume Coffee // Wild & the Moon // Chez Omar // Ferdi //
Did I miss something? I’d love your recommendations in the comments on this post!