Posted by Jonah Reider on

Sunny Paris street scene. Restaurant "La Bastille" visible with red awnings and a neon sign

Below is a haphazard and ever-changing list of my favorite places to eat, drink, and shop in Paris.

Most of my recommendations are in the city’s northeast quadrant, particularly around the 3rd and 11th arrondissements. I adore this area: it is central and bustling, but often quiet and neighborhoodly, with a lovely concentration of excellent cheese shops, fish stands, bakeries, cafes, and phenomenal wine bars.

Yes, Parisians are curt and at times plainly rude. Get over it. This is a city full of grunge, glamor, and romance — and a shared reverence for quality food at its most elemental.

One important note: many of my recommendations are taken from David Lebovitz’s incredible blog — he is an American pastry chef living in Paris, and his picks are spot-on. If you have time, definitely dig deep into his deep resource for experiencing Paris.


Don’t waste time looking up a top-rated bakery or coffee: the very best activity in Paris involves sitting outside at any bustling neighborhood café (one with glowing heating lamps, if it’s winter), people-watching and enjoying a bracing espresso or allongé (espresso with hot water) with a tartine (baguette + butter + jam).

To me, these cafés form the social and culinary core of Paris — go for an inky espresso in the morning, but come back for a glass of wine and a plate of steak-frites (for me, always cooked saignant— juuust perfectly under medium rare) or snails at lunchtime, a rack of lamb chops or a hearty soup at night, and drinks with friends until late.

Again, it’s really not worth stressing about finding the “best” café or bistro — the real joy is finding a spot near to where you’re staying that you will enjoy coming back to over and over again.


No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to Poilâne, the city’s most beloved bakery. Everything is cooked in a wood fired oven, from their iconic and enormous sourdough miche (perfect dense chew, subtle tang, and nutty wheat flavor) to the incredibly flaky galette des rois. Don’t leave without a bag of their Punition butter cookies. If you go to their flagship location in the 6th arrondissement, you can stop by their Comptoir Poilâne next door, to snack on all types of bread-related delicacies with tea and coffee.

Bakery shop window with "Poilâne" written on it. Loaves of bread are visible inside


I judge any French bakery on its croissant alone. Paris is a walking city, so whenever I’m on the move, my nose is finely tuned to the sweet, heavy smell of caramelizing butter that suggests I might find something spectacular.

A great croissant has a hard shiny shell (dozens of flaky leaves of pastry lacquered with butter) and an incredibly airy interior reeking of butter. The shop should smell like the inside of a movie theatre popcorn tank. There should be a line to order. Did I mention butter?

There are lots of excellent croissants in Paris and plenty of lackluster ones. I can’t share a comprehensive favorite-bakery list, but I will mention Blé Sucré in the 12th which offers a pretty spectacular example of a plain croissant au beurre.

Croissant held in hand, with very thin layers of pastry visible


Breizh Cafe serves the best crepes and galettes in Paris. A galette is a slightly crisp savory crepe traditionally from Normandy and Brittany, made from fermented 100% buckwheat flour. At Breizh, I recommend a plain one with bowl of buttermilk to dip it in as well as one with egg and cheese and wilted spinach. I can’t leave without also getting a bowl of dry sparkling hard cider, and if I have room, a delicious sweet crepe for dessert.

Dark colored crepe-style pancake, folded into a square with a fried egg and spinach visible through a hole in the middle

This is my only specific lunch recommendation: whether I’m traveling or not, I generally don’t plan lunches. When I’m in Paris, if I’m really hungry mid-day, I usually just find an enticing small bistro or cafe and get a steak-frites (remember, always cooked saignant) or a bowl of soup.

Cave à Vins

Pro tip: many of Paris’ renowned restaurants have small wine bars affixed next door or a floor below. There are also many excellent standalone spots that offer the same winning combination of simple, delicious small plates of food and inexpensive glasses of super cool wine. You can easily visit three or four of these places in a night, as they are cheaper and faster than going to a stuffier restaurant. Importantly, you can usually also buy a bottle from their collection to take home on your way out. Around 5pm I am often guilty of searching for a “cave a vins” nearby to see if anything interesting is located close by.

One to check out is Septime La Cave — the small and unpretentious sister of fabulous tasting menu restaurant Septime and the seafood focused à la carte Clamato. Here you can enjoy well priced small plates — ruby red slices of cured beef leg shimmering with fennel seed oil; fresh ricotta with salty anchovies and toasted hazelnuts — and a more than a few fascinating wines.

Glossy deep-red slices of beef, garnished with salt


OK, here are few restaurants that I revisited on my last trip to Paris and can happily recommend to anyone. This list is not exhaustive at all, so again, I’d recommend also checking out David Lebovitz’s great compilation of restaurants throughout the city.

One note for Paris dining: I’m growing to think that buying wine by the bottle at restaurants yields exceptional value. Wines are cheaper to begin with because there are so fewer EU importation and alcohol taxes, but the restaurants themselves are more likely to have interesting minimal-intervention wines at a reasonable mark-up. Don’t be afraid to chat with sommeliers about your preferences! I often ask for a recommendation to pair with a few dishes I’m pretty sure I’ll order. Best of all, it’s totally acceptable to ask to take a partially drunk bottle to go.

clown bar

Clown Bar is an absolute classic: a small restaurant next to a big old circus building, The chef has changed but the food, wine, and atmosphere are perfect. Veal brains if you’re very adventurous, perfectly juicy and crisp pigeon if you’re somewhat adventurous, creamy burrata no matter what, and toothsome cured fish with thin cross-sections of pithy citrus. They also have an excellent pithivier: a heavenly heart-attack (foie gras, duck, etc) stuffed inside puff pastry. YUM!

Semi-circular bar with tiled decoration of circus performers and ornate ceiling with flower patterns

frenchie’s bar a vins

I always come here when I’m in Paris — it’s the baby sibling of a fancier tasting menu, with cheaper à la carte dishes that are adventurous without being annoying. Put your name down, and if there’s a wait, grab a drink at the large café around the corner or check out the fish, meat, and cheese markets nestled throughout the neighboring small streets.

Dim room with exposed red-brick walls and plain wooden tables. A cook wearing an apron walks through

c a m

A delicious, unfussy, and interesting restaurant helmed by Korean chef Esu Lee. The most decadent lightly pickled mackerel is laid atop a paste of black garlic and seaweed, an aromatic and barely creamy soup is overflowing with tiny clams, and a slab of salty dark chocolate is presented warm and spoonable for dessert. This is an exemplary contemporary Paris restaurant.

Exterior photo of restaurant, sign reads "C A M" with "import" and "export" on either side. Patrons visible through window are sitting at a bar

le san sebastien, au passage, le rigmarole

There are so many quietly pleasurable bistros and neo-bistros in Paris, so I could go on forever, but I’ve always enjoyed Au Passage. Off a narrow street, ever-changing chefs serve pretty innovative charcuterie, raw seafood, cooked fish, roasted meats, and unique vegetables — all alongside a great wine list. I also recently visited Le San Sebastien where I enjoyed unpretentious, interesting neo-bistro fare and an amazing €30 bottle of an extremely savory, barely colored red wine. Lastly, Le Rigmarole is an exquisite small restaurant where husband-and-wife prepare seasonal French ingredients using a traditional Japanese binchotan charcoal grill. Expect great wine, extraordinary skewers of grilled chicken parts (and more!), a good-ass grilled lobster ramen situation, and reliably excellent wines.

Dishes of skewered meatballs and crispy flat bread

urfa durum

If you’re near Gare du Nord, check out this absolutely amazing (and inexpensive) Kurdish restaurant serving puffy freshly fired pita and charcoal grilled meats. There are only about six options on the menu and you have to eat with a can of beer on a wooden stool on the sidewalk. The lamajcun — a €3 pizza-esque pita topped with roasted and minced lamb and vegetables — is a required order. But the €6 kebab wraps are the best in town: the chefs use no white sauce nor even spices, just salty charred lamb, fresh tomato and raw onion, all wrapped up in that irresistible freshly-fired pita. Plus, the blocks surrounding the restaurant constitute an enclave of extraordinary Turkish markets and bakeries.

Urfa Durum kebabs in paris


If you like drooling over beautiful copper pans and excellent chef’s tools, you must visit E.DEHILLERIN in the very center of Paris. This is the Paris kitchenware store of choice for Julia Child, Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, the list goes on… It’s dusty, slightly disorganized, and completely amazing.

Shop window with wide variety of polished copper pots and pans

I also like to visit the Marché D’Aligres on Fridays, which combines an awesome covered market full of excellent cheese and meat vendors, a great outdoors farmers market, and a big flea market featuring dozens of antiques-borderline-junk hawkers. It’s fun to walk through and haggle for some nice French silverware or cocktail glasses. And as an added plus, it’s all quite near that croissant spot Blé Sucré as well :-)

Open-air antique market in Paris, bustling with people

Lastly, I’ve found the best little sunglasses store in the world: Le Photon Des Vosges, run by an incredibly friendly optician with a giant collection of fairly priced handmade vintage frames. He can fit any frame you like with lenses in colors and magnification as needed. There are always musicians always hanging out there, because the optician also deals handmade North African musical instruments on the side.

Shop at corner of Rue de Tournelles and Rue de Pas de La Mule. Tiled sign reads "Talavera" and the shop window reads "le Photon des Vosges"


I don’t usually do much besides cooking and eating, but one Paris music/entertainment venue comes to mind. La Gare, way out in the 19th arrondissement, hosts excellent jazz and contemporary music shows out of an abandoned train station. Sometimes little homemade snacks are served at the bar. A must go especially during summer nights, when throngs of people stream outside to drink and eat street food.

View of building facade at night and busy courtyard. Facade is painted with a large face