5 of my favorite cafés and restaurants in Paris
What could be better than dining out in Paris – a city that knows how to eat. The French attitude to food and the culture of not only what to eat but how to go about eating it is so celebrated that people around the world emulate the way the French do food.
And although some places might have changed a bit with the newly introduced COVID-19 restrictions and the new lockdown, the 5 places that I am going to share with you are definitely worth a visit. And if you cannot physically visit them, Uber Eats is always at your disposal. Let’s jump right into it!
As a notorious foodie, I would like to share with you my top 5 recommendations for where to eat in Paris. In a city where competition is high, these 5 places managed to impress me beyond words not only with the quality of the food, but also presentation, hospitality and attention to detail.
1. Pierre Sang in Oberkampf (Paris 11e)
First, I am taking you to Pierre Sang. The prices are quite fair for the quality of food you are served. Especially at noon, you can eat a 3-course lunch for €25. It is located in the 11th district of Paris, not very far from Bastille.
Pierre Sang, the chef, is Korean-French adopted and his cuisine can be described as French neo-style Bistro, which the French call “néo-bistrot”, with an occasional Asian-Korean twist. Of course, the bread and the butter are excellent, but then again, I wouldn’t trust any Parisian restaurant if the bread they served wasn’t good.
The concept here is that you tell the waiter or waitress whatever food restrictions or allergies you have or foods you don’t like, and they come up with a surprise menu every day.
Then when your plate arrives, they let you guess what you are eating, the ingredients of the dish and, when you finish it, they tell you all about it! When I ordered the first time, I got served duck magret, beetroot, mushrooms, sweet potato puree, mustard and frisée salad garnished with Korean chili “Sam Jam” sauce.
The process is quite fun and makes you appreciate and taste your food even more than usual because you actually really focus on what you are eating.
2. Café de Flore (Paris 6e)
Café de Flore is one of the oldest and most famous cafes in Paris. It has also had its fair share of famous clientele over the years. Since it opened in 1880, it’s been a hub for artists and intellectuals to meet up, work and be inspired. Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were regulars here and now it is a famous spot of Ina Garten, who says it is the quintessential Parisian café experience.
To piggyback on her statement, my idea of the perfect meal in Paris would be an omelet and a glass of champagne at Flore. Located on a corner in the 6th district of Paris, it is the perfect place for people like me, who like…well…people watching.
As an added bonus, Flore has always been known as the place to see and be seen in Paris. I highly recommend reading Adam Gopnik’s essay called “A tale of two cafés” if you want to know more about Flore and its rival café. Last time I was there, I ordered a café au lait (or “café crème” as they call it nowadays) and it came with the coffee and milk in small separate jugs, which elevates just “having a coffee” to its own experience.
3. Ladurée (Paris 8e)
If you choose only one place to go to from this list, it should be this one. Ladurée is a French luxury bakery and sweets maker house created in 1862. It is widely known for its delicious and colorful double-decker macarons with a variety of fillings and textures. For me, Ladurée is like a symphony on the tip of my tongue.
The prices can be quite hefty, reaching €4.50 for a single macaron, however if you visit the original Ladurée, you will not only get the best macarons you have ever tasted, but you will also enjoy a truly royal experience by sipping your coffee in the most beautiful and elegant porcelain china while surrounded by grand golden mirrors and overall Louis 14 vibes.
And because Paris will always be Paris, if you by any chance forget to buy a present for your loved ones and you are already at the airport, worry not! There is a Ladurée gift shop opened until 10pm (yes, you heard me right) where you can create a custom gift by handpicking different macarons, jams, teas and pastries wrapped in beautiful and luxurious gift boxes. Ladurée is an experience like no other.
4. Bouillon Chartier (Paris 9e)
Moving from overpriced macarons and Louis 14 vibes to a more urban, relaxed and cozy atmosphere is what this restaurant is all about.
The word “bouillon” usually refers to soup stock or broth but in this context it’s a type of restaurant designed to serve good food cheaply and quickly. It is located in the 9th district of Paris inside a former railway station. And as I previously visited Musée d’Orsay, you might guess where my love for repurposed train stations comes from.
And Bouillon Chartier is another outstanding example. Chartier is exactly as charming as you hope dining in Paris will be. You are transported back to the style of the Belle Epoque with its high ceilings and vast mirrors mixed with some urban and modern details like several modernized clocks used to keep travelers and trains running on time.
The waiters are dressed in traditional black vests and white aprons and, to my utter surprise, they write orders directly on the paper tablecloths. Prices here are extremely affordable, so it is the perfect place for a bunch of exchange students to meet up and sample traditional French cuisine, from escargot to foie gras, for a fraction of the price.
5. Today’s specialty at home
To bring you back to reality, being an exchange student in Paris is not only about eating out. And even if it were, the costs can add up fast and it wouldn’t be financial savvy of me not to mention that fact.
Although it seems like I dined out every day, that is simply not true. Most of my nights were spent eating baked chicken and frozen vegetables while frantically typing a 3,000-word essay with a deadline the following morning. My other “specialties” were pasta à la university student (plain pasta with canned tomato sauce) and of course, the evergreen classic chicken noodles.
As I have previously mentioned in my blogposts, France takes university education very seriously (a little bit too much if you ask me) and if you were to write all of your homework and submit it on time, catch up on work and other side-hustle activities, you would rarely have time to go out and enjoy yourself.
But if you happen to be in Paris sometime soon, you should definitely treat yourself to an experience of a lifetime and give some of these restaurants a go!