YOU SHOULD EAT HERE IN PARIS

MY FAVORITE PARIS RESTAURANTS

[PARIS] — I was scared to death on my first trips to Paris — I started going B.I., Before the Internet — totally intimidated about finding the best cool restaurants. The mere thought of a) figuring out how to use a phone in France and b) people not understanding a single syllable of my Bad French just made the whole process unbearable.

On top of that, I’d tried many times to ask some un-listening concierge — in those days of “Snooty France” — who would just shunt ALL Americans to some crappy brasserie around the corner with surly waiters and lame food. So I rarely trusted them…despite giving them big tips.

So then I developed my default restaurant-picking technique:  Walking Until Finding Something Cool. WUFSC™️. Which worked much better, but required time… and patience of those traveling with me.  It always worked, unless the place required reservations or my friends wanting to kill me.

I’d use my default restaurant-picking technique:  “Walking Until Finding Something Cool.”

But then the internet came along and everything got easier. I could research beforehand, mark the locations on my Google Maps and be strategic about the whole thing… even going back to concierges with my recommendations and see if they can find me a table.

 

Place Dauphin at night

How I Like to Eat — My Best Paris Restaurants

Over my first trips to France, I thought the thing to do was book Michelin-starred restaurants — they are the best, aren’t they??   But after many long and expensive meals, I realized I don’t like to eat like that. Too fancy. Too stuffy.  I was over molecular gastronomy long ago.

So now I look for completely different places. No more Frou-frou. Friendly. Casual. Not stuffy. Genuine, authentic places. Often small. Out of the way, with cool dining rooms and more casual, rustic cooking.

I’m over Michelin-starred fussy restaurants. Now I seek out genuine, authentic places. Not fancy. Often small. Out of the way, with cool dining rooms and more casual, rustic cooking.

So that’s what you’ll see mostly on this list. Preferably not touristy, but these days, almost everywhere is.

If you’re into fine dining, maybe there are better lists for you. These are just my favorites, either that I’ve eaten at or have been recommended by trusted others. There are dozens more that I’ve eaten at over eight or nine trips to Paris, but they’re not included here because they were not worthy.

restaurant at night in Montmartre

Montmartre

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I often travel alone, which is a little difficult to go out to eat in Europe sometimes, but becoming less so in Paris. Eating at the bar was less popular in the past, French tastes were for more personal table service. So there I’d be, taking up a whole two-top, which meant they were losing money on me, often shoving me in some cramped table by the kitchen doors.

But now, everything is changing. In Paris, Milan, Rome, London. I think it’s the Internet. More people criss-crossing the globe, experiencing different cultures and styles and now adapting their own places. With younger chefs and front of house staff that crank the music, love to chat and go out of their way to make you feel good. It’s the Brooklynisation of the World. Even in Paris with its storied past, a plethora of new hip, fun, casual-eating fine dining restaurants have popped.

Trends shoot across Instagram so fast that dishes like Poke Bowls spread faster than Smallpox. In six months, you could find poke bowls in Milano, Stockholm, Lyon and all over Berlin.

Which is good and bad. Good in that things are friendlier, more welcoming to foreigners, less stuffy.  Bad in that things are starting to look a little too familiar around the world. The same sparse white decor. Reclaimed wood. The same fashion sense, everywhere. The same tatt-sleeved arms and slick beards all around the world.

Paris has also changed in attitude in Paris restaurants in the twenty five years I’ve been going there. In Olden Times, there was a subtle anti-American sentiment below the surface, probably because they were all so worn down by arrogant, uneducated Americans invading their cool world, complaining about no ice, smoking, small tables, etc. I think the old stuffy guard has died off, replaced with a friendlier, more worldly generation.

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So here are my favorites, so far. I eat with my eyes, so I like to pick a restaurant for its atmosphere first, so lots of pictures to help you, too. Bookmark this page, I’ll keep adding to it and updating.

Le Taxi Jaune — Authentic, Unpretentious Dining

On my last trip to Paris, after I started posting on Instagram, my trusted IG friends Yasmine and Marie– a very hip Belgian couple, contemporary art gallery owners from Antwerpen — immediately sent me a DM and said “Dan, Le Taxi Jaune. A must. You’ll love it.”

These two have batted a thousand for me before, whether in Portugal, Milan, Brussels or Marrakech, these two have steered me right so many times. I love them both. And we’ve never even met. Yet eerily coincidentally just missing each other by days in Portugal and other places. More than once.

So with that confidence, I went. After taking in JR’s mind-blowing exhibition at the MEP photo museum, I swung by, found its steamy windows on a quiet street just on the Right Bank, a neighborhood surrounded by galleries and antique shops.

Le Taxi Jaune steamy windows

When a place looks like this from the outside, you just gotta go in. I did. Boy was this a find.

It’s run by a delightful husband and wife. He cooks, she runs the front of the house all by herself. I walked in, the Madame greeted me with a “Bonjour Monsieur” and sat me down at a perfect table, smack in the middle of the restaurant. God bless, her.

I looked up and this is what I saw:

Le Taxi Jaune patrons

Can it get any better than this?  THIS is the type of place I like to eat. 

Sitting here, watching all the intense conversations, the smells coming from the kitchen behind me, I thought to myself “I’m going to sit right here… for a long time.” This place was my favorite on my last trip.

This was the post and text I got from my Belgian friend Yasmine, always a reliable source for cool places.

Papillon — A Totally Dialed-In Casual Fancy Place in the 8th

My cousin and his girlfriend and I were staying at a Paris Perfect Rental apartment — highly recommend them — and one of the services they provide is recommending and booking restaurants for you — that’s worth more than gold to me. I sent their concierge a list of places I’d read about and asked her to recommend similar places. She replied, “Wow, we have similar tastes, these are all places I was going to recommend. Here are some others.” She called each restaurant and checked availabilities before getting back to me. In literally two email exchanges, she had all of our reservations booked for the next several days. That was the easiest thing I’ve ever done.

Papillon was one place she extrapolated from my list I sent to her. “I very much think you will like this place.”  We did. It was perfect in every way.

 

Papillion Paris exterior

Papillon is tucked away on a neighborhood side street, but buzzing inside.

This is tucked away in an arrondissement I’d never been to before, the 8th. Nice, where normal people seemed to live, with shops and drugstores on the corners next to shoe repair and dry cleaners. Inside it was clean and modern, tall ceilings.

Because we were Americans, we early eaters were the first to arrive, but soon every table was taken.  The food was perfect, the service super friendly, fun and personal… way better than you’d expect in a hip place like this.

Here’s a review in Paris By Mouth and Le Fooding.

Cafe St. Régis — Right Out of a Movie Set

Cafe Saint Regis Paris at Christmas time

Hard to find a more perfect looking Paris restaurant.

Even the waiter is from Central Casting.

When people ask me where they should go in Paris, I always tell them Café St. Régis. It’s the most perfect looking, Parisian-looking, brasserie. Movie-set perfect. Is it a little touristy, perhaps. But each time I’ve been there, locals were eating there, too, and the owner and waitstaff were super nice.

It’s right on Île Saint-Louis right smack in the middle of the Seine, so easy to get to and a perfect walk-to. I’ve never had reservations. Simple brasserie food done right, set in perfect Parisian street light orange glow. I could eat Steak Tartare every meal and this is one of the best I’ve had.

 

Lighting inside Le Sainte Regis Paris

I’ve seen these lights imitated all over the world. Classic.

 

Cafe Saint Regis Paris tile, table and chair

 

Cafe Saint Regis Paris bar at night

I’m sucking my thumb just staring at this perfect bar and remembering the perfect Paris evening.

 

Verjus — On Everyone’s Must-Eat List

Diners eating at Verjus Paris

Look at any top restaurant list for Paris and you will find Verjus. A perfect teeny little restaurant just next to Palais Royale. Run by a New Orleans native chef and his wife. One of the first of many recent American-led restaurants in Paris.

Definitely need to make reservations. Very cosy inside. Perfect location. Nice people. Have dinner, then walk around Palais Royale’s stone arches at night. This one’s a little harder to get in, so plan ahead.

It was great, a perfect place on a cold Parisian night. Felt special eating there.

 

A busy night at Verjus Paris

If you can’t get a reservation, there’s a little wine bar underneath that also serves food from the same kitchen.

Here’s a review in Paris By Mouth. And a review in Saveur. And a short review in Conde Nast Traveler.

Buvette — New York City in Paris, or Paris in New York City?

Buvette Paris on a busy night

It’s good to have reservations, but I just went early and got a perfect seat to view the scene all around. The place is TIGHT but that’s what makes it cosy.

I went to the first Buvette in New York City and fell in love with Buvette. So tastefully done, a bit of Paris in the West Village. Then the owner Jodi soon opened a Buvette in Paris, virtually unheard of for a female American chef at the time. It brought a little bit of New York City to Pigalle. When I lived in NYC’s West Village, I used to go to Jodi’s places all the time. Lovely person.

Both locations are on everyone’s top lists since they opened… and rightfully so. Just look at this place. Very tiny, so try for reservations or ask to sit at the bar — rare in Paris. Loved it.

 

Here’s a review on Buvette in Le Fooding. A bump on Goop. And a review on Buvette on Paris By Mouth.

Grand Coeur — Perfect in The Marais

Grand Coeur Paris at lunchtime

Grand Coeur was great surprise. Grand Coeur was great surprise. I’d never heard about it, wasn’t expecting much, especially when I walked up and through the cold outside, very unassuming exterior. But then you walk in and it feels like a country inn.  Warm lights, stone walls and friendly family-like servers.

And then everyone showed up for a long winter lunch, the employees came alive, the conversations louder. So much fun. Delightful experience. It’s in central Marais, very easy to get to.

 

Grand Coeur winter lunch

This picture summed up my meal here. Chatty locals. Smiling, super friendly staff. Signs of a good meal.

Les Bains — A Perfect Spot for a Cocktail

I had a couple of days to kill in Paris after dropping of my cousin and his girlfriend and beginning the next leg of an accidentally long trip. Decided to sleep around at a couple of hotels I’ve been wanting to check out. The last hotel on the docket was Les Bains hotel on a great quiet street in the Marais. Just fell in love with this when I first saw pics of this when it opened a couple years ago. Saved the best for last.

Walking in it gave the same cool feeling of the first time I entered the Hotel Costes circa 1998, dark, rich colors and textures, like the inside of a coyote den.

On their business cards it says 1885 | 1978 | 2015. The first is the year this stunning building was built, the second was when this was a notorious Studio 54-esque roaring disco and the last when it was completely renovated in 2015, where they saved the facade but built a completely new building behind it. They kept the nightclub in the basement…just in time for the Second Era of Coke. 🦍 The nightclub has been redone and is supposed to be something, but I didn’t visit (natch, 🚫🕺) and was there on a Sunday and Monday so the place was pretty dead.

 

 

The design of the restaurant is over the top, with a sumptuous rich saturated coating on columns and ceiling that shined like blood red boat paint. (Although the food was ridiculously priced for very small bites, which is probably why it was mostly empty in this busy area of Paris.). Front desk staff was great, but the restaurant could use the attention of a good GM.

But despite that, the perfect comfortable place to at least pop in for a drink when you’re in the neighborhood and check out the cool design.

 

The rooms and public spaces though are just stunning, with perfect details in every corner. Just loved the decor, with the nicest sheets I’ve flopped on in a long time. Because the back of the building is all new, the floors are solid and quiet, the rooms bigger than typical Parisian nests. Most open up onto a nice balcony and courtyard.

Les Bains Paris reception

The very much photographed reception area at Les Bains.

Le Christine — Hidden Little Neighborhood Gem on The Left Bank

Le Christine on Left Bank

How cute is this?

It’s been a number of years since I’ve been here, but have heard it is still alive and perfect. Out of the way just across the Left Bank, great duck-into kinda place. Perfect lighting and friendly people. Loved their wine-smoked-salt so much, I bought a jar.

Bar Hemingway — Where The Cocktail Craze Began

Bar Hemingway, from their website.

Long before the cocktail craze hit – before Death & Co and Employees Only and the Aviary — there was Colin Field at Bar Hemingwa in the Ritz Hotel. He was the OG master at handmade, properly made classic cocktails long before anybody had thought of it.  I remember first stumbling into this classic old bar in the stuffy Ritz on a rainy Christmas Eve way back in 2004. I sat down, ordered a martini and was amazed at how much care and detail Colin took to make (what typically in Paris) was a thrown-together minuscule shot of vodka in a hot glass. I was sold.

Colin is world famous, has written the first cocktail books and is a beacon for cocktail lovers the world over. In fact, when the Ritz was closed for several years for a massive renovation, they didn’t just lay him off, they sent him on a worldwide tour to do residencies at the top famous bars at hotels all over the world. How cool is that?  You can meet him, too. The bar’s back open. He’ll be there in a white tuxedo jacket, ready to make you some magic.

Le Train Bleu — Classic Baroque French Fine Dining

(Photo from their website.)

If you want something fancier, try Le Train Bleu, one of the first cool restaurants I went to in Paris when I was still a traveling newbie. Gorgeous Art Nouveau interior, as pretty as any you’ll find. It’s aboven the Gare de l’Este train station, but don’t let that influence your opinion, it just enhances the experience. This is very Old World glamour. I wasn’t sure if it was still good, but friends I sent there recently raved about it, so sounds like it’s still great.

If it’s your first time in Paris, this is one of the restaurants I’d recommend you visit.

Le Fumoir — The Perfect Place to Dip Into After The Louvre

Le Fumoir

(Photo from their website.)

Le Fumoir is the most surprising place. You’d think being right behind the Louvre would be a sign that it was a tourist clip joint, but in fact, each time I’ve gone, I’ve hardly seen any, probably because it is tucked away and so understated on the inside. But when you duck in here on a chilly Parisian days, or the rains come,  or you make it a destination, you will be rewarded with a warm, cozy, beautifully lit ambiance that wraps its warm arms around you.  Decor is like a hip library, with great music, art and food. Love this place.

http://content.time.com/time/travel/cityguide/article/0,31489,1937013_1936990_1936848,00.html

Hotel Costes — Perfect People Watching in The First

The Hotel Costes was one of the first ultra cool boutique hotels in Paris, way back in the later 90s, early 00s. It was so cool, you could barely find a sign out front to indicate it was a hotel, you pass through a mirrored arcade, then turn right and then you are in the inner sanctum.  They were so cool, their website for years had no information on it, just a phone number.

The rooms of the hotel were some of the most expensive of the day — at that time, a whopping $400-500/night…I can’t imagine now.  But the restaurant and bar are worth the visit alone. Day or night.

It’s a fashion-y scene, still today, as the Costes brothers have gone on to open other see-and-be-seen hotspots that have lasted for decades.  Best to have a reservation, but don’t be intimidated by the black-dressed door guards. Just act like you know where you’re going and keep going back, back, back into the many rooms.

Candlelight at Hotel Costes dining

The interior is so cozy warm. You’ll feel like you’re in a movie. (This photo is from their website.)

 

Hotel Costes candlelight dining

Each room has a completely different character. Even for a bright lunch, the place is buzzy. (Photo from their website.)

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/travel-guide/a8909/hotel-costes-paris/

Le Café Marly — A Cocktail Overlooking the Louvre

Le cafe marly corridor

This is a great spot to chill after the Louvre. It used to be a scene here when the Costes Brothers opened it, but looks like they may have sold it and run by someone else. Easier to get into. Haven’t seen it crowded, but still elegant. (Photo from their website.)

Pershing Hall — A Living Wall in a Former Embassy

The Living Wall inside Pershing Hall hotel

The Living Wall inside Pershing Hall hotel

It’s been a long time since I’ve stayed at the Pershing Hall hotel, right after it opened in 2004, but I hear this beautiful lobby restaurant and bar is still going strong. If you’re up shopping in the high-end shops off the Champs, or along Avenue Montaigne, pop into here for a sunny lunch on a cloudy day. One of the first living walls in Paris, the energizing smell of oxygen hits you as soon as you walk in. And you walk out happy.   I see that it is temporarily closed for renovations…so double-check before you go on the link.

Chez Paul — The Perfect French Bistro

Chez Paul postcard

(Photo from the Chez Paul website.)

Chez Paul was one of the first “real brasserie” restaurants I went to in Paris. I’d been so turned off by so many of the tourist clip joints on the major thoroughfares that I’d given up hope. Then a food critic friend recommended this gem in the Marais/Belleville area in the 11th. At the time (before I had digital cameras) this was frequented by reporters, writers and artists, as it has since it opened in 1900. We had the perfect meal. I hear it’s a lot more popular and well known with tourists, so if you go, report back to me.

Les Deux Magots — Quinessential Saint-Germain Cafe

(Photo from their website.)

On my last trip to Paris, my cousin said he wanted to check out Les Deux Magots, a classic Left Bank institution. I was skeptical at first, thinking it was just one of those places where everyone from Houston comes and takes a selfie in front of the sign.  But we did and had an excellent experience, friendly waitstaff and absolutely the most perfect French cafe decor.  Lots of people sit on the famous terrace outside, but I loved sitting in the sunny inside.  Great location off Saint-Germaine de Pres.

(Photo from their website.)

Places I Haven’t Been Yet But Come Highly Recommended

Le Clown Bar

(Photo from their website)

I’ve tried each time to go to Le Clown Bar… but each time it was either closed or completely booked. Everybody raves about this, their bar and how fun it is. Check it. And the perfect neighborhood to walk around.

https://www.eater.com/2016/10/19/13314418/paris-clown-bar-veal-brain

Au Passage

(Photo from their website.)

Same thing about Au Passage. Tried several times to book reservations, always booked. But everyone raves about its menu and atmosphere.  Very offal centric, though.

https://lefooding.com/en/restaurants/restaurant-au-passage-paris

 

Septime, Septime, Septime. Everybody Recommends Septime

(Photo from their website)

Same thing again as above, always too crowded or didn’t work into our schedule, but Septime is absolutely on everyone’s Must List.  One of the first casual-fancy French restaurants to pop onto the scene. Everyone raves. Book in advance, you can on their website.

Other Great Restaurant Recommendations from IG Friends

Click on the gallery to open up what people recommend. I’ll keep adding to these.

Save My Map of All My Favorite Sites in Paris

Helpful map of the Best of Paris restaurants and sites

The link below will take you to my Best of Paris google map. It plots out all of these restaurants, plus top sites and other points of interest. And a ton of other restaurants I haven’t been to but are recommended by others. You can save this to your phone and then use it whilst walking around and see what’s around you. I always like to look where are the places are clustered, always a good sign of a cool neighborhood, then I head there.

https://goo.gl/maps/ea4L6X4enzZz1VSV7

And here are my other posts on Paris, some are old and lame. https://youshouldgohere.com/countries/paris/

 

More Great Guides on Where to Eat in Paris

Arrondisments of Paris

Here’s a quick overview of the Arrondisments of Paris

Here’s an amazingly helpful list from one of my favorites people to follow, Jamie Beck. She’s a photographer living in Provence and has impeccable taste for finding the cool stuff.

Here’s a great article from the Wall Street Journal on the best chic affordable restaurants in Paris.

This is a great article from the Hip Paris website on cozy winter restaurants in Paris.

10 Amazing Restaurants in Paris in 2019

Here is Vogue’s list of the prettiest restaurants in Paris.

Here’s a great list from Hip Paris’ website.

Here is Conde Nast Traveler’s list of Top 50 Paris restaurants

Here’s a great list from Forbes on Best Paris restaurants.

Here is Eater’s guide to the best places to eat in The Marais. And How to Eat Your Way Through Paris in 24 Hours. And even better, a Culinary to the 20 Arrondissements to find stuff close to where you’re staying.

 

The Canal Saint Martin area is perfect for walking around, spring, summer or winter. Lots of cool stores and warm places to duck into.

 

Got a recommendation?   Send me a comment below.

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