Food Matters: Paris

One of the pleasures of travel is finding good, local food. And one of my favorite cities for eating is Paris, thanks to an exploding culture of creative cooking that offers more than the sauce-heavy dishes that have long characterized French cuisine. You can spend a fortune dining there, but you don’t have to mortgage your home to enjoy a good meal. The places I love range from inexpensive to slightly-more-than-I’d-probably-spend-at-home, but every one is a good value.
  • La Table d’Aki is where Beth and I had one of our most memorable meals. Every dish–and they only serve seafood–is extraordinarily creative, and the wine list is simple and excellent. Two people, Chef Akihiro and an assistant, do everything from prep to cooking to wiping down the tables. Seating is very limited and reservations are essential. (7th arrondissement)
  • La Mascotte is a Montmartre fixture. Housed in a former hotel where Edith Piaf once lived, they serve a dizzying array of seafood. Here’s my advice: Start with a very good glass of champagne then go straight to les huitres (oysters), which are available from multiple regions and are presented by source and size. Reservations are strongly recommended. (18th)
  • Holybelly has the perfect breakfast, the Savoury Stack: Pancakes and bacon, topped with eggs over easy, served with home made Bourbon syrup. Oh, and their coffee…. (10th)
  • Le Severo is a serious steakhouse owned by a former butcher who has a keen eye for quality beef. We don’t spend a lot of time in the 14th arrondissement, but the trip to this small monument to steak is worth the trip. Trust the owner’s wine recommendations–they have an excellent list at reasonable prices. (14th)
  • Seb’on has an incredible reputation, and it’s only a matter of time before a Michelin star is bestowed on it. The creative menu changes nightly. The food is stellar and a good value to boot. Reserve a table well in advance. (18th)
  • Who travels to Paris to eat fried chicken? Me, that’s who. Ellsworth serves a typical Parisian lunch (entrée, plat, dessert–pick two or three) or you can dine on small plates in the evening. Their out-of-this-world fried chicken is available at either meal. If you skip the chicken (and you shouldn’t), there are plenty of other creative dishes on offer. (1st)
  • You’d never expect to find Babalou tucked away near one of Paris’s biggest tourist attractions, yet there it is around the corner from Sacre Coeur. They serve pasta, but the main draw is pizza with perfectly charred crust. Yes, it’s a pizza joint, but make reservations if you don’t want to be turned away at dinner. (18th)
  • Cave La Bourgogne offers French comfort food in a friendly setting. If you’re up for steak tartare, escargots, sardines in butter or a cassoulet, you can’t go wrong here. Bonus: It’s located on the wonderful Rue Mouffetard, which is perfect for people-watching. (5th)
  • Soul Kitchen is our first choice for a simple breakfast, though the vegetarian lunch menu always looks good. It’s a crowded spot that always seems to be full of moms who have just dropped their kids at school. I always get the same thing: A croissant with jam, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, and a latté. I never tire of this combination. (18th)
  • On a warm, sunny day find your way to Paname Brewing Company, on the Quai de la Loire, order a beer and some street food, and find a table on the deck overlooking the water. “Fine Parisian beers” used to be an oxymoron, but no more. This is a fun, friendly spot that serves excellent beer and food. (19th)

Pro tip for Paris dining: Reservations are the rule, and it’s good manners to make them and show up exactly on time. That said, many restaurants will do their best to create space for you if you show up and politely request a table. Starting with “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir” will go a long way toward breaking the ice.

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