Paris is known for its fine and luxurious dining, boasting a high number of Michelin-stars adorned restaurants. However it also caters to budget conscious travellers, with reasonably priced bistrots and small restaurants. As a cosmopolitan city, Paris has also adopted a range of cuisine, both from regional French cuisine and international cuisine. Unfortunately, one aspect that needs improving is in catering to vegetarian needs, as dishes are often meat-based.
By law, all restaurants and eateries in France is required to display their menus and the prices at the window or by the door outside their establishments. Most restaurants have special fixed price menus that make dining out more affordable for all. It is also cheaper to eat out at lunch than at dinner. On a typical French day, it starts with breakfast (petit déjeuner) in the morning, followed shortly by lunch (déjeuner) at 12 noon. A late afternoon goûter is common to stave the hunger until dinner (dîner) at around 7:00pm-8:00pm.
Prices in French restaurants are inclusive of taxes and service charges, therefore additional tipping is not required. However it is acceptable to round up the figure appropriately, and if the service has been exceptional, to reward the staff with additional tip of about 5% of the bill total.
Places to Dine
- Restaurants in Paris range from the elegant and sophisticated high-end fine dining to simple and basic inexpensive fares. There are thousands of them to choose from. Some restaurants serve specific regional food (e.g. Basque, Alsace), some of international origin (e.g. Japanese, Tibetan), and some a fusion of the traditional, the modern and the international.
- Bistrots / Bistrots à Vin are usually smaller than restaurants, and more likely to offer regional cuisine. Menus are often written on chalkboards and change regularly. The latter also offer a comprehensive selection of wine.
- Brasseries serve food as well as beer, and typically have a set of menu that is used throughout the day. Therefore, prices also remain the same throughout the day.
- Cafés are mainly for coffee and other drinks, and sometimes lighter fares such as tartines and salads are also served as food options. Ordering and drinking a coffee at the counter is invariably much cheaper than sitting down, at which prices may jump by a couple of hundred percents. That is why you often see menus on the wall with two set of prices - one for standing at the bar and one for sitting at the table.
- Salon de Thé, or a tearoom, often offers selections of cakes and pastries to go with tea, coffee or hot chocolate. Some may also serve light salad and sandwiches.
- Fast-food chains are places where self-service is in operation and they're handy for quick (and cheap) food option.
Terrine de Campagne
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Some food related terms which may be useful for travellers:
- Beurre et sucre - butter and sugar; a popular filing combination for sweet crêpe.
- Bisque - creamy and well-seasoned soup, normally of puréed crustaceans.
- Boudin noir/blanc - pork sausages that typically made from meat including pork liver and heart; the noir version also contains blood.
- Bouillabaisse - traditional Provençal fish stew originated from Marseille, with the fish and shellfish usually served separately from the broth.
- Cake - savoury loaf with texture between bread and cake cake, typically served for goûter; the cake that you know in the traditional sense is known as gâteau.
- Cassoulet - white haricot bean stew with meat, usually sausages or goose or duck.
- Charcuterie - processed meat products including ham, cold cuts, saucisson, terrines, pâtés and confit.
- Chouquette - small puffy baked choux pastry topped with coarse sugar crystals.
- Confit de canard - salt-cured duck, poached in its own fat; usually served with roasted potatoes.
- Confitures - jams and fruit preserves.
- Coq au vin - chicken braised in red wine with herbs, onions, mushrooms and garlic.
- Coquilles St Jacques - fancy French name for dishes with scallops.
- Croque-madame - ham and cheese grilled sandwich with a fried/poached egg topping.
- Croque-monsieur - ham and cheese grilled sandwich.
- Foie / foie gras - liver and fattened goose/duck liver respectively.
- Financier - light tea cake made mainly with ground almond and very little flour.
- Galette Bretonne - savoury crêpe made using buckwheat, with fillings including meat, cheese, eggs and vegetables.
- Glace - ice cream, usually of an assortment of parfums (flavours) to choose from.
- Glaçons - ice cubes; not automatically served with drinks and if asked for, not all places could provide them either.
- Gougère - similar as chouquette, minus the sugar and grated cheese added instead.
- Île flottante - "floating island" of soft meringue in crème anglaise (a light pouring custard).
- Macarons - colourful round meringue-like pastry of which 2 pieces are sandwiched and filled with cream of various flavours; not to be confused with coconut macaroons.
- Pomme / pomme de terre - apple and potato respectively.
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- Raclette - a type of cheese; also refers to a dish of melted Raclette, typically served with charcuterie and boiled/steamed potatoes.
- Ratatouille - vegetarian Provençal stew of tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines, bell peppers and onions.
- Rillettes - prepared meat not unlike pâté, usually served as spread on bread; a favourite item for goûter and picnic.
- Ris / riz - sweetbreads (i.e. thymus and pancreas) and rice respectively, so take note and don't confuse the two.
- Steak tartare - marinated raw ground meat patty, often served with raw egg, chopped onion and capers.
- Steak / poulet frites - steak or chicken, usually fried, served with fries/chips.
- Tartiflette - a baked dish of cheese over fried bacons and sliced potatoes.
- Tartines - open-faced sandwiches, including croque-monsieur/madame.
- Verrine - food layered and served in a small glass, can be savoury or sweet; not to be confused with terrine (see "charcuterie").
- Vichyssoise - creamy leek, potatoes and onion soup, normally served cold.
Other Dining Tips
- Reservation is advisable for most restaurants and is a must if it's a popular and/or upscale place. It is only polite to let them know you're coming, even if you do it just a few hours ahead on the same day. You may even drop by the restaurant if you're in vicinity to make the reservation in person. Highly rated and in demand restaurants often require reservation a couple of weeks ahead. On the other hand, bistrots and cafés are much more relaxed and certainly expect walk-in diners as the norm.
- Service time is typically between 12noon and 2:00pm for lunch, and between 7:00pm-8:00pm and 11:00pm for dinner. The time may be extended in some places for dinner at weekends. Many restaurants and bistrots are also closed on Sundays, and a relatively high number on Mondays too.
- Entrée in French dining means the first or the appetizer course, unlike the nomenclature in US/Canada to mean a main course.
- The meal order of a typical multiple courses dining experience is as follows - apéritif, entrée (starter), plat principal (main course), fromage (cheese), dessert, café, digestif.
- Water (for free) can be ordered by requesting une carafe d'eau. Bottled water is usually pricey and if you do wish to order one, specify if you want it gazeuse (with gas) or plat (flat, without gas). Ice is rarely given, if any is available.
- Wine can also be ordered by the carafe. They're usually inexpensive housewine and of good quality.
- Bread is usually served sliced in a basket without butter. It is normal to place bread on the tabletop while eating, as a bread plate is not common, unless you're eating in some place rather fancy.
- Ketchup, like ice, is not something that you'll easily find. Fries are usually eaten as served, or with a sprinkle of salt.
- Smoking is strictly prohibited inside restaurants, bars and other eateries as a smoking ban is in place.
- Doggy bag is a foreign concept that doesn't exist in France, and the portions are normally manageable that it is not required.
- Rare or bleu - meat to be relatively raw, hardly cooked.
- Saignante - medium-rare.
- À point - medium.
- Bien cuit - well-done (although ordering meat cooked this way may horify the chef/staff).
- Café ('kah-fay') - a small cup of expresso.
- Café noisette ('kah-fay nwah-zett') - expresso with a little milk.
- Café crème ('kah-fay krehm') - coffee with hot cream.
- Café au lait ('kah-fay oh lay') - coffee with milk (typically served at home in a bowl for breakfast).
- Café allongé ('kah-fay ah-long-zhay') - expresso with hot water to dilute the strength.
- Café Americain ('kay-fay a-meh-ree-kan') - filtered coffee.
- Déca ('day-kah') - decaffeinated coffee.
Paris is a foodie’s heaven when it come to sweet things, namely for chocolates, pastries and ice cream. Nowhere else could you find such a variety to cater to all whims and preferences. From ganache to truffles, macarons to tarts, ice cream to sorbets, Paris is where the masters such as Pierre Hermé, Jean-Paul Hévin and Gérard Mulot create their beautiful and delectable signature pieces. These treats don’t come cheap, but they are worth a splurge.
- Charles Chocolatier - 15, rue Montorgueil 75001 (M: Étienne Marcel or Les Halles) - pure dark chocolate recommended.
- Christian Constant - 37, rue d'Assas 75006 (M: Rennes) - Fleurs de Chine recommended.
- Jean-Paul Hévin - 231, rue Saint-Honoré 75001 (M: Tuilleries); 3, rue Vavin 75006 (M: Vavin); 23bis, ave de La Motte-Picquet 75007 (M: La Motte-Picquet Grenelle or École Militaire).
- Gérard Mulot - 76, rue de Seine 75006 (M: Théâtre de l'Odéon); 93, rue de la Glacière 75013 (M: Glacière).
- Pierre Hermé - 72, rue Bonaparte 75006 (M: St Sulpice); 185, rue de Vaugirard 75015 (M: Volontaires); 4, rue Cambon 75001 (M: Tuilleries or Concorde) - macarons and chocolate only at this shop.
- Amorino - 47, rue Saint-Louis en l'Île 75004 (M: Pont Marie).
- Berthillon - 29, rue Saint-Louis en l'Île 75004 (M: Pont Marie).
- Deliziefollie - 7, rue Montorgueil 75001 (M: Étienne Marcel or Les Halles).
- Pozzetto - 39, rue du Roi de Sicile 75004 (M: Hôtel de Ville) - as many flavours as you like, as long as they fit the cup/cone size you choose.
Salon de Thé
- Angelina - 226, rue de Rivoli 75001 (M: Tuilleries) - amazing hot chocolate and éclair.
- A Priori Thé: 35-37, Galerie Vivienne 75002 (M: Bourse).
- Ladurée - 16, rue Royale 75008 (M: Madeleine).
- Mariage Frères - 260, rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, 75008 (M: Ternes); 13, rue des Grands Augustins 75006 (M: St Michel).
For many visitors, part of the charm of Paris is to sit at the terrace of one of the many cafés, watching life goes by while reading, writing or debating finer points of life. Afterall, these are the images instilled from the time of old - the musing of Emile Zola, the writing of Ernest Hemingway (check Hemingway's Paris), the creed of Jean-Paul Sartre. These are some of the most famous cafés of Paris:
- Café Beaubourg - 100, rue Saint-Martin 75004 (M: Hôtel de Ville).
- Café de Flore - 172, blvd St-Germain 75006 (M: St-Germain-des-Prés).
- Café de la Paix - 12, blvd des Capucines 75009 (M: Opéra).
- Café des Phares - 7, pl de la Bastille 75004 (M: Bastille).
- Café le Bastille - 8, pl de la Bastille 75012 (M: Bastille).
- Café les Deux Magots - 6, pl St-Germain-des-Prés 75006 (M: St-Germain-des-Prés).
- La Coupole - 102, blvd du Montparnasse 75014 (M: Vavin).
- La Closerie des Lilas - 171, blvd du Montparnasse 75014 (RER: Port-Royal).
- Le Procope - 13, rue de l’Ancienne-Comédie 75006 (M: Théâtre de l'Odéon).
Browse by area
Quartier Latin / St-Germain-des-Prés
- Au Père Louis - 38, rue Monsieur le Prince 75006 (RER: Luxembourg or M: Théâtre de l'Odéon).
- Coté Bergamote - 8, rue Montfaucon 75006 (M: Mabillon).
- Brasserie Lipp - 151, blvd St-Germain 75006 (M: St-Germain-des-Prés).
- Le Pré Verre - 8, rue Thénard 75005 (M: Cluny-La Sorbonne).
- Les Bouquinistes - 53, quai des Grands Augustins 75006 (M: St Michel) - mid-range price restaurant by Michelin-star chef Guy Savoy.
- Mouff'tartes - 53, rue Mouffetard 75005 (M: Place Monge).
Louvre / Champs-Elysées
- Buddha Bar - 8, rue Boissy-d'Anglas 75008 (M: Concorde) - no longer as trendy as it used to be.
- Ladurée - 75, ave des Champs Elysées 75008 (M: George V) - there is also a cocktail bar here.
- Le Fumoir - 6, rue de l'Amiral de Coligny 75001 (M: Louvre-Rivoli).
- Le Fouquet’s - 97-99, ave des Champs Elysées 75008 (M: George V) - high price alert!
Eiffel Tower / Invalides
- Café Constant - 139, rue St Dominique 75007 (M: École Militaire).
- Chez l'Ami Jean - 27, Rue Malar 75007 (RER: Pont de l'Alma or M: La Tour-Maubourg).
- Le P'tit Troquet - 28, rue de l'Exposition 75007 (M: École Militaire).
- Chartier - 7, rue du Faubourg Montmartre 75009 (M: Grands Boulevards).
- Chez Prune - 36, rue Beaurepaire 75010 (M: Jacques Bonsergent).
- La Victoire Supreme Du Coeur - 27-31, rue du Bourg Tibourg 75004 (M: Hôtel de Ville).
- L'Os à Moelle - 3, rue Vasco de Gama 75015 (M: Lourmel).
Cheap Places to Eat
Budget conscious travellers should take advantage of cheaper fixed price menus, or dine out at lunch time when the prices in general are more affordable. Alternatively, there are numerous open markets in Paris at any given day to buy fresh fruits, bread, cheese, ready-cooked meals, roasted and/or cured meats - all the needed ingredients to make a lovely picnic/ sandwich. Otherwise, the food section of local supermarket is also a good place to pick up the various items mentioned above.
Here are some options for cheap eats:
L'As du Falafel - Delicious and filing falafel for about €5 is great value! Address: 34, rue des Rosiers 75004 (M: St. Paul)
Mouff'tartes - Here you can find a savoury tart, a sweet tart and a drink for less than €10. Address: 53, rue Mouffetard 75005 (M: Place Monge)
Le Pain Quotidien
- Le Pain Quotidien is a chain but they do great tartines and salads for about €10. Address: 18, place du Marché St. Honoré 75001 (M: Tuilleries); 2, rue des Petits Carreaux 75002 (M: Sentier); 18-20, rue de Archives 75004 (M: Hôtel de Ville); 25, rue de Varenne 75007 (M:Rue du Bac)
- Paul is located in multiple locations; also a chain, and they do "menus", usually with a tartine or sandwich, a sweet pastry and a drink, for less than €10.