Deciding where you’re going to eat in Paris might seem like an impossible task. This is a city world-famous for its haute cuisine, and everywhere you turn it seems there’s yet another quintessentially Parisian cafe scene. How do you know which picture-perfect cafe actually has the best croque monsieur in Paris? How can you tell from the outside whether that posh bistro is worth the extra money? How can you find the best eats in Paris without sampling everything yourself?
In short, how can you find out where to eat in Paris?
Really, the best possible news for foodies in Paris is that there are so many excellent places to eat in Paris that you’ll never hit them all in a short vacation. This city knows how to do food well – and although they are famous for their complicated dishes and fancy restaurants, not all Paris restaurants will blow your whole budget, either. So you can not only eat well in Paris, you can do so without spending a fortune.
Here are some rules of thumb to help you figure out where to eat in Paris.
WhyGo Paris Quick Tips on Finding Where to Eat in Paris
>> Learn about what to eat in Paris before you go so you don’t miss any of the city’s famous foods.
>> For budget travelers who still want to sample some of this city’s famously wonderful cuisine, here are our tips for eating on the cheap in Paris.
>> Find out what your daily food budget in Paris might look like.
>> There may be crepe stands everywhere, but you’ll need to know what to look for in order to get the best crepes in Paris.
>> The best ice cream in Paris is on Ile Saint-Louis, a few steps from Notre Dame.
Avoid Restaurants with Multi-Language Menus
As mentioned, Paris is full of adorable corner cafes and cozy bistros, so finding one of them just about anywhere in the city isn’t going to be difficult. They won’t all be worth writing home about, but if you’ve got a choice between one where the menu is only in French and one with a menu that’s been translated into English and perhaps a few other languages besides, go with the French-only menu.
What’s that? You don’t speak French? That’s no excuse to be lazy and go to the place with an English menu. Simply arm yourself with a copy of “The Hungry Traveler: France” before you leave home and you’ll have a pocket-sized guide to not only regional and seasonal specialties but also a handy menu decoder so you know what you’re looking for.
Know the Specialties of the Neighborhood
Some parts of Paris are known for certain types of food, so if you’re looking for the best of that particular foodstuff it makes sense to go to the neighborhood that’s famous for it. This is especially true when you’re talking about the various ethnic cuisines which have become as much a part of the Parisian food scene as traditional French fare.
For instance, The Marais has traditionally been the Jewish quarter in Paris, so it’s not surprising that this is the part of town where you’ll find the best falafel carts. The 13th arrondissement is home to some of the city’s best Chiense and Cambodian restaurants, owing to the area having been where Chinese and Cambodian refugees arrived in Paris in the 1970s.
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But even for the more typically Parisian foods, there are neighborhoods in Paris that are more associated with some foods than others. Montmartre and the Latin Quarter are both dotted with crepe stands – not that you can’t find them elsewhere, but the high proportion of students, artists, and budget travelers in those areas means there are more crepe stands around.
Do Your Homework Before You Go
If eating well is high on your priority list for your Paris vacation (and food isn’t just that necessary evil to keep your energy up between museums), you’re not alone. That’s good news, because it means there’s a wealth of information available to you with regard to making your list of where to eat in Paris.
For starters, longtime WhyGo Paris guide Parisgirl has populated the virtual pages of this site with her favorite places to eat in Paris. You can dig through the archives to find some of them, but a couple worth pointing out are:
- Cheap Places to Eat in Paris – Parisgirl’s 10 Favorites
- Places to Eat in Paris (mostly in Montparnasse, but a few options in other areas as well)
- Weird Restaurants in Paris
- Restaurants Open on Sunday in Paris
- Dining Alone in Paris
Beyond this guide, however, there are other references online which are worth checking out.
The restoaparis.com website may be in French only, but if you’re looking for a particular restaurant for which you know the name and just want to check out some recent reviews, you can get the gist of recent commenters by using an online translator. And the people who actually write the reviews for the site are pretty good – I usually agree with their critiques – so if you do read French that’s a bonus. You can see what restaurants are recommended by arrondissement, which is really handy for travelers, as well as choose the type of cuisine and roughly how much you want to pay. The latter two options are on drop-down menus on the left.
Another website is oubouffer.com, which thankfully has an English-language counterpart with listings for Paris restaurants. You can search for restaurants in this guide by the name of the restaurant, a postcode (remember how the zip code reflects the arrondissement?), type of cuisine, and overall price of a meal. The directory is by no means exhaustive, but it’s one reference you can use to find places to eat.
The website Chowhound is well-known for its lively discussion boards, and although you’ll need to pick through the France board to get to the Paris-specific stuff, it’s definitely worth perusing. The people who frequent Chowhound are serious foodies, and you’ll notice that the people who take the time to answer questions do so with care and with a real enthusiasm for sharing their favorite eateries.
You can also find articles all over the interwebs in the travel sections of big news outlets which list their picks for where to eat in Paris. Some of these lists are good to take into consideration, while many will look alike. Don’t feel like you have to take any one of them as the gospel – and remember, by the time a quiet and charming brasserie has been listed in some news site’s “where to eat in Paris” list, it may no longer be quiet or charming. A few recent articles in this vein I’ve found are here and here.
This article highlights a few things foodies visiting Paris might be interested in, from a 200-year-old boulangerie to the biggest food market in the world. It’s worth reading “Off the Beaten Track Paris for Foodies.”
Oh, and one other good book to pick up before your trip – in addition to “The Hungry Traveler: France” which was mentioned earlier – is “Hungry for Paris.” It’s a restaurant guide to the city that covers more than 100 places to eat, from high-end and famous places to less-known places to get cheap eats. It’s by the European writer for Gourmet magazine, so it’s definitely an expert’s take on dining in the city.
A Few Restaurant Recommendations from WhyGo Paris
>> Backstage Cafe (This is a real neighborhood favorite for Parisgirl. She says, “We’ve gone back to the Backstage several times and I’ve always found something new to try out. The food is innovative and affordable in a very relaxed lounge attitude. This is low-brow dining at its best. There are main courses for the vegetarians in our crowd. The staff is friendly. The desserts? Pure heaven.”)
>> Bel Canto
>> Vegetarian and Almost Vegetarian Restaurants
>> Lou Cantou
>> How Much Does a Gourmet Meal in Paris Cost?
>> Inexpensive Wine Bar and Bistro
>> Super Sexy, Super Sympa Waittresses
If you need more help planning your trip to Paris, then don’t miss our first-time visitor’s guide to Paris – helpful whether you’re new to the city or not!