Because I’d always rather be in Paris, and several peeps have emailed me over the years asking for recommendations in The City of Light, I thought I’d put together a handy little Paris Guide for you. After all, I did live in gay Paree for over a year and a half, and I occasionally ate, drank, and hung out at places other than Le Pain Quotidien. I swear.
I intended to squeeze everything into one post, but then I thought, mmmmm, better not. Too many knowledge bombs at once. Instead, I’ve divided the guide into three parts that will be published separately: Where to Eat, Where to Drink, and What to Do. I love me a good series.
For the record, the restaurant picks below are by no means “the best” restaurants in Paris, they’re simply my personal favorite spots. I’m not really a Michelin star kinda girl (shocking given my general fanciness, I know), and I much prefer cozier, laid-back establishments with a solid vibe and a good kir royale. Hot waiters and good tunes are also appreciated.
So, without further ado, let’s discuss awesome places to dine in Paris. And then drink champagne and drunkenly buy one-way plane tickets!
Relax, Logan, I’m kidding. (Sort of…)
Any bakery anywhere. Seriously. There’s a warm pain au chocolat waiting for you on pretty much every block in Paris. Get after it. (That said, Boulangerie Bechu, Moulin de la Vierge, and Maison Kayser produce some of the best pastries/bread in the world.)
Mama Shelter. This place is just straight up cool. It’s in the 20th Arrondissement, which is on the eastern edge of the city near Père-Lachaise, and it was designed by the always inventive Philippe Starck. The décor is funky (the entire ceiling is a chalkboard), yet surprisingly cozy, and the menu is a fabulous combination of modern French and Italian fare. They serve both lunch and dinner, but I strongly suggest hitting up Sunday brunch. I had a fabulous Easter extravaganza there one year, and I still have Logan-esque fantasies about that magical buffet.
Pink Flamingo. This is a dank little pizza joint in the Marais that has wonderfully creative thin crust ’za. Get the “Obama” (grilled bacon with pineapple chutney), and eat inside the old school VW van parked outside the restaurant. Embrace the kitsch, people. It’s fun.
Le Water Bar Colette. Colette is a badass lifestyle concept store on rue St-Honoré that sells everything from design books and collectible gadgets, to Nike kicks and Alaia dresses. I highly recommend spending some time browsing the heavenly (and absurdly overpriced) array of goods, and then heading downstairs to the Water Bar pour le déjeuner. The menu changes daily, and they always have an array of healthy options, which is a welcome change from most of the cream and butter-laden feasts you will most likely be consuming on your Parisian adventure. And the people watching is excellent.
Marché des Enfants Rouges. This is a bustling covered market in the Marais that houses a smorgasbord of food stands selling everything from wood-fired pizza to piping hot Japanese noodles. There are plenty of picnic tables on one side, so don’t be afraid to hang out and enjoy your meal in the company of other hip peeps. There’s also a great wine bar if you want to sip rosé while taking in ze scene.
L’Avenue. Located on the very fancy Avenue Montaigne just off the Champs Elysées, L’Avenue is the epitome of Parisian chic. Both the menu and the décor are elegant in their simplicity, and I insist that you eat lunch outside (weather permitting) amongst the beautiful people. Honestly, this is one of those places that I’d go every once in a while just to remind myself of my life goals (i.e. become fabulously wealthy, move to Paris, wear exclusively YSL, and drink champagne at L’Avenue at 2pm on Tuesdays).
Hotel du Nord. (Note: Not actually a hotel.) This is probably my favorite restaurant in the city. The food is fresh and inventive, and the atmosphere pays homage to the Paris of the 1930s with a black and white flag floor, antique bar, plenty of bookshelves, and comfy chairs for post-dinner lounging in the candlelight. It’s romantic, and cozy, and French, and I love absolutely everything about it. Make sure to take a stroll along the Canal St. Martin pre-dinner and watch the sun set over one of the funkiest neighborhoods in the city. Periodic stops for rosé recommended.
Derrière. If you’ve ever wanted to eat dinner in a Bohemian French mansion, the time is now, people. This eccentric gem of a restaurant is in hidden in a courtyard in the Marais (which makes it a pain in the derrière to find) and serves contemporary French fare in the various rooms of what can only be described as a hipster Parisian dream house. Whether you’re seated in the “bedroom” or next to the ping-pong table in the “living room,” it’s a uniquely whimsical experience. (Note: There’s a secret fumoir that you enter through a mirrored armoire upstairs à la The Chronicles of Narnia avec booze et cigarettes.)
Quai Quai. I had dinner at this adorable and unpretentious spot at least once a week for my entire Parisian tenure. My deep appreciation for this glorious little restaurant is three-fold. First, it’s on Ile de la Cité and it has an unbelievably gorgeous view of the Seine. Second, the staff is incredibly laid-back and friendly, which is rare in Paris, so I latched onto them. Hard. (I told you about my early social struggles, remember?) And third, the pain perdu on their dessert menu (aka French toast on crack) is one of the most magical things I have ever put in my mouth, and you must have it. You must.
La Fidélité. This beloved restaurant in the 10th Arrondissement is simultaneously elegant and edgy. Go with friends on a Thursday or Friday night for a dinner of traditional bistro fare (the roast chicken is BOMB), and then make your way downstairs to Cave de la Fidelité for a wild underground dance party. The upstairs/downstairs juxtaposition is hilariously awesome, and it gets weird in the best possible way. (That would be my former roommate, Ms. Bay Hudner, whipping her hair dans la cave in the above photo.)
Les Refuge des Fondues. This festive little hole-in-the-wall in Montmartre is one of my favorite (and most random) Parisian picks. They serve exclusively fondue (both meat and cheese), and the wine comes in actual baby bottles. If you do not think that eating endless pots of bubbling cheese while sucking booze from a rubber nipple sounds fun, you are the worst should definitely pass on this one.
Relais de l’Entrecote. Yes, it’s a chain, but an amazing one, and it’s practically a Parisian staple. For the record, you will most likely have to wait in line. Sometimes the line is very long. It will be worth it. There is no lunch or dinner menu because all that they serve is steak-frites with the most delicious sauce you’ve ever tasted. Order the house wine by the bottle and the Vacherin for dessert, and then get somebody to carry you home.
God, I miss Paris.