The Best Meals We Ate in Paris

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After noshing my way across Paris for eight days, I have found two things to be true:

1. The days of the surly Parisian waiter are no more. The first time a garcon cheerfully took my order and delivered the plate with a smile, I thought it was an anomaly. Then it kept happening. Over and over. In fact, nearly every person we encountered was helpful and friendly. I was pleasantly surprised because the service I received on trips to Paris two decades ago could best be described as brusque. The times they are a-changin’!

2. The best French food is deceptively simple. The recipes I most enjoyed featured a few high-quality ingredients – butter chief among them – which were impeccably prepared. A straightforward piece of meat or fish cooked to the ideal temperature, greens with just the right amount of dressing, potatoes with the requisite garlic-to-butter ratio.

It is possible to consume A LOT of delicious food over an eight-day span in Paris, especially when eating said food is a primary goal of one’s trip. Traveling with high expectations can often lead to disappointment, but in this case ours were met and even exceeded. We skipped the high-end Michelin-starred restaurants in favor of intimate neo-bistros and old-school eateries. Many offered two- and three-course dinners for a surprisingly low set price, so we could dine well without breaking the bank. While these might not be the top restaurants in Paris, I think they are some of the best places to eat.

Vins des Pyrenees

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It’s been three weeks since my dinner at Vins des Pyrenees, an inviting bistro near the Bastille, and I’m still thinking about it – always a good sign! This is the only meal I would have again from start to finish without changing a single thing. My foie gras appetizer was perfection on a plate, the creamy unctuousness complimented with sea salt, balsamic vinegar and caramelized onion jam. This was followed by a scrumptious cod fillet roasted with a breadcrumb-and-mustard crust, served atop butter-braised cabbage. Both dishes paired well with a fruity and dry cotes de gascogne, a wine from the French Pyrenees after which the restaurant is named.

I ended this exultant French feast with refreshing scoops of chocolate sorbet and caramel ice cream and a cup of decaf. What more could a girl want?

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Le Pantruche

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Have you ever tried poached foie gras before? Me neither. Or at least I hadn’t, until Pantruche served me some in a delightfully gingery and buttery broth. The texture of the foie at this lively Pigalle eatery was much denser than I’d ever experienced, almost reminiscent of firm tofu. The dish was livened up with fresh herbs and shaved green apple, and went well with a semi-sweet white wine from Alsace-Lorraine. My second course was even better: succulent baby lamb that was fall-apart tender, served with potato gratin and spinach puree. This I paired, at the waiter’s suggestion, with a full-bodied Minevois from southern France.

I ordered the chocolate ganache for dessert, which would have been better without the coconut flakes. If I had this meal to do over again, I’d go with my dinner companion’s Grand Marnier souffle with salted butter caramel sauce. C’est magnifique!

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Cafe Constant

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We arrived in Paris on a Saturday, and rather than stress about making dinner reservations in advance, we chose a restaurant that didn’t accept them. (We had continued success with this non-strategy throughout the week – it helps when you eat at 6pm and travel in the low season.)

What I most remember about Cafe Constant is its unpretentious manner. The servers were relaxed and friendly, the food simple and delicious. We enjoyed beef stew with carrots and potatoes, poached cod with steamed veggies and garlic mayonnaise, and profiteroles drenched in chocolate. This was French comfort food at its finest! 

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Le Zinc des Cavistes

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Another dish I’m still salivating over is the duck confit with mashed potatoes at Le Zinc des Cavistes. This is the standard by which all duck confit should be judged: juicy meat encased in perfectly-rendered fat and crispy golden-brown skin. Heaven! To open the meal, we shared the pear and goat cheese tart, which was wonderfully salty-sweet thanks to a drizzle of honey. As for dessert, the tiramisu with Nutella and Specaloos was the decisive victor (as anything with Nutella tends to be); the pear Charlotte with caramel sauce was much too sweet for my liking.

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Beef tartar with freshly shaved Parmesan – I’m told this was excellent.

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Breizh Cafe

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No trip to Paris would be complete without crepes, and we savored ours in Breton style at Breizh Cafe. We began with savory crepes made from organic buckwheat flower, also known as galettes. Mine featured the standard cream and cheese along with a sunny-side up egg, smoked duck breast and white asparagus, which was in season. Washed down with a cup of hard apple cider, it was a true regional treat. I ended on a sweet note with a traditional wheat crepe topped with pear slices, whipped cream and 70% dark Valrhona chocolate – and seriously considered ordering a second!

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Terra Corsa

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Terra Corsa specializes in products from Corsica, an island I now plan to visit. We stumbled upon this charming little cafe while we were waiting for Le Pantruche to open for dinner, and thought we’d kill an hour with a glass of wine. Much to our delight, a free plate of sausage magically appeared at our table.

A few nights later we returned to fully indulge with the meat and cheese plate. It featured four different types of charcuterie and four cheeses along with bread and fig jam. My favorite cheese had a wonderfully aromatic herb crust and I regret not buying a wheel to take home.

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Les Cocottes

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After relishing our meal at Cafe Constant, we decided to try another of chef Christian Constant’s restaurants, Les Cocottes. The premise here revolves around dishes cooked and served in cast-iron pots, or cocottes. While it may seem a little gimmicky, it mostly works, though this might have more to do with the ingredients than the cooking style.

The shellfish bisque was light and airy – and paired well with a dry Chablis – while the roast lamb and seasonal vegetables was elegant and herbaceous. The only misstep was the seared scallops with orange butter sauce, which were served with a heaping pile of braised endive that was very bitter. I would have enjoyed the dish more with less endive and some creamy potatoes to soak up that glorious sauce.

Dessert took the metaphorical cake. The self-proclaimed “fabulous” chocolate tart was rich and semi-sweet, just the way I like it, while the chewy waffle was the perfect vehicle for salted butter caramel. Both were served with a generous dollop of Chantilly cream that was so luscious I’d be happy with a tub of it and a spoon!

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Cafe Central

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We were actually on our way to another restaurant when we walked by Cafe Central. It was a nice-ish early spring evening and we had yet to dine outside in Paris, a situation we had to rectify. I opted for classic bistro fare of a croque madame and a cold beer and was not disappointed by either.

I have to give a shout out to the cool-as-a-cucumber French woman who simply laughed and shrugged when an entire glass of red wine was spilled on her and her coat trimmed in white fur. The entire scene was comic, as a passing biker bumped into a waiter carrying a tray of drinks. I don’t think I would have found it nearly so funny if I’d been on the receiving end. Kudos to her classy response!

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For dessert, we wandered to the boulangerie across the street for some chocolate eclairs, which we enjoyed while gazing at the nearby Eiffel Tower. It doesn’t get anymore Parisian than that!

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I’ll take all the chocolate eclairs. Merci.

 Which of these dishes would you most like to try?

 Where do you think are the best places to eat in Paris?

Vins des Pyrenees
Address: 25 Rue Beautreillis, Marais, Paris, France
Pricing: Between €28-€54 for three courses

Le Pantruche
Address: 3 Rue Victor Masse, Pigalle, Paris, France
Pricing: €35 for three courses

Cafe Constant
Address: 139 Rue Saint-Dominique, Les Invalides, Paris, France
Pricing: €34 for three courses

Le Zinc des Cavistes
Address: 5 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, Grands Boulevards, Paris, France
Pricing: Between €30-€47 for three courses

Breizh Cafe
Address: 111 Rue Vieille du Temple, Marais, Paris, France
Pricing: Between €16-€25 for two courses

Les Cocottes
Address: 135 Rue Saint-Dominique, Les Invalides, Paris, France
Pricing: Between €38-€59 for three courses

Terra Corsa 
Address: 42 Rue des Martyrs, Pigalle, Paris, France
Pricing: €18 for the meat and cheese platter

Cafe Central 
Address: 40 Rue Cler, Les Invalides Paris, France
Pricing: €€

28 thoughts on “The Best Meals We Ate in Paris

  1. Wow! If we ever wind up in Paris again, I’m going to use this as my dining guide. I suspected during our visit that we might have been more “wowed” by the food if we had not stuck to such a strict budget, and I think this post proves that point perfectly. Even though you didn’t go to the super high-end places or go bankrupt eating your way through Paris, clearly it was well worth it to loosen the purse strings (and your waistbands!) and spend an extra 15 – 20 euro more per meal.
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Minds Blown in MoabMy Profile

    • It’s definitely a challenge to balance eating well with a strict budget in Europe. It was manageable for us in Paris because we knew going in that we wanted to splurge a little, but Oslo was a whole other story. Wow, that place is pricey! It made Paris seem like Thailand in comparison. We’re still in sticker shock!

      Speaking of waistlines, can you believe that I actually LOST two pounds in Paris?! I chalk it up to the miles and miles we walked everyday, plus simple breakfasts of cappuccinos and croissants. Now I just need to figure out how to recreate this every day for life 🙂

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed everything! You’re lucky you inherited your Dad’s metabolism. If you had mine you would weigh 200 pounds LOL! I know if Ann is reading this, she is so envious 🙂

  3. Hi Heather,

    Silent reader/fan of yours here!
    Did you have to make a reservation for breizh cafe?
    If yes, was it through email or they could speak English through the phone?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Yii Ming, it’s nice to hear from you! We went to Breizh Cafe and did not have a reservation, but we did get the last free table. The people who arrived after us were told they’d have to come back in an hour. This was in March, so I think reservations would be a good idea in busier months. Our waiter was actually British and everyone else who worked there spoke English. In fact, we didn’t have trouble speaking English at any of the places we went to. This was another pleasant surprise! 🙂

      • Hi Heather,

        Thank you for the tip, hopefully we’ll manage to snag a seat at Breizh cafe too 🙂

        Cheers.

    • As soon as we got that free plate of sausage with our wine, I knew we’d go back for the full shebang. And it was definitely worth it! 🙂

  4. Great post, Heather! I’m travelling to Paris this summer so I really appreciate all the foodie recommendations. I can’t wait to eat my way around the city – everything looks so delicious!
    Audrey recently posted…Why do YOU enjoy train travel?My Profile

    • Thanks, Audrey! I hope you have a delicious time in Paris! I’ll be eagerly looking forward to your own food recommendations to try out my return visit 🙂

  5. I spent Valentine’s Day in Paris so there was a lot of macarons and chocolate involved. Love love love French cuisine. My roommate is French so it’s lovely to have a nice dinner together from time to time!
    Agness recently posted…Memories From Moving To AmsterdamMy Profile

    • Mmmmm macarons and chocolate. I definitely didn’t eat enough of them while I was there! Will just have to go back 🙂

    • Haha, that’s a valid concern! We actually traveled to Oslo a few weeks later and the food there definitely wasn’t as good as in Paris. That was a tough act to follow! 🙂

  6. I haven’t always had the most amazing time whenever I go to Paris, but I can not deny that the food I eat there is amazing! I haven’t been to these places you mention though, so next time, I’ll have to 🙂 Great pictures!

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