Paris Picks | The Best Restaurants and Bakeries
The following picks stood out as the best of the best, the places I’ll remember and revisit. They range in type and price, so there should be something for everyone. In no particular order:
1. Au Bon Coin21,rue de la Collegial, 5th Arrondissement, Paris
This is just the kind of bistro every tourists hopes to find in Paris: Out-of-the way (and therefore affordable), accessible, and serving classic French food with enough of a twist to surprise. Chef Emmanuel Chanois pairs foie gras terrine with toasted brioche and gingerbread sauce and does a beautiful sea bass with risotto so creamy it’s like a savory rice pudding.
It’s located deep in the 5th Arrondissement, away from any of the usual attractions, so the crowd is mostly local. A three-course dinner costs just €29. Wines are extra, but they, too, are reasonably priced.
17 rue de Beaujolais, 1st Arrondissement, Paris
Napoleon and Josephine dined here. So did Victor Hugo, Colette, Jean-Paul Sartre and Julia Child. Le Grand Véfour, which opened in 1784, is more than just old, it’s historic, one of the first real Restaurants—of the form we recognize today—to come out of the foment of pre-Revolutionary Paris, and the only one still in operation. It still commands the same corner of Palais Royal. The booths are still lined in velvet and the walls lined with boiserie and mirrors and neoclassical paintings of flowers and game. Guy Martin is the chef—Boston diners may know him from his impressive but ill-fated restaurant Sensing, which opened in the North End in 2009 and closed in 2011—and a meal here was something I’ve looked forward to for many years. I went for lunch—the prices here are exorbitant, but the lunchtime set menu for 98€ is at least slightly less painful (I went alone)—and now I can say I’ve finally experienced the sort of rarefied French dining where the food looks like art and you’re attended to by a team of highly specialized servers in suits, some to serve wine, others to deliver plates on heavy silver trays, others to explain cheese.
I didn’t recognize any of the other people in the dining room, but I had no doubt they were leaders of government and industry and therefore was reluctant to snap many photos. I did grab this one of the little pastries, called mignardises, that they serve after dessert, which itself comes after the little salade of dragon fruit and violet gelée topped with sorbet and before the gateau de Savoie and little chocolates.
All told the experience was completely decadent, heartily intimidating, and I’ll never forget it.
1 rue Maitre Albert, 5th Arrondissement, Paris
This informal rotisserie restaurant by Guy Savoy was down the street from our apartment rental and serves a fine roast chicken. But it was the the chocolate dessert with praline, cacao sorbet, and chicory custard sauce (11€) that I remember so sweetly.
4. Eclairs at Carl Marletti
51 rue Censier, 5th Arrondissement, Paris
I don’t have an photos because the eclairs never lasted long enough to snap, but as a good friend who lives in Paris off and on puts it, “Once you have one of these, you won’t want to bother having another eclair again.” My favorite flavor was caramel, which tasted of salted butter, but there’s also chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and seasonal flavors like strawberry and passion fruit.
31 rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile, 4th Arrondissement, Paris
This legendary glacerie is a tourist haunt that is really worth the hype, and the time spent in line. They simply make the creamiest ice cream with the most intense flavors and everything else seems bland in comparison. Don’t miss the caramel au buerre salé, or you can try the foie gras, cannelle, lavender, Earl Grey, or nougat flavors.
14 rue Monge, 5th Arrondissement, Paris
This artisan bakery makes wonderful breads, croissants, pain au chocolat, broiche, and, my favorite, a perfect pain aux raisins with plump raisins and creamy custard.
48 Rue de Verneuil, 7th Arrondissement, Paris
Located just a few blocks from the Musée d’Orsay, this charming bistro was an accidental find, and makes a wonderful spot to grab lunch or dinner on either side of a museum visit. The restaurant is very much in the tradition of the neo-bistro, a small place owned by a chef with expert training and an entrepreneurial streak. In the case of La Bonne Excuse, the chef is José Cabado, who trained at Pavillon des Princes, and whose food is technically precise, but also full of warmth. The menu (dinner entrees start at €24) changes often, so I can only tell you that the pork with green beans and preserved lemon, the langoustines, and the monkfish medallions were all beautiful. The apple tart is one of the few recurring menu items, and shouldn’t be missed.