Paris is the food capital of the world. Any trip there should include a sampling of what the city has to offer gastronomically—and trust me, it will be just that, a sampling. No matter how many times you visit the city of light, you will always be amazed by the passion the city has for food. However, if you are planning your first trip to Paris and want to experience a few culinary highlights, here are 3 essentials stops.
- The Brasserie: France is famous for its “Brasseries”, dining spots that are in between what most Americans think of cafes and “restaurants”. Paris’ Brasseries are world-renowned. Most, if not all, offer indoor and outdoor seating, similar to the bars and cafes, but offer extensive food options, in addition to drink menus. The essential brasserie of the moment is Le Comptoir du Relais. Aptly named for the small hotel in which it resides, Le Comptoir gives visitors the entire Parisian experience one meal at a time.
Pro tip: Make reservations for weekday dinners far in advance as their prix fixe is famous with locals and out-of-towners, so they fill up. But if you are unable to get a reservation for dinner, lunch is first come first serve everyday. You will be sure to find a line of people waiting outside around 1:30pm everyday, so head over earlier at noontime to avoid a long wait.
Caption: The highlight at this brasserie is their innovative take on the Croque Monsieur, this one has smoked salmon and caviar inside, with a side of perfectly dressed greens.
Caption: If you go to Le Comptoir around teatime, you will see trays of the charcuterie whizzing around your head, and for good reason, another must-try.
- The Bistro: The title, Bistro, in France refers to restaurants more formal than a Brasserie. You don’t go to a bistro for happy hour; you go there for dinner, whereas at a brasserie, you could be there for either. A Paris classic is Benoit. If you are looking for a “classic French meal”, that starts with butter and ends with an even more buttery madeleine, then Benoit is for you.
Pro Tip: Make reservations for lunch, you can make them online far in advance and the 3-course meal is only 39 euros per person. And trust me the portions aren’t small here, you will be struggling to finish each course. It is a great bargain.
Caption: Expect old-fashioned place settings and traditional, rich, Parisian cuisine at Benoit.
Caption: Desserts are excellent here; perfectly executed classic pastries were a highlight.
- The Splurge: In Paris you can spend $5 on a meal or you can spend a $5000 on a meal. But the good thing is that you don’t have to spend $5000 to have a great meal every time, however I recommend the occasional conservative splurge so that you experience what some of the hottest chefs in the world have to offer. Atelier Robuchon Etoile is a 2 star Michelin rated restaurant that has a surprisingly affordable lunch prix fixe, similar to Benoit. While many travelers would prefer to not spend 43 euros per person on every meal, in a weeklong trip to Paris it is certainly worth it once or twice. Trendy, cool and innovative are all words that describe Atelier Robuchon Etoile.
Pro Tip: Be prepared to spend a few hours at lunch, even though it is a prix fixe meal, the waiters are chatty and the service goes at a relaxed speed. However, the food is definitely worth the wait. And even though this is one of Paris’ more trendy offerings, the meal still ends with a madeleine.
Caption: The chefs are also artists at Atelier Robuchon Etoile. Tight presentation, along with tight execution makes for an outstanding meal.
Caption: The artistry continues into dessert, which makes for a refreshing finish to the 3 hour-long meal.