Let’s be clear: food is better in France. Whether because it’s French food that’s genuinely French (grocery store croissants? BYE FELICIA) or because you’ve been walking everywhere and sustenance is pretty much mana from heaven, your tastebuds cannot go wrong in the City of Lights.
That said, we did find a few places that were worth a repeat visit during our trip, and that’ll we’ll be likely to hit up on our next time in Paris. Read on for our recommendations!
Like crazy people, we decided to walk from our flat to the Petite Ceinture access point we’d researched. We left nice and early, and stopped for breakfast at a café along the way.
Enter Café Martin, which we found in the usual way: by following our noses (and then checking Yelp reviews to confirm).
As you do, we checked out the posted menu and settled in at a table out on the sidewalk. Luckily, it was a weekday, so it was slow, and service was speedy. Our waitress breezed out to the table, and had almost no qualms about switching to English. We asked for her recommendations, which she was happy to share – “Croissant or pain au chocolat?” “Chocolat. Toujours chocolat!“
And she sang the arrival of our food, which was a hilarious way to start the meal: “Voilà! Jus d’oraaaaaaaaange!” The pastries were delicious – DUH – the espresso was dark and pungent, and the service was nothing short of delightful.
Some reviews complained about nickel-and-diming (e.g. fresh juice is an extra charge on your breakfast bill), but the menu is quite clear about it, and the food and service are so good, it legitimately doesn’t matter.
Boyfriend Perspective: Whether it is Café Martin or another spot around the corner for your current location, it’s hard to argue that breakfast is done exceptionally well in Paris. It’s simple and delicious, quick and easy, carbs and caffeine. Oh, how I miss it….. also, I should try it with bacon next time 😉
To call this spot, which was recommended by our AirBNB host, a dive bar would be pretty accurate. It’s three-seats-at-the-bar tiny, worn at more than just the edges, and decorated outside with what look like vintage-bulb Christmas lights.
BUT… this neighborhood spot is both busy with locals and also very inviting to outsiders. One thing we discovered, staying on the far end of the 11th arrondissement, is that not everyone outside the most touristy areas loves coming into contact with English-speakers. In fact, our first restaurant experience out that way had left us a little nervous, since neither of us was quite fast enough with our French to feel like we kept from being an annoyance.
So, sitting at the counter at Les Idiots, we made do with good ol’ fashioned franglais. We navigated the French we knew, and our bartender seemed to delight in using the English phrases he knew.
When we ordered a charcuterie and fromage platter – because it was late and the kitchen had closed – he let us know they were out of bread. But instead of simply offering us wine and no food, he “left us in charge,” ran next store to a bakery, and got a few fresh loaves.
Boyfriend Perspective: While I would normally shy away from a dive bar, it was great to visit. It wasn’t the bar, or the food, or the wine. It was the bartender! He was fantastic to chat with and do a bit of a cultural exchange with on common phrases. I would recommend going just for you to call him ‘friend.’
We can both recommend Popine pretty easily, on the basis of sheer Italian deliciousness. The service is what you might consider typically French – a little snippy, a little slow, and a little eye-rolly when it comes to Americans. But seriously, the pizza is worth it.
Popine takes pride in its use of high-quality, legacy Italian flours, and boy, can you tell it from that crust. They also have a wide variety of other Italian dishes on the menu that online reviews indicate are also very good.
Just keep in mind that whoever started the rumor that Popine has gluten free options was vastly mistaken – a few patrons sitting near us actually LOL’d when we asked.
If you’re looking for a hardcore brunch option that’s right around the corner from Sacré Coeur, this is your place.
Hardware Société is hardcore to the point where finishing your food is difficult because it’s so rich and delicious. Take the French toast, for example. We’re talking pan-fried brioche with smashed chocolate meringue, chocolate Chantilly cream, chocolate sauce, and fresh berries O.o
The service was spectacular and, since we arrived before the midday rush, we got a choice of tables and enough quiet that we could actually chat with our waitress – who happened to be American 🙂 This may not be the most quintessentially French spot to nosh, but it’s one of the most delicious!
Boyfriend Perspective: Pro tip: go to Sacré Coeur early to beat the crowd for pictures. Then, while everyone else is taking pictures of the crowd, go eat brunch at Hardware Société. You’re gonna like they way eat, I guarantee it.
Au Temps des Tartines
This was our first legitimately French food. We had just arrived in Paris stupidly early, had walked around Père Lachaise, and had decided to stroll up to the Place de la Bastille. Along the way, both of us found our stomachs getting growly, as airplane food doesn’t really stick to the ribs.
So, we started what would end up being a trend for our visit: we followed our noses. We stopped at L’Artiste, a modern-looking cafe. As we were mulling over the menu, we realized the best part of the smell we’d followed was actually coming from the itty-bitty boulangerie on the corner, Au Temps des Tartines. After more mulling – and some Googling of menu terms – we franglais’d our way through ordering two pieces of delicious-looking quiche. We then popped around the corner to a neighborhood park, sat next to a fountain, and devoured the quiche, picnic-style (i.e. sans flatware or plates!).
Boyfriend Perspective: As a computer-loving introvert who has never taken a French class and can barely ask “Do you speak English?” in French, pretty sure I hurt Meagan’s ears and sensibilities with my pronunciation until later in the week.. the first restaurant was difficult. We both worried about language barrier, feeling like a (cue stereotypical French accent) “Dumb American tourist” by trying to read the sign and being in everyone’s way. But the people behind the counter were patient with us and we were able to some how communicate enough to buy food. After that, we had no problem walking in and walking out with an arm full of food anywhere else we went.
Do you have a favorite café in Paris or the surrounding area? We’d love to hear about it (and, you know, try it…). Let us know in the comments!
Also published on Medium.