As It Turns Out, Paris Is A Great Place to Eat and Drink Things

Welcome to the special post-Paris trip recommendation roundup, in which I will share the top ten (!) places I ate and drank while on vacation.

I hadn’t been back to Paris since 2007, when I studied there for a semester. The city has changed a lot in ten years. On this visit, it seemed far more similar to New York, with plentiful cocktail bars and upscale-looking burger chains and a frankly surprising number of people who dress similarly to my fellow New Yorkers. But maybe I just got that impression because I was on vacation and was staying in a trendy area.

Ten years ago, I lived in a residential neighborhood fairly far south on the less cool Left Bank and survived on Nutella crêpes usually purchased after drinking an entire pitcher of Kronenbourg 1664 at a dirty but beloved bar called Le Cristal. (OK, that’s an exaggeration. I also ate delicious home-cooked meals with my Lebanese host mom, cooked simple food for myself, and indulged in many a Picard frozen entrée.) But let’s just say that I had a much more luxurious experience in the city during this weeklong trip.

I’ll be happy to share other activity recommendations (like museums and walks and stuff) upon request. I just thought since my travel partner and I had so many great food and drink experiences this past week – and a few people have reached out to me about planning upcoming trips to Paris – it would be a good idea to document them while they’re still fresh in my memory.

A few notes on how we chose where to eat and imbibe:

  • We did a lot of research before the trip, checking out travel, bar, and restaurant guides from some trusted sources (The New York Times, Paris By Mouth, The Infatuation, Time Out)
  • We got recommendations from friends and colleagues
  • We made a Google map of all of the places we wanted to try (organized by category) so that it would be easy to, for example, find a place to have lunch or a drink after visiting the Musée d’Orsay
  • We abandoned all of our grand plans to eat at some super fancy (i.e. starred) restaurants, mostly because we didn’t plan far enough in advance; we only made one reservation, which was for Sunday brunch at Mama Shelter

Here are my recommendations, in the order in which we visited them.

Day 1 (Saturday)

Le Mary Celeste

Location: 3e Arrondissement

Purpose of Our Visit: Dinner and drinks

This one was easy. I saw it on almost every single Paris travel guide and “best bar” list I encountered. And it just so happened that it was down the street from our Airbnb in Le Marais. Le Mary Celeste serves small plates in a space that would not look out of place in my Brooklyn neighborhood. (They proudly served a few Brooklyn Brewery beers on tap.) We ordered oysters to start and I had a cocktail called “Good Morning England” that was served in a teacup. We had no idea which plates to order next, but decided on lamb croquettes and deviled eggs because, frankly, those were two items on the menu that we could translate? (My food vocabulary is not as good as I thought it was.) The lamb croquettes were perfectly rich and savory bites (actually two bites). And the Asian deviled eggs were literally transcendent and I could have eaten another whole plate of them. They came up in conversation at least once each day for the rest of the trip.


Day 2 (Sunday)

Mama Shelter

Location: 20e Arrondissement

Purpose of Our Visit: Brunch

One of the most surprisingly delightful experiences of the trip was the all-you-can-eat brunch buffet at Mama Shelter, a hip and affordable hotel near Père Lachaise (you know, the place where Jim Morrison is buried). This was recommended by several locals, but I still had pretty much no idea what to expect from a Parisian brunch. (The closest I got to having brunch in Paris in 2007 was going to Breakfast in America, which was then an incredibly popular weekend spot that served standard American breakfast food.) The restaurant at Mama Shelter, which was large and overwhelming at first with its chalkboard ceiling and TVs playing classic cartoons and tables of young families and large groups of drunk twenty-somethings, soon felt welcoming. And the amount and diversity of food available was…simply incredible. We had: many kinds of bread, crepes, jam and whipped cream, salmon tartare, steak, chicken, ratatouille, orange juice, large beers, charcuterie and several types of cheese, duck, pasta with truffle sauce, a chocolate tart, madeleines, and tiramisu. We didn’t make it to the pizza bar, though we would have liked to. Also, I’m sure I left something out. Needless to stay, I left feeling…rather full and I was not mad about it at all.



Location: 11e Arrondissement

Purpose of Our Visit: Cocktails

Bluebird, another spot discovered via its placement on several “best bars” lists, opened just a few months ago. We almost didn’t go at all, since we got to the bar just a few minutes before it opened, but I’m glad we made the decision to take a lap around the block because this place might be at the top of my list of recommendations. I had two different champagne cocktails (the Coco Chanel and the even more unfortunately named Girl’s Best Friend) and both were fantastic. The bartender was extremely friendly and talked to us for a long time, before any other patrons arrived, about the bar’s decor, which reminded me in a very good way of old hotel bars in New York and a few mid-century bars I’ve been to in L.A. (Seriously, check out Bluebird’s Facebook to get a sense of how pleasing it is to the eye.) The bartender confirmed that the look of the bar and its menu were inspired by Mad Men and mid-century Hollywood. I could have stayed there all night, but after two cocktails I needed some fresh air and a bit of a walk and I promised the bartender that I would send everyone I knew to Bluebird. So, if you are planning on being in Paris anytime soon, add it to your list.


Little Red Door

Location: 3e Arrondissement

Purpose of Our Visit: Also cocktails

We walked from Bluebird to Little Red Door to have even more cocktails, just closer to our Airbnb. Since we’d had our enormous brunch at 3pm, dinner wasn’t entirely necessary. I didn’t enjoy Little Red Door as much as I did Bluebird, probably because the cocktails were more creative and I am definitely more of a classic cocktail gal. However, if you’re seriously into cocktails, then this place is a must. The drink menu was super interesting in its contents and design – it’s a board book with the drink contents listed in tabs that you pull out from each page – and most of the drinks I saw around the bar looked beautiful. I definitely recommend Little Red Door for at least a nightcap if you’re in the area.


Day 3 (Monday)

Café Montorgueil

Location: 2e Arrondissement

Purpose of Our Visit: Drinks and people-watching

We spent most of our third day walking around, first visiting my old stomping grounds in the 15e and 14e arrondissements, then to the Jardin du Luxembourg (one of my favorite spots in the city), and finally to the Louvre. We decided to find a place to relax and have a beer before grabbing dinner. We chose the Rue Montorgueil since it was pretty much halfway between the Louvre and our Airbnb. This turned out to be a great idea, since Rue Montorgueil was packed with Parisians doing last-minute food shopping or grabbing drinks and dinner with friends. We randomly picked Café Montorgueil as our spot to watch people on their way home from work, munching on their freshly purchased baguettes. It wasn’t that the food (we didn’t have any) or drink (I think I ordered a Belgian blond ale, something I haven’t consumed since about 2009) was particularly good. It was the experience of being on vacation and having the time to watch other people go about their business.



Location: 1er Arrondissement

Purpose of Our Visit: Dinner

I’d seen this restaurant in The New York Times’ most recent (from 2015) “36 Hours in Paris, Right Bank” and put it on our list purely because of the image that accompanied the article. And yes, this tiny restaurant is very, very beautiful. But it also serves absolutely incredible classic French food. We got a bottle of Côtes du Rhône and I ordered the steak frites, exactly as the Times recommended. They were perhaps the best thing I ate during the entire trip. (I can also confirm that they make very, very good duck and carrots. Yes, I’m recommending carrots.) Even though I didn’t think I had room in my body for more food, we had a perfect Pomme au Four for dessert. We walked out of the restaurant stunned and very happy that we’d chosen Poulette over the many, many other places we could have gone.


Day 4 (Tuesday)

Le Loir dans la Théière

Location: 4e Arrondissement

Purpose of Our Visit: Lunch

After two days of near constant walking, we had a lazy morning and decided to go to Le Loir dans la Théière (“The Dormouse in the Teapot”), a restaurant with what I’d say has a light to medium Mad Hatter theme. While I really wanted one of the huge slices of lemon pie with meringue, as described in another New York Times piece about one writer’s experience of living in Le Marais, I couldn’t do it after having two cafés crèmes and a slice of ham and leek quiche, which exceeded all expectations. (I usually think of quiche as boring and tasteless, but this was anything but.) Le Loir dans la Théière was perfect for a relaxed weekday lunch.


Le Kitch

Location: 11e Arrondissement

Purpose of Our Visit: Drinks

We noticed Le Kitch on our way to see my friend’s band play at Point Ephémère, a venue on the Canal Saint-Martin. It looked cute from the outside and was fairly packed for a Tuesday night, so we decided to stop in our way home. It turned out that Le Kitch was literally very kitschy, with its bar top collage of ‘70s magazine images and disco balls on the ceiling and various other bits of memorabilia placed around the space. I ordered a drink called “The Garden”, which was gin-based but mostly tasted like sugar and cucumber and lemon (in the best way). I watched the bartender, a friendly young woman who was very game to communicate with us in Franglais, make a drink in the blender for a group of dudes and I was very intrigued when I saw her add like, a pound of mint. It looked like a smoothie when she poured it and I can confirm, since she gave me my own glass of this concoction, that it was indeed an alcoholic mint smoothie. I’m still confused and delighted that this drink exists and that three grown men ordered not one but two rounds of it. I need someone else to go to Le Kitch to figure out what this drink is called, order it, and text me a photo so I know that it’s real because honestly I feel like the whole thing might have been a dream.


Day 5 (Wednesday)

Florence Kahn

Location: 4e Arrondissement

Purpose of Our Visit: Sandwiches

On our last full day in France, we decided to get a Zipcar and drive about an hour south to visit the Château de Fontainebleau, a beautiful palace that is way less crowded than Versailles. Before we left Paris, we decided to get some sandwiches to eat in the car and wandered on to the Rue des Rosiers, which is the center of the Jewish quarter in Le Marais. We couldn’t find a regular baguette sandwich and ended up settling for slightly unappetizing looking turkey sandwiches on round onion bread from Florence Kahn. I was starving almost as soon as we got on the road and decided to eat my sandwich, even though I was still mad that it wasn’t ham and butter on a baguette, which is what I really wanted. But of course, it turned out to be like one of the Top Ten Sandwiches of My Life. The bread was buttery and full of caramelized onion flavor. And the filling basically blew my mind? Turkey, mayonnaise, pickles, and maybe ratatouille? Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either, but I promise you that it was GOOD.


Les Chouettes

Location: 3e Arrondissement

Purpose of Our Visit: Dinner

For our last dinner in Paris, we chose this two-story restaurant in Le Marais which I’m pretty sure I’m recommending more for its design than its food, though the food was good (not great). We had duck foie gras followed by a veal and octopus dish and seafood risotto. The wine we ordered was really delicious, though I cannot remember what it was called for the life of me. And we ended our meal with a lovely black forest éclair (a chocolate éclair filled with chocolate pastry cream and raspberry jam), which was listed on the English menu as “French éclair like a recipe of black forest cake”. (Maybe I’m a jerk but I find English menus offensive, especially when they’re not even written well.) Sorry, I realize this doesn’t sound like a recommendation but I promise it is and maybe you should just go to Les Chouettes for a drink and ogle the beautiful decor which you can see here.

Sweet Treats

I’m flying to Paris tonight and that’s pretty much all I can think about, so I was very tempted to scrap all of the recommendations I had come up with this week and instead recommend my favorite French things. But I’ll spare you two weeks of Francophilia, since I’m planning on sharing my favorite Paris things next week. Instead, here are just a bunch of things I enjoyed this past week that I think you’ll like too.


Make these sweets that I made for my Valentine’s Day party.

I love making Martha Stewart’s Ideal Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing for Valentine’s Day and any other holiday for which I have appropriate cookie cutters. I usually bake and frost them the night before I’m serving them because they’re a bit softer, though still perfectly crisp, the next day. This year, we dipped heart-shaped cookies in pink and white royal icing.

I also made cupcakes using basic White and Devil’s Food Cupcake recipes from Bon Appetit. I filled all of the cupcakes so there were four different “flavors” at the party (white filled with raspberry jam and topped with vanilla buttercream, white filled with chocolate ganache and topped with vanilla buttercream and a maraschino cherry, devil’s food filled with marshmallow fluff, and devil’s food filled with Milky Way and topped with chocolate ganache). I’d never filled cupcakes before so it was all one big experiment, but my party guests seemed pretty pleased with the results.

I recommend all of these desserts because they’re good (and also good for pretty much any occasion).

Go to see John Wick: Chapter 2 with your best buds.

At least a few of you know that I’m a(n unlikely) fan of the 2014 action movie John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves. Well, John Wick: Chapter 2 came out last weekend and while it wasn’t necessarily as good as the first movie, it did satisfy my need to see Keanu Reeves kill like 100 bad guys within two hours. It did not satisfy my need to know why people are always calling John Wick “Jonathan”. The movie is not Jonathan Wick. It is not even Jon Wick. It’s John Wick and “John” is not short for anything.

(This guy feels me and even offers up some potential solutions to this mystery. I personally am now convinced that Jonathan “John” Wick is named after Jonathan “John” Ritter, after discovering that John Ritter’s real name is Jonathan while in a Wikipedia vortex yesterday.)

Anyway, if you haven’t seen it already, I recommend catching John Wick: Chapter 2 with your friends when you’re hungover (or not) this weekend.

Consume all things Queen Victoria.

I’m…very into Queen Victoria this week. I just finished watching Victoria on PBS. (It’s actually not finished airing yet, but all of the episodes are available on!) And I am currently listening to Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird on Audible. I recommend the show if you need a perfectly fine costume drama to look at and I recommend the book if you want to read an entertaining, well-researched account of the life of the second-longest-reigning British monarch. (Queen Elizabeth II now has her beat by a few years.)

Read The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin.

How many Chinese novels in translation have you read? I can’t say I’ve read very many (or perhaps any at all, other than one or two required in Chinese history courses in college), so reading The Three Body Problem, a sci-fi novel that people had been recommending to me for years, was a different experience. Basically the entire book is a run-up to what you know is going to happen if you read the jacket copy (I’m trying not to give away the story here because I know that if I start summarizing I won’t be able to stop), but that doesn’t mean it’s not totally engrossing. I recommend this book if you’re looking for a challenge, want to check out an international sci-fi bestseller, or if you, like me, have been hearing about this book for a long time and need one more reminder to pick it up.

Listening to the new season of You Must Remember This.

I’m pretty sure that You Must Remember This is already everybody’s favorite podcast, but if you don’t know about it then I will tell you that You Must Remember This is hosted by the film critic Karina Longworth and is dedicated to “exploring the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century.” YMRT is back after a long-ish hiatus with a brand new season and the theme is “Dead Blondes.” Needless to say, it’s super up my alley. The first three episodes are out and I recommend starting with the very first in the series, about Peg Entwistle, the actress who committed suicide by jumping off the Hollywood Sign in 1932. I recommend this season (so far) and most of the other seasons to anyone with a vague interest in old Hollywood or, um, American cultural history in general, I guess!

Emphatic Hands #9: Get Cozy

The contents of my latest newsletter, which you can still subscribe to here

For me, the last few days have been all about feeling cozy. This week in New York has seen both rain and a not insignificant amount of snow, so I’ve been all about wearing big wool sweaters and fuzzy socks and drinking lots of peppermint tea and hiding under blankets on the couch. I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve enjoyed (indoors) during the last few days that have been comforting or cozy.

Here are my recommendations.

Listen to Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery on Audible.

I know I started off last week’s edition with an audiobook as well, but listening to Anne of Green Gables really was the nicest thing I’ve done for myself this week. I’m sure a lot of women are able to say this, but Anne Shirley was truly one of my best childhood friends. Listening to this book – narrated by Rachel McAdams! – has been a delightful reminder of how lucky I was to have found a role model in Anne Shirley. She made everything, from getting into scrapes to standing up for oneself to the intimacy of friendship, seem less scary. And she made me believe that my imagination was a valuable, powerful thing. I wish that, as an adult, I had half the audacity that the tweenage Anne displays in this book. I recommend this to anyone who feels like being inspired by the most fearless and romantic character I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Make Ina Garten’s Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower from Cooking for Jeffrey.

I made this recipe with my friend Vincent on Sunday evening, not only because I was craving comfort food but also because I hadn’t yet used this cookbook that I received for Christmas and it suddenly seemed like the coziest idea in the world. I, like most of you (probably), love Ina Garten very intensely. And I think I love her husband Jeffrey just as much. (He pops in occasionally on her Food Network show and is always the most adorable.) So, I was very happy to finally read through this book – which includes plenty of stories about their life together, from their first date until now – and cook something from the collection of recipes that Ina makes especially for Jeffrey. I recommend making this recipe when you’re having a casual evening with friends, especially when it’s cold enough that you’d rather not venture out.

Listen to Julie Byrne’s new album, Not Even Happiness.

This is the first album of 2017 that I’ve really liked. Not Even Happiness is a fairly quiet acoustic album and I’ve found myself listening to it over and over again, likely because of its familiarity – Byrne’s style is similar to that of several other artists I like – and suitability for this time of year, when I’m looking for music that soothes my winter blues. All of the songs are very much grounded in the experience of travel and the transience of life so, yeah, of course this appeals to me. I recommend this album for when you want to feel like someone is wrapping you up in a blanket and telling you a nice story (but you’re not quite sure what it’s about) or simply if you want to feel transported.

Catch up on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.

I always forget the name of this show because it’s the same show as No Reservations, except on CNN. So I guess I usually just think of it as “No Reservations, except on CNN”? Anyway, I’ve been randomly watching episodes of Parts Unknown while I do mindless work things or other such activities at home because, even though Bourdain can be a dickhead and has actually kind of basic taste in music and has insulted at least one person I know in print, I really love watching him eat things and drink beers and talk to people. Plus, I learn a lot from him. For example, this week I watched the Iran episode of Parts Unknown and it was…pretty eye-opening. I realized that most of what I know about Iranian history (these days at least, I’m sure I knew more in college) I learned from Persepolis and the only Bravo show I still care about, Shahs of Sunset. Seeing real people sitting down together to share a meal, even if it’s on TV, makes you realize that life just…goes on in many of the places that we see as oppressed or conflict-ridden.  In addition to bingeing on Parts Unknown, I also recommend reading the Anthony Bourdain profile in this week’s issue of The New Yorker and whatever this Clickhole thing is that serendipitously showed up in my Facebook feed a few days ago.

Consider getting a subscription to FilmStruck.

My roommates and I received a subscription to FilmStruck, the new film streaming service from Turner Classic Movies and The Criterion Collection, for Christmas. I’ve had a pretty nice time this week checking out all of the available films and adding them to our Watchlist. (Finally, I’ll be able to watch many of the films featured in The Story of Film, the eight-part miniseries – on Netflix – that I’ve started three different times and finished once.) On Monday evening, I ate leftovers (the baked shells and cauliflower) while I watched A Separation, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s 2011 Academy Award Winner for Best Foreign Film. It’s a pretty serious drama, but it’s been on my list for a long time and I felt inspired by the Iran episode of Parts Unknown to watch it. I am not surprised it’s at or near the top of many critics’ lists of this century’s best films. (FYI, Farhadi is nominated for another Academy Award this year for his film The Salesman.) So, in closing, I recommend FilmStruck because it’s a better reason than most to curl up on the couch.

Emphatic Hands #8: Less Stressed

I’m gonna start cross-posting my TinyLetters because, hey, why not? Here’s the latest edition, sent out today.  You can subscribe here!

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to start regularly sending out this newsletter again. And a month into the new year, here I am, writing the first edition of Emphatic Hands in 2017. Seems about right.

I’m sure many of you have forgotten what this newsletter is about. (I think I did too.) So, here’s a refresher! In each edition, I recommend five things. Sometimes those things are related and sometimes they’re not. That’s it! Basically, this is just a space for me to share what I love with people who want to hear about that kind of thing.

This week, I’d like to share a few things that have been making me feel less stressed. I would write a whole “in these times” thing here, but we all know why everyone could feel less stressed now. So let’s just get straight to my recs!

What’s been making me feel less stressed?

Listening to A World On Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War by Amanda Foreman on audiobook.

I just finished listening to this 33-hour (it’s about 1,000 pages IRL which I know because I own a physical copy) performance of Amanda Foreman’s much-lauded history of the Civil War. Was it the most exciting book I’ve read/listened to? Certainly not. But there are so many good nuggets in it that I knew every time I put it on, even if I zoned out for a little bit, something delightful – or, in some cases, horrifying, because this was about the Civil War – would pull me back in. I recommend this audiobook particularly for commutes and listening to before bedtime.

Playing a kind of massive Brian Eno playlist on repeat.

Of all of the music I’ve gotten into as an adult (like as an actual adult in my late twenties), I’ve been most consistently rewarded by listening to and interacting with the work of Brian Eno. There’s just…so much. And it’s all…so good. I could write a lot about the many things I love about Eno or my favorite albums and songs, but I’ll save that for another time or venue. Today, I want to recommend listening to Eno as a tool for combatting bad feelings. As the father of ambient music, he has made an actual fuckload of music to chill out to. (As well as some great rock music that is just as good to chill to.) Which is why I recommend Spotify’s “This Is: Brian Eno” playlist, particularly for listening to on big headphones when you’re just trying to get your g.d. work done and people won’t leave you alone or for when you want to go on a nice walk to clear your mind.

Watching Top Chef: Charleston.

The thing about Top Chef is, now that it’s in its fourteenth season, there aren’t really too many surprises. Those of us who have watched every season pretty much know what to expect. (Padma likes spicy food! Tom hates okra! Richard Blais still shows up occasionally! Restaurant Wars! Etc.) And this is why it’s a comfort to me. There are still some surprises, like cheftestants from past seasons coming back, people behaving badly or worse than you would expect, or favored chefs stumbling on challenges you assumed they would nail. But I know that I’m going to be surprised occasionally. A that’s what I love about this show. You can expect the unexpected (but definitely also a lot of the expected). I recommend watching Top Chef: Charleston after a long day, while eating very silly food like microwaveable macaroni and cheese, or on a Saturday morning while you’re wrapped up in a blanket and drinking your coffee.

Consuming just enough news.

I can’t remember a time when there’s been this much news like, everywhere, all the time. My Facebook feed is mostly news, the New York Times sends me like 15-20 breaking news alerts every day, and even my gym, which has never before played any news channel on the TVs mounted above the treadmills, is all CNN all the time. Based on how much people have been telling me that they feel like the end of the world is nigh and that they’re constantly stressed and sick, I would like to recommend consuming just enough news to satisfy your desire to feel informed, but not so much that it’s literally making you ill. I know that everyone has a different threshold, so I’m not saying you should limit yourself to these two things only, but I have been finding that simply reading The New York Times’ “Morning Briefing” while I’m eating my breakfast and watching VICE News provides me with a decent enough overview of what’s going on in the world. And from there, I choose what other news I’d like to explore for myself instead of clicking on every link that gets thrown at me on the internet all day. (Also, I recommend just…staying away from Twitter.)

Sleeping with flannel sheets.

A lot of people don’t like flannel sheets. (Or at least it seems that way to me?) I would like to tell those people, as well as the people who simply don’t have flannel sheets, that they are missing out. If it were up to me, I would have flannel sheets on my bed all year long. In fact, I did have flannel sheets on my bed (almost) all year long from childhood until I moved into a dorm room that was not air conditioned. Anyway, my point is, flannel sheets are so cozy and waking up in flannel sheets always makes me feel happy, which makes the start to my day better, which makes me less likely to feel stressed. And thus, I recommend that everyone go out and buy a set of flannel sheets.