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.

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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.

 

Bluebird

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.

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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.

 

Poulette

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.

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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.

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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.

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