Baguettes, Cheese, and Beyond: My Paris Restaurant Hit List
I’d only been to Paris once before, on a family vacation almost 10 years ago. I was an angsty teen at the time, who really didn’t know how to handle jet lag, so I dutifully (and sleepily) stumbled through the Louvre, saw the Mona Lisa, climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, strolled down the Champs-Élysées, trekked out to tour Versailles, and checked other required attractions off our tourist must-see list. But I didn’t fall in love with the city the same way many of my friends had when they visited while studying abroad in college. And I had a hunch that the now older and (hopefully) wiser me would have a very different opinion. So, when my best friend Kristin asked if I wanted to join her on a trip to Paris at the end of summer, I was all in. With all the touristy stuff behind me and my parents left at home (sorry, mom!) I was ready to really experience (and eat my way through) this iconic city. After all, Paris is home to some of the best food in the entire world…
Leading up to the trip, I did a ton of research on classic as well as newly popular French restaurants. I had a lot of help from my friend Erwin of @lefrenchfood and @infatuation_paris, an absolute expert on the current French food scene. Unfortunately, the timing of our trip wasn’t ideal, as most of Paris shuts down and goes on holiday for the entire month of August, so there were a bunch of restaurants I was dying to try (Septime, Clown Bar, etc.) that were closed during our visit. However, we still managed to eat pretty well (okay, really well) and hit a lot of spots on my restaurant bucket list.
Here’s my Paris restaurant hit list:
Holybelly – Everyone says this is the best breakfast in town. They’re 100% right. Everyone also told me to order the Savoury Stack (pancakes topped with eggs, bacon, bourbon butter, and maple syrup). Right again. Pictures and words don’t do this dish justice… all I can say is the girl sitting next to me finished her plate of pancakes and promptly ordered another stack, which she wholeheartedly devoured. That good. You’ll probably have to wait in a bit of a line (I waited 20 minutes for Sunday brunch) but, I promise you, it’s worth the wait.
L’Arpege – If you’re as obsessed with Chef’s Table as I am, you know of Chef Alain Passard. His Michelin restaurant Arpege has had three stars since 1996, and was ranked the 12th best restaurant on the World’s 50 Best list this year. Chef Passard’s specialty is cooking vegetables, picked fresh from his garden – his menu is almost entirely vegan, and is one of the best meals I’ve ever had. That coming from a total carnivore, you know that it has to be some incredible veggies. The cherry on top of a perfect meal was meeting Chef Passard himself – he happily walked around the dining room hugging every guest, posing for pictures, and welcoming them to his “home.” I’ll never forget the way he looked me directly in the eyes and gleefully proclaimed, “I LOVE FOOD!” Me too, Alain, me too.
Le Servan – We were super lucky to be able to hit this Parisian hotspot before heading to the airport (they were closed until our very last day in Paris!). It was about $30 Euro for their prix fixe lunch menu (appetizer, entrée, + dessert), which I found to be an absolutely incredible deal given the high quality of food. Chef Tatiana Levha previously worked at both L’Arpege and L’Astrance, two of the World’s 50 Best restaurants. With such incredible training and such obvious talent, it’s easy to see why Le Servan rapidly became one of Paris’ best bistros.
Ober Mamma – You wouldn’t think to come to Paris for incredible Italian food, and yet, that’s what we found! Had some of the best pasta in my life at this adorable restaurant in the 11th. I tried their famous truffle pasta, served adorably in a copper pot, Kristin got a slice of their fantastic, homemade lasagna, and we shared a stracciatella appetizer and chocolate mousse for dessert. Super fun ambiance, really delicious food.
Ellsworth – More casual, tapas-style restaurant from the American couple behind famous French restaurant Verjus. We went for dinner and shared a ton of delicious plates including fried chicken, bone marrow, egg yolk raviolo, duck, and a dessert, an almond cake with honey lavender ice cream (my fave!).