The Best Thing to Eat Near Every Major Paris Landmark
We all know that monuments attract tourists, and tourists attract terrible restaurants. But just because the sightseers don’t know where to refuel doesn’t mean there isn’t a great eatery nearby. In fact, there’s at least one excellent meal near every major tourist attraction in Paris, and these are them:
Musée d’Orsay: Baguette sandwich
Rumor has it Van Gogh actually cut off his ear because Paul Gauguin stole his sandwich. Or so we heard. If it was a sandwich from Erick Kayser, we’d understand. The chicken and sundried tomato variety on a buckwheat baguette is great change of pace from ham and cheese -- which is also delicious at Kayser. Just get one of each. Settled.
Champs-Elysées: Steak frites
The “most beautiful avenue in the world” is also the worst place in the world to eat. Overpriced, low quality, and crawling with all the wrong kinds of tourists, Champs eateries are avoided by locals at all costs. But tucked away on the side streets, there are a few exceptions for those who don’t want to go into debt. Le Rélais de l’Entrecote on rue Marbeuf serves up one dish -- steak and fries. It swims in a mysteriously delicious green herby sauce that you’ll be licking off your plate.
Climbing the hills of Montmartre, you’ll quickly realize why the artists up here drank so much absinithe in the 19th century. It was probably better than the food. There are quite a few places that will serve you up some decent dishes, but a favorite item is the fougasse at award-winning bakery Le Grenier à Pain. This bakery has nabbed the best baguette in Paris prize twice! The fougasse, essentially bread stuffed with bacon, cheese, or other items, is the perfect thing to eat while ascending up to the Sacre Coeur basilica.
Père Lachaise: Cake and coffee
Whether or not Marie Antoinette told the peasants to eat cake or not remains unclear, but what is certain is that she’s dead. Just like everyone else at the Père Lachaise cemetery. But you’re not, so have your cake. After strolling the tombs of Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Chopin, stop into the nearby coffee shop, Broken Biscuits, for a little afternoon snack. Try any of its daily pastry offerings along with a cup of joe to make you feel alive again.
Just north of the Louvre, there’s actually a lot of excellent food and drink to explore. You can grab a coffee from nearby Telescope or Kitsuné, but let’s face it: after battling the crowds in front of the Mona Lisa, you need a stiff drink. Issé Izakaya has a delightful selection of sake and some exquisite small dishes to go with it. After the second or third drink, you’ll totally forget why the Venus de Milo doesn’t have any arms.
Hôtel de Ville: Curry chocolates
Maybe you popped in to see the free exhibit at City Hall. Maybe you wanted to see where people used to be executed. Maybe you’re just lost. Whatever the case, head over to EdwarT, a newcomer to the chocolate scene in Paris. The small batches of chocolates feature lots of foreign herbs and spices, with some unexpected combos like curry powder and dark chocolate. Taste a few and grab a box for later if you know what’s good for you.
Notre Dame: Salted butter caramel ice cream
The cafés directly around Notre Dame are less than heavenly. Walk behind the church to the Ile-St-Louis and find a shop -- any shop -- selling Berthillon ice cream. The brand historically was only available on this island, and it’s still the best place to find the most flavors. If you can’t find the salted butter caramel variety, keep looking. It’s there and you don’t want to miss it.
Opéra Garnier: Pascade
After a tour of the Opéra Garnier, you might want something other than a meal at the iconic, but insanely overpriced Café de la Paix. Instead, the delicious and unique pascades created at this eponymous restaurant are a must. They’re kind of like crispy crepes formed into a bowl, filled with different sweet or savory ingredients. Think of it as a French version of a taco bowl -- but arguably better, you know, because it’s French.
Catacombs: Blended chocolate bars
It’s tough to find anything worthwhile in the 14th arrondissement beyond tunnels of skeletons that people queue for hours to see. While the Catacombs are the main draw, continue south for a few blocks upon exiting and treat yourself to a bar of chocolate specially blended by Chloé. Have a hot chocolate if you must. Just enjoy it while you’re still among the living.
Eiffel Tower: Ile flottante
Usually you should never eat too close to the Tower (unless you’re eating at the Michelin-starred restaurant, the Jules Verne, inside it). Café Constant, however, is a good example of how you can eat well even if you’re a tourist. This classic bistro changes up its menu with the seasons, but the ile flottante -- a cooked meringue floating in crème anglaise -- with caramel is a staple.
Bastille: Risotto with scallops
Many visit the Bastille and are surprised that the prison stormed by revolutionaries in 1789 is, well, gone. The trip will not have been for naught if you head to Les Temps des Cerises afterward. Allegedly in 1830 when that column went up at the Bastille, this little neighborhood bistro opened in Paris. Its menu changes with the seasons, but a near-constant staple is its risotto with bacon-wrapped scallops. Follow it up with a café gourmand to sample a few tiny desserts and avoid choosing.
Pompidou Center: Praluline
This modern art museum looks unfinished, but, just like so much modern art, it’s supposed to look that way. After browsing the collection, head directly across the street on rue Rambuteau to Pralus to get a bit of a sugar rush before the next thing on your to-do list. Famed chocolatier and pastry maker Pralus bakes odd-looking pastries called Pralulines, composed of sweet bits of pink candied almonds folded through a sort of brioche that begs to be eaten with a cup of black coffee. Imagine the perfect pastry. Now go buy one at Pralus.
Moulin Rouge: Cupcakes
It’s kitschy and campy, but it’s almost required to visit the famed dance hall where Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor fell in love. While most people just go for the photo op, head south afterwards to indulge in something equally as cutesy, but seriously necessary -- the great American cupcake. These aren’t your mother’s cupcakes. At Sugar Daze, ingredients like Speculos cookies, Nutella, and salted caramel give them a decidedly French twist.
Place des Vosges: Falafel
This square was destined to be the royal palace until the king was assassinated. Such is life. Today the pretty little park is a popular picnic destination for its grassy patches studded with four fountains. The best food to pack is the nearby falafel joint, L’As du Fallafel, on rue des Rosiers -- and be sure to get spicy sauce or else you basically wasted a falafel. The place is an institution, and for only six euros, you can’t really beat the deal. It may not be “French” food, but it’s totally Parisian.
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