France became the world capital of food in no small part because carbs, sugar, and fat are basically the three French food groups -- and the chefs of this great city have managed to combine them in the most incredible and unique ways. Here then, are the 50 things you need to plow through before you leave the city or die, which, considering this list, might have equal odds.
1. Steak frites
Relais de l’Entrecôte (address and info)
Travelers and locals alike line up for this restaurant’s only dish -- steak frites. It's drowned in a mystery green sauce, and you’ll be giddy as a school girl when they come around with a second portion. Do not refuse, for the love of all that is good.
2. Lemon tart
Sebastien Gaudard (address and info)
This elegant little pastry shop features killer pastries all around, but the must is the lemon tart. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and sour, topped with a candied lemon.
3. Chocolate and pistachio escargot
Du Pain et des Idées (address and info)
Canal Saint Martin
This bakery makes magazine covers and TV shows, but it’s not too trendy for us. Its chestnut flour bread is equally as noteworthy. But let’s talk sweets; it makes some of the best buttery, flaky pastries around, and no one should leave Paris without trying its signature escargot, a spiral filled with pistachio paste and chocolate bits.
4. Ice cream
Berthillon (address and info)
Ile Saint Louis
It’s the most famous ice cream in town. It's so popular that the main parlor actually closes down in the summer. Business must be good. One lick of the salted butter caramel or strawberry and basil will make it obvious why this is the case.
L’As du Fallafel (address and info)
Alright, this is not French food, but it’s completely Parisian. The world-famous falafel is a favorite among locals and out-of-towners, notably Lenny Kravitz. What more endorsement could you need?
L’Eclair de Génie (address and info)
Reinventing the éclair, this shop will break even the most diehard diet, with seasonal varieties keeping things interesting for repeat customer (read: everyone).
7. Roast chicken and fries
Chez l’Amis Louis (address and info)
A favorite among those looking for a higher-end bistro -- including Bill Clinton -- it’s known for its quality fare, especially roast chicken and some of the most perfect frites in Paris.
8. Bloody Mary
Harry’s Bar (address and info)
While frilly cocktails are all the rage, sometimes you want to get back to basics. The Bloody Mary and several other drinks were all created at this old-timey bar back in the early 1900s. Interchangeable with the Side Car and Blue Lagoon, if you must.
Eric Kayser (address and info)
While his bread and pastries are all fantastic, monsieur Kayser makes absolutely killer almond tea cakes called financiers. His mini versions, flavored with chocolate, vanilla, and pistachio, are mandatory for anyone in Paris.
10. Savory crepe
Chez Alain (address and info)
Inside the Marché des Enfants Rouges, the eccentric Alain makes savory crepes (and sandwiches) in a way that will test even the most patient of eaters. But the wait is worth it in the end as you bite into the salty concoction with meat, cheese, and veggies wrapped up in a perfectly browned buckwheat crepe.
Pierre Hermé (address and info)
Macarons are everywhere in Paris and beyond, but the most innovative and elegant examples are found here (sorry, Ladurée lovers). If you want a real macaron, Parisians will tell you to pay Pierre Hermé a visit.
12. Baba au rhum
Stohrer (address and info)
The oldest pastry shop still operating in Paris, Stohrer is also home to the rum-soaked baba au rhum. They still do a bang-up job with it, all these years later. Best served with a dollop of whipped cream.
Le Camion Qui Fume (address and info)
You didn’t come to Paris for burgers, but we’re not going to lie -- they’re worth it. Head to the now-famous truck that started the food truck trend in the City of Light. The burgers are still some of the best in the city and pair nicely with a movie at the theater located conveniently next to the truck’s location.
La Tour d’Argent (address and info)
While not the cheapest meal in Paris, the duck is meant to be the standout dish here, in the restaurant where the French royalty allegedly first used a fork. You pay extra for the history.
Blé Sucre (address and info)
Saying that any one place makes the best croissant will get you in trouble in Paris, but many locals agree that Blé Sucre makes a mean one. If you can’t make it to this bakery, you’ll probably be able to find another good one somewhere in the city.
Patrick Roger (address and info)
The basil and lime ganache and the hazelnut-filled praline are two of the many reasons to stop by this artisan chocolatier. Patrick Roger makes buying chocolate feel like shopping for an engagement ring, though with slightly lower prices.
Le Mary Celeste (address and info)
Though it’s become a bit of a scene at Mary Celeste, the oysters at here are as good as its cocktails. A variety of options await those hungry for a taste of the ocean, with just a squeeze of lemon.
Bofinger (address and info)
This Old-World brasserie, like many others, serves up traditional Alsatian choucroute, an assortment of pig products served with tangy sauerkraut. It’s the best you can get without going to Strasbourg.
19. Fig gelato
Pozzetto (address and info)
The most delicious Italian gelato in town is easily found at Pozzetto. Seasonal flavors like pumpkin and candied chestnuts keep customers surprised, and the fig one is simply terrible (amazing) as the French would say.
Profiterole Chérie (address and info)
No fresher profiterole exists in Paris, as this tiny shop pops out new pastries every hour or so. Ice cream versions and more innovative cream-filled profiteroles are on the menu -- so go crazy with lemon curd or hazelnut cream.
21. Baguette de tradition
Le Grenier à Pain (address and info)
This bakery won the title of best baguette de tradition in Paris twice, and as the current title holder, it’s the bread that anyone who loves carbs must absolutely try. The rule is that you tear into it immediately upon leaving the bakery and get crumbs all over yourself. Seriously.
22. Café crème
Belleville Brulerie (address and info)
The new-wave coffee scene is spurred on largely by this local roaster that sells its coffee to the trendy shops around down that brew it for you. Head to the source and see what the fuss is all about.
23. Hot chocolate à l’ancienne
Angelina’s (address and info)
The pot of molten chocolate served with a bowl of whipped cream is nothing if not decadent. If there’s a line, you can cheat and go to its smaller location by the Luxembourg Gardens. The end result is still a chocolate coma.
24. Cheese platter
Astier (address and info)
Finish off a delightful dinner with the requisite cheese plate at Astier, which features one of the better ones in our humble opinion. Take a bit of everything -- leave no cheese untasted.
25. Salted butter caramel
Henri Le Roux (address and info)
The only thing that can make French butter better is sugar, and Henri Le Roux nails it. This guy perfected (and trademarked) the salted butter caramel in France. Try the original as well as the green tea, chocolate, and other seasonal varieties.
26. Basquiat pizza
Pink Flamingo (address and info)
Canal Saint Martin
This Franco-American establishment has some of the oddest pizzas, and the Basquiat, with Gorgonzola, dried figs, and French country ham is a best-seller. You won’t find this on a slice in New York, that’s for sure.
27. Local beer
Brasserie La Goutte d’Or (address and info)
Paris is growing into a beer scene after years of being out of the game. One of the few microbreweries, this is one of the best. Try its smokey Charbonnière or its chai-infused La Chapelle.
28. Sole meunière
Chez Georges (address and info)
Start your meal off with buttered radishes, just like famed client Julia Child once did. Then get one of her favorite dishes, the sole meunière, fish cooked in a butter sauce. Simple yet perfect.
29. Cheese fondu
Refuge des Fondus (address and info)
Delicious cheese fondue is deliriously served with baby bottles of wine. What more could a glutton want?
30. Tasting menu
David Toutain (address and info)
Toutain is one of the newest Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris, and its tasting menu is nothing short of mastery. Innovative, playful, and relatively affordable, the tasting menu at lunch or dinner is the only way to go.
Mazet de Montargis (address and info)
This storefront sells pralines -- French ones, made from almonds and sugar, not pecans -- that they have been making just south of Paris since the 1600s. Sample the wares first. Don’t be shy.
32. Southwestern salad
Chez Papa (address and info)
This place serves up authentic southwestern French salads, featuring lots of duck products, fried potatoes, cheese, and foie gras tossed in with lettuce. You know, to make it feel healthy.
Chez Omar (address and info)
With so many North Africans in Paris, you have to try some couscous with meats like spicy merguez sausages. Chez Omar is a popular spot for it in the trendy Upper Marais district.
34. Coq au Vin
A La BIche au Bois (address and info)
This place just screams Paris, and diners will want to try the perfectly cooked coq au vin, a sort of chicken stew that comes out in its own pot.
Aux Merveilleux de Fred (address and info)
These little meringues covered in chocolate and nuts are the lightest, most guilt-free dessert in Paris. Until you end up eating a box of six. No judgement.
36. Ham and cheese sandwich
The only way this sandwich could get simpler is to take out the cheese and add butter instead, making it a jambon-beurre instead of a jambon-fromage. Either way, as long as it’s on a fresh baguette, you must have one, unless you don’t eat ham, then, well, just cheese for you.
37. Roquefort with quince paste
Laurent DuBois (address and info)
This top French cheese maker has a shop full of stinky, hard, soft, gooey, and utterly mouth-watering cheese. One of his specialties is Roquefort layered with quince paste, which looks like a slice of birthday cake. No need to wait until you’re a year older to get it, though.
38. Sweet crepe
Princess Crepe (address and info)
These Japanese girls have a tiny shop in the Marais decked out with pink frills and stuffed animals. It’s kitsch to the max. But its sweet crepes, filled with ice cream, fruit, and a variety of sauces are no joke.
39. French onion soup
Au Pied de Cochon (address and info)
This 24/7 restaurant once nourished the market workers at the old food hall. Today, it’s still an institution, serving up its famous onion soup covered in gooey cheesy goodness.
Sugar Daze (address and info)
How does an American make cupcakes in Paris? With Nutella, Speculoos cookies, salted butter caramel, and other local ingredients mixed with good old-fashioned American recipes. These ones are worth the trip.
41. Cream puff
Popelini (address and info)
A store dedicated to cream puffs? Heaven. They're filled with creams like raspberry and rose, pistachio, coffee, and lemon, so you’ll be hard-pressed to choose. A suggestion? Don’t. Get one of each.
42. Foie gras
Au Petit Sud-Ouest (address and info)
Foie gras in Paris is rarely bad (it’s basically pure fat, so how could it be bad?). This specialty restaurant, however, excels in the often controversial product. If you’re not morally opposed, this is the place to try it.
Pralus (address and info)
This unique pastry is one for the history books. A butter brioche filled with little pink candied almonds needs only a black coffee to have the trappings of a very happy breakfast. You won’t find it anywhere else. Accept no imitations.
44. Beef bourguignon
Josephine “Chez Dumonet” (address and info)
This classic bistro makes the simple beef stew that Amy Adams’ character tried so hard to perfect in the film Julie & Julia. Fortunately they never screw it up here.
45. Frog legs
Le Grand Colbert (address and info)
This iconic bistro still serves up traditional dishes that people imagine Parisians eat all the time, notably frog legs, Provençale-style with herbs and fresh tomatoes. Tastes like chicken.
46. Croque-monsieur (or madame)
Café de Flore (address and info)
It’s a magnet for tourists -- both the spot and the sandwich -- so just go with it. The grilled ham and cheese sandwich that everyone learns about in their high school French textbook is alive and well at the Flore, and is one of the better ones in Paris. Fry an egg on it and it turns into a madame. Clever, eh?
Carette (address and info)
Located near one of the best vantage points for the Eiffel Tower, this place also serves up the most French of French dishes -- snails. The garlic and herb-covered gastropods are always available here, and they’re delicious. When in Paris, right?
48. Ile Flottante
Café Constant (address and info)
A baked meringue floating in a pool of crème anglaise is one of the best ways to finish off a meal in Paris. The dessert resembles a floating island that will quickly sink to the bottom of your stomach.
Cantada II (address and info)
Absinthe was all the rage among artists during the Belle Epoque, and now it’s back in fashion. With over 65 varieties to choose from, head toe Cantada II and take a visit to see the green fairy. Go on now.
50. Steak tartare
La Rotonde (address and info)
Your food doesn’t always have to be cooked to be delicious. Raw beef, an egg, and other ingredients are mixed to make this iconic dish... so you don’t want to trust any old café with questionable hygiene to serve you raw meat. La Rotonde serves one of the best in town.
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