above..... enjoying a morning cappuccino at a neighborhood cafe just a short walk from our hotel.
Above... enjoying a perfect meal of lamb with ratatouille at Le Terrasse Sainte Catherine in Le Marais.
Everywhere you go in Paris, there is never a shortage of cafes. With food being as celebrated and loved as it is in France (as it should be!), the likelihood of finding a delicious, well-prepared meal is likely; however, just like any other heavily touristic city, you could also stumble into an overpriced, unauthentic, kitschy restaurant. I have unfortunately been there far too many times, thanks to misleading reviews from the internet. During a trip a few years ago, I decided to ditch the online review method of choosing a restaurant, and learn the protocols and start to ask for recommendations more. It may feel overwhelming if you hadn't had any recommendations given to you. Selecting a restaurant in Paris doesn't have to be a guessing game. There are a few subtle hints to look for in a Paris cafe; keep them in mind the next time you find yourself with no lunch plans!
So, I'd like to submit to you my two cents as a non-Parisien who has had amazing luck with food in Paris (and a few tips from my favorite tour guide, Nathale).
- If you are near a landmark or tourist attraction, WALK AWAY. Find a cafe no less than a 5-10 min walk from major tourist attractions; i.e. Eiffel Tower, Louvre, the like. You may think lunch on a breezy patio with the Eiffel Tower in plain view sounds romantic, but so do ten thousand other people.
- The Name is in French and there are no English descriptions on the exterior of the cafe. My word of advice, if you do not speak French, at least learn some menu items.
- Have a look at the menu posted outside. The best cafes have a wine list much longer than the food list.
- This one is subjective, but if there is an abundance of cigarette butts outside on the terrace, that means many locals were there. And you know their gastronomic choices are supérieur.
I'd like to elaborate on no. 2 a little. I do not speak French, but I learned quite a few words before going in order to get around somewhat better. Plus, I am infatuated with the language! As far as food is concerned, I learned several terms--such as poulet (chicken), fromage (cheese), poisson (fish), agneau (lamb, which if pictured above), pain (bread), and much more! I never had to ask the server for an English menu! Also, learning root words helped; for instance, I knew a boulangerie was a bakery and boule refers to a "ball" or loaf of bread. Just a helpful hint!
Enjoying food and wine is essential to making your trip to Paris a successful one. I hope this guide was some help!
Thank you for reading,