Paris is full of tempting-looking restaurants, and even the brasseries and bistros in the touristy areas — those that do not care about return business — tend to serve food that is not too bad (at least to foreign palates). But once you live in a city, you have the chance to look closer and notice the difference between those restaurants which focus on one-time visitors and those that have a regular clientele, such as the people from their neighborhood who will come back every week if the food is good.
In my old neighborhood alone, I had three or four go-to restaurants where they knew me, where the food was always good, and where, if you did hear a foreign language, they tended to be expatriate residents. I am not saying that you cannot get good food in some of the places along the main drags, but I am saying that for that “authenticity” visitors tend to look for, you need to get off the beaten path, head into the streets and neighborhoods that are mostly residential, and find some places that are not in the guides.
But I don’t want to take you completely away from Paris as you know it, so here I have decided to share some of my personal favorites, some of which you would never find on your own, and which I have mostly found by accident or personal recommendation, plus some you might well have walked by but not entered.
This tiny restaurant just down our road, completely hidden away in a boring residential street, was such a find that I took everybody there who ever visited me in Paris. L’Entridgeu has been around for a while and was even reviewed by David Lebovitz long before we thought of moving to Paris, but it has kept its charm, its faithful clientele, and its superb food. Yes, as Lebovitz says, it’s far out in the 17th arrondissement, but for me, it was just a 2-minute walk.
What To Order At L’Entridgeu
An absolute must-try is the onion tart for starters: the soft, braised onion is sweet, moreish, and just wonderful, and it is a regular staple on the menu. In summer, if they have chilled peach soup, go for it. It sounds weird, but it is very good. The mains can be a little meat-heavy, and my husband always brought a friend to share the cote de boeuf with, while I really like the daily fish or spelt risotto with wild mushrooms.
2. La Marine
This regular lovely place lies right alongside the Canal Saint-Martin, and I have been here for breakfast — just a croissant and a coffee on the terrace, watching the world and the odd pleasure boat go by — and for a few lunches. I must admit, I’ve never been there for dinner though, and I am really not too sure why not.
The last time I came, I met the most adorable dog, who begged in the cutest way to share some of my fries but was not allowed by his humans (see picture, if the editors allow it). La Marine not only has the perfect location for a lunch break from a stroll, but also that typically French zinc bar and traditionally local feeling, despite being on the thoroughly-beaten tourist pass along the canal.
What To Order At La Marine
The food is brasserie-style, with a lot of the typical French favorites from entrecote to foie gras, so you will end up having a problem narrowing your choice down. The best option is the daily prix-fixe menu, but otherwise, start with the baked goat’s cheese, try the tuna steak with mushrooms and mashed potato, and end with the Cafe Gourmanda coffee with a choice of three small desserts.
3. Clown Bar
I don’t know how many times I rushed past this tiny little restaurant right next to the old historic Winter Circus; it wasn’t until a friend came to Paris and asked me to meet her there for lunch that I finally went in. Named after the clowns that used to come here after their performance in the circus in the early 1900s, the theme of the Clown Bar is evident all around you, making for quite a unique setting, and the place is now classed as a historic monument. The small restaurant specializes in French cuisine with a modern twist, small but perfectly formed servings, and natural wines.
What To Order In the Clown Bar
The menu changes too often to hope to catch the favorite dish from the last visit again. Just jump in and trust the chef to whip you up something fresh and tasty.
4. Buvette Paris
Buvette Paris lies between the metro stops Pigalle and St. Georges, down an admittedly bustling little street, but not one you walk down very often unless you are local. This little wine bar-cum-café-cum-bistro, which is open throughout the day, came to me through a friend when we talked about Croque Monsieurs, as one does when in Paris. She highly recommended theirs, and the following weekend, I set off for a taster session and have come back countless times since.
What To Order At Buffette Paris
Obviously, the Croque Monsieur and the Croque Madame, both of which come with an egg on top and are staples on the seasonally adjusted food menu. But also try the watermelon feta salad, which has become a firm favorite of mine and which I tried to recreate at home many times, never quite succeeding to Buvette’s standard. There are some lovely wines, many organic ones, and the little restaurant has become so popular that you should book or come early on weekends.
5. Aux Petites Oignons
This small restaurant in Gambetta lies in a street you’d never walk down, because, honestly, it looks rather boring. I came across Aux Petites Oignons because I was supposed to go somewhere else, got lost, and came across this place, which was absolutely buzzing. They managed to squeeze me into a corner table, and I have now been busy recommending this literally hidden gem to everybody coming to Paris. The zinc bar in one corner is propped up by locals having an espresso or a glass of wine, a tiny dining room is crammed full of tables filled with people all talking at once, and a menu written on a blackboard is always a good sign. Everything I tasted here was superb.
What To Order At Aux Petites Oignons
If they have them, order the truffle ravioli, little cushions of delight, and the filet of sea bass. Oh, and fingers crossed they have the apple tart for dessert. The menu changes regularly depending on what’s fresh at the market, but it is all good.
6. Chez Julien
Chez Julien is probably one of the prettiest restaurants in Paris, and not necessarily hidden from view. Right by the Seine on a side street near the town hall, its blue façade has starred in films, TV programs, and on countless Instagram accounts. But people tend to stop and click and move on. Yet not only is the inside as pretty as the outside, but the food is also excellent. The menu is seasonal, but if you are a truffle lover, book a table in the summer months for a plethora of dishes cooked with summer truffles in mind.
What To Order At Chez Julien
Have the quinoa and Breton lobster salad to start with, followed by the truffle risotto, the cheese platter, and end with the lemon tart. Take your time and save the pretty surroundings.
This is another recommendation from a friend, and one of the loveliest of them all. Poulette lies right on the bustling Rue Etienne Marcel, within steps of Les Halles and the Center Pompidou, and is easily overlooked when you are navigating the pedestrian traffic there. But, once you know it’s there, it will soon become a favorite when in the area. The gorgeous little place is dominated by a historic tiled image of an Art Nouveau maiden flanked by mirrors and a lovely bar. You can sit and have coffee at the bar, sit in the window, or snuggle further in; either way, Poulette is a lovely little spot away from the hustle and bustle outside.
What To Order At Poulette
This is another one of those restaurants that thrive on fresh food and a menu that changes daily with whatever looked good at the market that morning. Classic bistro dishes, fresh salads such as a Capricciosaand small plates dominate here, making it a perfect lunchtime choice.
Pro tip: It is always the best idea to ask for the dish or menu of the day when eating out in a restaurant in France because it is always a sign that the ingredients are fresh and seasonal and the dish is created especially for those ingredients. I tend to see it as a sign of a good restaurant if there is only a blackboard and an ever-changing menu, with maybe a few staples.
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