Paris is a place where it’s easy to eat well. Literally everywhere you turn, there’s a cafe or a restaurant with a solid house wine and a decent steak frites. We didn’t have a single bad meal in the 5 days we were there. But some meals were definitely better than others, and I enjoyed eating and exploring through some new neighborhoods on this trip to the City of Lights.
Les Affranchis (9th Arr., Metro: Saint-Georges or Pigalle)
This restaurant is located in a trendy little section of the 9th arrondissement known as SoPi* (south of Pigalle). There were less than 10 tables and it evoked the kind of upscale neighborhood restaurant you might find in Brooklyn (cough*The Olmstead*cough) — we were clearly surrounded by well-heeled regulars on the random Tuesday we ate there. The restaurant offers a three-course menu for 45 euro, filled with inventive takes on classic dishes. My appetizer was a version of carbonara, featuring a soft poached egg in a pecorino cream sauce surrounded by lardons and sweet pearl onions. It was delicious, but my entree was even better: tender braised pork with a cracklingly crisp skin, served with sautéed mushrooms and surprisingly, diced mangos, which cut the richness of the meat nicely.
The stereotype of the French waiter is inattentive and snooty, but that was definitely not the case at Les Affranchis. Everyone was super helpful, willing to explain the menu and answer any questions, and extremely attuned to our needs. SoPi is a fun neighborhood to grab dinner and drinks, so if you’re in the ‘hood and want to eat very well, I definitely encourage you to stop in!
Bang (10th Arr., Metro: Gare de l’Est or Jacques Bonsergent)
Though this was my third time vacationing in Paris, it was bae’s first time properly visiting the city. So, I had initially planned a lot of sight-seeing for him, which meant spending a lot of time with tourists. By Day 3, he wanted to see where the real Parisians hang. After some internet research (isn’t that what all the cool kids do?), he found Canal St. Martin in the 10th Arrondissement, where Paris hipsters (known as bobos, or bohemian bourgeoisie) sit outside and drink on the banks of the canal. (You can take the boy out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take the Brooklyn out of the boy … )
Bang! is a tiny restaurant on the banks of the canal, known for its grilled meats. It was packed with the kind of casually glamorous Parisians you might see on a fashion blog, and offered two dining options: the three-course steak frites menu route, or a grill-your-own adventure, where the waiter gives you a small grill and a few different cuts of meat and you cook your own (similar to Korean BBQ). Though most of the restaurant went with the mixed grill, I wanted a menu, mostly to try the foie gras and bone marrow appetizers. While the bone marrow was a bit too rich for the sweltering weather, the foie was surprisingly light, creamy without being heavy or unctuous. It was probably the best version of foie we had on our trip, and we ate an alarming amount of goose liver.
If you’re in search of party time after dinner, I highly recommend stopping by Le Comptoir General for a drink and a dance. It’s a short walk from Bang! and has a cool jungle vibe — think bright colors, lots of lush greenery, Caribbean music and twinkle lights. Bae and I walked in, did a quick loop of the premises and realized that the bar was much more of a young man’s game, but if you’re less lame than we are, it looked really fun!
Verjus (1st Arr., Metro: Pyramides, Palais Royal, Bourse or Quatre-Septembre)
Verjus was the one place I had looked up and made a reservation for before leaving NYC. Run by former Brooklynites, it is one of a few restaurants bringing a farm-to-table sensibility to Paris, and has a very inventive and fairly affordable tasting menu (68 euro, which is pretty great for the quality and care that goes into each dish).
The meal began with four starters: a cherry tomato and caramelized onion galette that I still dream of (I will be attempting this at some point this summer), burrata with a melon compote that bae was obsessed with, radishes with spiced yogurt and what can be best described as a tangy chive dust, and cucumbers with an almond cream. Then came a house-baked sourdough with homemade salted butter, then a carrot salad with puffed freekah, then a salad with lobster and currants.
The entree was squab, which was controversial — I thought it was interesting, if a bit too gamey, and bae was bewildered that I made him spend $80 on pigeon. Dessert was a mille-feuille with apricot puree, quinoa flour layers instead of puff pastry and ricotta instead of pastry cream. Everything was fresh and intriguing and delicious, the kind of dining experience that I love having in New York. It was nice to see the Parisian version of it, and it was 100% worth it just for the look on bae’s face when he saw that we were eating pigeon for dinner.
Le Comptoir de Relais (6th Arr., Metro: Odeon)
Le Comptoir was recommended to me by a friend who knows his food, and therefore I did no research prior to stopping by here. In fact, the only reason we came by was because we were desperate for lunch after a long morning sight-seeing in the 5th and 6th arrondissements, and needed to refuel ASAP. Because we were there a bit off-hours, we were able to get a table fairly quickly, and the restaurant seemed so unassuming at first that I didn’t bother to take pictures of the food.
HOWEVER. The milk-braised pork with lentils was out of this world. Meltingly soft, flavorful, not overwhelmingly rich — it was one of the best things I ate on the trip. Then I went home and did some Googling: the restaurant has been a favorite of locals for a long time, and it’s still fairly hard to get a dinner reservation. If you can get one, dinner is a set prix fixe menu for 60 euro, which is pretty great for the quality of the food, though our impromptu lunch was pretty amazing too. You’ll likely be in the 6th regardless, so it’s worth stopping by to see if you can grab a table.
Pierre Hermé (6th Arr., Metro: Saint-Sulpice)
Look, I know this is totally cheating and there’s very little value in putting a world-renowned patisserie on this list and calling it a “must-try.” Of course you should try Pierre Hermé at some point on your Paris trip, and there are locations scattered all around the city (and globe).
However, Paris is a city of simple pleasures, and there are few greater than visiting the Pierre Hermé in the 6th Arrondissement, taking one of their impossibly flaky Ispahan croissants (with both a raspberry-lychee and rose-almond filling, then topped with candied rose petals) to go, and eating it in the small square outside of the Eglise Saint-Sulpice (you could also walk a bit further to the Jardin du Luxembourg). People-watching in a beautiful place with a perfect croissant = heaven.