Let us begin by saying that this guide to the best Paris restaurants is obviously in no way meant to be an exhaustive list. There is no such thing. There is so much food to experience in this city that no single collection of opinions can possibly cover it all.
That said, we know this city well, and what we’ve come up with is a representation of the things that we think are worth your time. Go forth and develop an extremely high tolerance for wine.
One of our favorite places from the “modern” category of Parisian restaurants. We like Papillon because it’s creative but not as pretentious as some of the bistronomy style of places around town that often feel stiff and overconfident. Papillon is somewhat upscale but it’s also relaxed, and while the menu here is constantly changing, we’ve yet to walk away disappointed. The only thing we don’t love is the location in the 17th, which is a bit of a trek from anything else you want to be doing. We typically head east after dinner for a drink at Le Syndicat or Danico.
Thanks to its status as the hottest/best restaurant in Paris for several years now, Septime is damn near impossible to get into. That means calling for a reservation well in advance of your trip is essential. But once you do get a table, you’ll be blown away by the quality of the food and the excellent wine list. The people here are nice too, so feel free to try out a few of those French words you’ve just added to your vocabulary. Actually, don’t.
Yes, one of the best restaurants in Paris is named after a tomato-clam juice mix that is sold at WalMart. Which makes sense, as it’s probably America’s greatest export. Owned and operated by the very same people behind Septime, Clamato is another must-have restaurant experience. The menu is almost entirely made up of food from the sea, and every dish is a perfect example of simplicity and creativity coming together to make an impression you won’t forget. It’s a great spot for dinner, but we also like it for lunch on a day in which you have few other plans. Get a bottle of something sparkling (and natural of course) and start with a dozen oysters and whatever else looks fresh.
The wine bar counterpart and waiting room for Septime and Clamato, which are just across the street. Septime La Cave is an excellent place to grab a bottle of natural wine, some meats, and some cheese before a meal at either of those restaurants, or because you just landed and if you go to sleep now you’ll never wake up you so might as well just start drinking. Also, note that you find yourself in a tiny room in Paris surrounded by Americans. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a French person in this place that wasn’t working. No matter. It’s still the best.
If you want to hang with Parisians, La Cave a Michel is a more suitable wine bar option. The room is basic - it looks a bit like someone’s apartment - and it’ll be full of locals hanging and drinking at the long bar. We particularly like it after a meal at one of the restaurants within walking distance, like Le Grand Bain, or Le Fontaine De Belleville. As the night goes on, the party turns up, and you’ll likely walk into a room full of locals with old school hip hop on the playlist. Syrah and House of Pain pair nicely together.
Verjus, a restaurant run by two Americans in Paris, started out as a regular “underground” dinner that they hosted in their apartment called Hidden Kitchen. After a ton of press and attention, they eventually opened up this restaurant, which has since become one of Paris’ best - a seasonal tasting menu that takes all the French-run restaurants in town to task.
This has become one of our favorite restaurants in this city full of favorite restaurants, simply because the food is consistently excellent. Is it strange to go all the way to Paris to get fed by some Americans? When they feed us this good, not a bit. You shouldn’t think so either. Make sure to book ahead, and note that Verjus is closed on Saturday and Sunday.
We had to be sold on Clown Bar. Not because we doubted the food would be good at this restaurant housed in a historic space from the early 1900s, but because the name sounds like the theme from a sweaty nightmare. A room full of clowns and alcohol? Hard pass.
Then again, we did have to be sold on the idea of yet another restaurant in Paris serving small plates of modern French food and natural wines, because after a while, how do you even tell them apart? But Clown Bar is better than almost any other restaurant serving this kind of food in town. And despite the presence of those smiling evil jesters on the tiles of the restaurant, it’s a fun and lively space worthy of your time.
One of our favorite little bistros in all of Paris, and we’re not alone in that sentiment. Opened in 2013 on a residential street in the 11th (that’s where all the cool food is), Le Servan is a neighborhood spot that’s also a must visit on your next trip. The food is rooted in classic Frenchiness, but you’ll often find unexpected flavors like Thai chili in your dish of mussels or cuttlefish with green mango. Hit this for lunch and you’ll be happy.
Brought to you by the folks behind Verjus, Ellsworth is a more casual restaurant, and one of our favorites in Paris. If you’re looking for brunch, this would be the place to do it, but Ellsworth is also great any time of day, and day of the week. It’s not exactly modern Parisian cooking like you might expect from some of the other hot spots in town, but instead has a very vegetable heavy menu that also happens to feature an incredible fried chicken. Get it on your Paris Hit list.
L’Ami Jean is a lively French bistro in the 7th, and it’s on the expensive side relative to the environment and what you’d expect to see price-wise at a casual bistro like this. But the food is excellent, exciting, and worth your time. The best way to do L’Ami Jean is the €80 tasting menu, finished off with their famous rice pudding, which comes in a wooden bowl with a big wooden spoon that you will be temped to use as your primary utensil. Do not resist that temptation. L’Ami Jean is popular, so make sure to book a few days in advance.
Paul Bert is one of the most famous and popular bistros in all of Paris. This place has the feel of a restaurant that’s been around for a century, but it actually opened at the turn of this century (2000). The Côte de Boeuf for two with frites is a bold (and smart) move.
If you want to get a vibe on what it’s like to be young and cool in Paris, Merci is the place to do it. This is a coffee shop, restaurant, clothing store, bookstore hybrid, and it’s basically filled with good-looking people and good-looking French dogs. It’s the perfect spot to hang on a laid back afternoon and people watch with a bottle of wine. You might even get to touch a dog. Don’t touch any people.
Most anyone you ask will have Frenchie on their list of best restaurants in Paris. That usually means that reservations are impossible to secure, and it also often means that by the time you actually get a seat, you’re so hyped up on the place that it will inevitably let you down a little bit. In our opinion, there are too many great restaurants in this town to get stressed out over a reservation at Frenchie. That’s why their wine bar is such a beautiful thing. At Frenchie Bar à Vins, the food is just as good as it is at the main spot across the street, but they do not take reservations. So you can just stroll up, order a bottle of wine from their incredible selection, and dive into a few excellent things to eat.
Looking for a sandwich to eat on the Seine? Or in your hotel room? Or standing on the street somewhere? Hit Frenchie To Go. You won’t be eating anything particularly Parisian, but you will have your choice of an excellent pastrami sandwich, or a giant hot dog. You want both.
A newer restaurant in the 11th, Brutos is a sort of Brazilian steakhouse, except there isn’t an all-you-can-eat meat option on the menu and it’s not terrible. Brutos is actually very charming, and the food is simple and very good. The restaurant is appropriately small and adorable for the area, but it’s comfortable, and the three or four people that run the place are all very nice. Get the entrecôte steak for two or the roast chicken, and no matter what you do, get two orders of the fried tapioca to start. No. Matter. What.
An excellent late night spot in Oberkampf, which is where you’ll probably end up if you’re out late in Paris. Aux Deux Amis is a classic French bistro, but the location and hours of operation make it one that’s always lively and full of young Parisians. The plates are small and shareable and the prices are reasonable. Just know that it will be packed. Always.
Here’s your move: spend the day cruising around Le Marais, and then hit L’As du Fallafel for some grub. This little spot turns out some incredible falafel, but it is admittedly a full blown tourist trap. It’s still worth your time if you need a break from butter and red wine. Then again, why would anyone want that?
Extremely high quality coffee in an extremely pleasant environment. This neighborhood bistro got a remodel a few years ago and is now one of the more aesthetically appealing places to hang in the 10th. Spend the day at Le Fontaine De Belleville, eating ham sandwiches and pastries. If you can borrow a dog or find a dog to bring with you, even better.
Not looking to fight the crowds for a falafel? Hit Miznon, for a pita sandwich. This casual restaurant comes to Paris from a famous Israeli chef, who opened the original Miznon in Tel Aviv. The menu changes frequently, but the lamb and cauliflower are our favorite versions of these excellent sandwiches. Miznon is also open Sunday and Monday, which is good to know since so much else in Paris is closed on those days.
This well known spot in Saint-Germain should be on your radar if only for the fact that you’ll probably end up in Saint-Germain at some point and you’re going to end up hungry. Le Comptoir is a good spot for a quick late afternoon lunch and a little bit of uniquely Paris bistro vibe. Also note, it’s smaller than the smallest studio apartment.
Le Chateaubriand is by now an essential Paris restaurant, and it’s one that you need to make time for while you’re there. The environment is casual and the reasonably-priced tasting menu is seasonal and distinctly French, but also very interesting. The term some use for such a thing is “bistronomy,” but we can’t really say that out loud. You probably shouldn’t either, especially while you’re in Paris.
We’re not big on the whole “go to this place just because Anthony Bourdain did” thing, but it is true that Anthony Bourdain visited Le Baratin during one of his episodes of The Layover. But the more important point to be made is that Le Baratin is a place where Parisian chefs eat. Owner Raquel Corina is a bit of a legend in the local restaurant community, and her food is simple and homey and exactly what you want to eat when you’re in Paris. It’s a bit of a trek up to the 20th from the center of the city, but it’s 100% worth the trip.
Famous for their buckwheat crepes from Brittany, Breizh Cafe is a perfect affordable lunch for when you’re feeling like one more meal of nouveau French cuisine might kill you. The Marais location means it’s always packed with tourists, but it’s still worth your time. Make a reservation. Get the one with chorizo in it. Be pleased with yourself.
Finding a decent meal on a Sunday night in Paris can be a real pain in the ass, as most everything is closed. Our move every time is to hit up Le Stella. This classic bistro is a true local hang, especially for the old money types who live in the area. You’ll definitely see at least one lady in a fur coat holding a tiny dog at the table, and probably a few grey haired French guys in tweed jackets. The menu is super-traditional, featuring things like escargots, tête de cochon, steak au poivre, and an incredible beef tartare. Le Stella is also known for its fresh seafood – specifically oysters. They’re best consumed from one of the giant towers you can order, along with some other delicious ocean dwelling creatures. That’s how you do Sunday night in this town.