In the space that was formerly the bustling Left Bank canteen of Conran Restaurants from London, Alcazar is now a popular eatery by decorator Laura Gonzalez. The designer has filled the space with an interior garden that evokes summer all year round. There are cozy tables and a lively bar on two levels, and chef Guillaume Lutard focuses on French country classics like roast chicken with trendier additions like ceviche with grapefruit.
At this beloved institution, generations of families have come for sweets and countless grandmothers have tested their descendants’ table manners in its dining room (which was completely overhauled in 2009 and has rediscovered its former grandeur). It’s Paris’ most famous tea salon and a great place for a light lunch or indulgent snack; some consider it to have the best hot chocolate in the world. There are three additional outposts:
The fabled Parisian ice cream shop still lives up to its reputation for making the city’s most delicious sweet treats. The flavorful ice cream (and sorbet), ranging from classics like pistachio to more adventurous concoctions, like licorice and salted caramel, is sold at other venues on the Ile St.-Louis and around town, but it’s worth making the pilgrimage to the original branch.
There’s a lot of debate about Paris’ best crêperie, and this fun Marais spot tops the list of many. A funky, mod dining room serves as the backdrop for innovative sweet crêpes and savory galettes that originally hail from Bretagne, the abbreviation of which (BZH) served as the inspiration of the café’s name. Reservations are recommended, especially on Saturday. Open daily.
In the courtyard of the Louvre with a view of I.M. Pei’s pyramid, this café has a great terrace for lunch or dinner in the summer. The menu offers classic French fare from the Costes brothers, but what you really come here for is the view and the only-in-Paris crowd.
Chez Fernand Rue Guisarde
Fish La Boissonerie
This longtime mainstay (it opened in 1999) gets mixed reviews for the food and the scene—a lot of tourists, which isn't surprising given the prime Saint-Germain location. But the welcome is still warm and the wine list, courtesy of Juan Sanchez, proprietor of La Dernière Goutte, would be the envy of many grand restaurants.
This gelato maker now competes with Berthillon for title of favorite ice cream maker in Paris. His trademark is serving ice cream cones with scoops in the shape of roses. Among the special homemade flavors are: green tea, lemon tart and rose petal. Open daily 1pm to midnight.
Another crowd pleaser from the Costes brothers, Georges sits atop the Centre Pompidou, or Beaubourg as many Parisians call it. In warm weather there are tables outside and with giant windows, even those inside can enjoy one of the best views of rooftops in Paris. From Notre Dame to Montmartre, you can pick out all of the greatest monuments as you eat classic French food in a modern space. In the vein of other Costes hot spots like Café Marly and Hotel Costes, Georges is a good lunch choice for families (kids love riding the escalators all the way up to the sixth floor) and for Sunday dinners. Open for lunch and dinner every day except Tuesdays.
Keeping the Canal St.-Martin bobo crowd well caffeinated, this small café serves some of the best coffee around. Made-to-order pancakes and Southwestern scrambled eggs make for a delicious American-style breakfast, but the cozy booths for two in the modern and sun-filled dining are perfect for a snack anytime of day.
Though Paris first-timers won’t find the trek to this upscale residential neighborhood worthwhile, repeat visitors must add L’Assiette to their dining list. The far-flung restaurant in Montparnasse is helmed by chef David Rathgeber and serves the kind of cuisine you wish was more prevalent throughout the city (and France as a whole) — rustic classics executed with uncharacteristic finesse and fresh ingredients. A recent visit revealed a refreshing blue-prawn tartare, expertly prepared escargots dusted with toasted bread crumbs, and a reinvented house cassoulet, the restaurant’s pièce de résistance. For dessert, try the crème caramel with salted butter, served in a warm pot and sinfully delicious — especially when paired with one of L’Assiette’s terroir-driven dessert wines (poured out of a vial, natch).
La Fontaine de Mars
La Manufacture du Chocolat Alain Ducasse
Alain Ducasse’s bean-to-bar factory (the first of its kind in Paris) and boutique is tucked in a cobblestoned courtyard just off Place de la Bastille. The renovated garage is decorated with vintage machinery, sacks of cocoa beans, and a glass and steel display case that was scavenged from the Banque de France and now shows off rows of beautiful bonbons. In the actual factory, which is visible from the retail space through an enormous glass wall, cocoa beans from Peru to Papua New Guinea are transformed into a variety of bars, bouchées, pralines and truffles. Packaged in industrial chic brown paper with Ducasse’s stamped logo, the bars range from 65% – 100% cocoa. Not to be missed are the peanut dusted dark chocolate dragées, Ducasse’s haute homage to the peanut M&M.
La Poule Au Pot
Conceived by Jean-Louis Costes (of Hotel Costes fame) and Alex Denis, La Société became an instant hot spot restaurant. Somewhat reminiscent of the Wolseley in London because of its austere façade and buzzing interior, La Société serves up the predictable Costes recipe of crowd-pleasing food (nothing too adventurous) and a glamorous crowd that is enhanced by the sexy atmosphere. La Société has an enviable location right on the Place St. Germain and only a few hundred feet past the Café de Flore. Open every day for lunch and dinner.
This classic tea salon—the original on the Rue Royale opened in 1862—has expanded with newer outposts around the world, but even if this branch is a bit faded, I find something particularly appealing about its original spot. Their macaroons, which have crunchy outer disks and meltingly soft interiors, are known as among the best around the world, but they also serve very good omelets and frites.
Le Bon Saint Pourçain
The lobby bar/restaurant of the Hôtel Pigalle is the neighborhood’s unofficial canteen, where creative types can be found sipping coffee or wine around the clock. The inviting ambiance, with mismatched vintage couches, tables and a smattering of art books and magazines, makes this a good spot for a break any time of day.
A Left Bank institution upgraded by the late Gérard Idoux with such a delicate hand that the old guard families who came here for decades to eat en famille still return. Soufflés are a specialty of the house, with new ones such as Creole and vanilla added monthly to complement the more traditional choices. This is a great lunch spot for those prowling the boutiques of St. Germain.The best seats are outside on the terrace.
There may be no such thing as time travel, but stepping into this old school, Right Bank restaurant feels like you are going back to an earlier era. From the white-jacketed waiters to the drab dining rooms, which have probably not been redecorated since the restaurant opened in 1961, Le Soufflé revels in upholding a tradition of French dining that has virtually died out. Le Soufflé specializes in the dish for which it is named; the chef boasts more than twenty flavors in his repetoire (not all every night). In fact, there’s a menu of three soufflés: appetizer, main course and dessert—all soufflés. Those wanting fewer eggs in their diet may opt for traditional escargot, foie gras or salad to begin or sole meunière or steak for dinner. But do not consider skipping a soufflé for dessert. Couples should order one chocolate and one raspberry and try to reach a consensus on which is more heavenly. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Les Cocottes de Christian Constant
Right next to his renowned restaurant Le Violin d’Ingres, chef Christian Constant has blessed the neighborhood between the Eiffel Tower and the Champ des Mars with an ode to home cooking in sleek, casual surroundings. Constant explains it as a Frenchman’s take on the diner concept because there is a long counter as well as small tables, but there is such a cozy and refined elegance to the narrow restaurant that the inspiration will be lost on most. Constant, who began cooking in a restaurant in his native Southwest France at the tender age of 14, may have earned Michelin stars during his years at the Hotel Crillon and with Le Violin d’Ingres, but clearly his love for down-home fare persists. You can order simple salads, sandwiches, omelettes or cocottes (casseroles) of vegetables or lamb, but join the celebration of delicious food. Open every day. No reservations.
This wonderful Lebanese restaurant is located a few blocks from the Bourse. Its owner, Liza Soughayer, channels modern Beirut with both the food and the décor. She hired a talented young Lebanese decorator, Hubert Fattal, to incorporate traditional elements like carved wooden screens but they are painted high gloss white. Even the lighting brings together Middle Eastern chandeliers and sconces in the shape of open hands. The food, too, reinvents the classics as well as those that are considered beloved family recipes. The menu changes daily according to the market but there’s always incredible bread made by a Lebanese baker. Huge platters of raw vegetables and soft thin breads arrive with bowls of hummus, oils, olives and dips. Then you might dig into a form of beef chawarma, or a brochette of chicken with potatoes and coriander or grilled lamb with a pureé of lentils and cherry tomatoes. Leave room for the honeyed desserts. Open daily.
Tip: While brunch on Sunday draws many Lebanese families—a testament to the authenticity of the food—the menu is more extensive for lunch or dinner. It is also possible to request catering at home for everything from snacks to a full dinner.
Just outside of the doorway that leads to the courtyard of concept store Merci sits Ciné-Café an all-day dining joint that serves fresh, organic juices, hearty soups and salads. The eatery celebrates French cinema in posters as well as old films that are projected on to the wall. It’s quirky, hip and very Marais.
When Ore opened, the Palace of Versailles finally earned an on-site restaurant worthy of its splendid setting and storied past. Located in the Pavillon Dufour, Alain Ducasse’s culinary project was the first full-service restaurant to open inside the palace’s gilded gates. During the day, the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and teatime snacks, so there is no need to dash back to Paris hungry when you can enjoy a pan-seared fillet of beef with foie gras on a gold-lacquered table. In addition to good food, Ore—which means “pleasures of the mouth” in Latin and is also a reference to the French word for gold—dazzles the eyes with modern décor that nods to the traditional furnishings of the royals who once lived in the palace. The sunburst-style chandeliers, for example, pay homage to “Sun King” Louis XIV. In the evenings, Ore’s back room provides a fantasy backdrop for one-of-a-kind private dinners and special events with period-style furniture (including an oval banquet table and Marie Antoinette-inspired tableware) and waiters dressed in à l’époque uniforms.