Sometimes it may seem that restaurants located near popular tourist spots — museums, cathedrals, parks, theaters — tend to be pricey, bland, and basic.
They know you’re hungry after waiting hours in line to see Mona Lisa’s smile, or will be famished before curtain at the Opera Bastille, so they get you with their “prix-fixe” menus and well-located terraces. But meals in Paris (or any city, really) can — and should — be a main attraction, too. There’s no need to sacrifice taste or budget for convenience.
Here are some of our favorites worth seeking out in the City of Light.
Near the Eiffel Tower: Francette
If you’re visiting the city’s iron lady — and, let’s be honest, who isn’t? — but you want more than a crepe from a cart and can’t quite swing the multi-course meal at Jules Verne, head over to this floating restaurant at the foot of the famed monument that opened in summer 2021. Upon approaching the multi-level barge on the Seine, you may be confused by the lines of people waiting to cruise the river. But walk past them to find the host at the newish bistro-cocktail bar with both indoor and outdoor tables for year-round boire et manger. (That’d be drinking and eating.) Whether you’re there for sunset snacks like homemade tarama and beetroot hummus, or to wine and dine on heartier classics like a pot au feu (beef broth with veggies) or tartiflette (potato and cheese casserole), sparkly views of Madame Eiffel are included. There’s also a below-river wine cave that can be privatized for group dinners amongst the bottles.
Near the Champs-Elysées: Le Mermoz
You may be tempted to just duck into Five Guys because it’s what you know; or wait on the giant line at Laudrée because it’s what you read about. But after ogling or climbing the Arc de Triomphe, those who swing off a side street on the east end of this avenue otherwise lined with fashion and food chains will be rewarded by a gastronomic treat from American chef Thomas Graham. During the day, there’s a more traditional entrée-plat-dessert à la carte menu, whereas at night it’s all about shared small plates ranging in price from 9 to 21€, such as pillowy agnolotti with sweet potatoes and a chicken terrine with noisettes and prunes. While Graham shifts the menu seasonally, if it’s on there, don’t skip his deconstructed, not-at-all-classic onion soup featuring trout roe and slivered almonds. The wine is mostly natural or biodynamic, and the atmosphere is warm and inviting with quirky illustrations of French life lining the walls.
Near Montmartre and Sacre Coeur: Café de Luce
The restaurant scene up on the butte, as it’s known amongst locals, has developed over the years. There’s lots to choose from in this northern neck of the woods that actually used to be woodlands before it was home to artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Auguste Renoir, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The hilly and maze-like cobblestoned streets are not only great for getting lost amid old-time-y Paris, but where chefs like Amandine Chaignot, who trained with both Jean-François Piège and Eric Frechon, cook elevated cafe-meets-bistro fare from morning ’til night — ideal for travelers who can’t commit to the city’s otherwise strictly set dining hours of 12 to 2:30 p.m. for lunch and 7 to 10:30 p.m. for dinner. Whether you head there first thing to try the stuffed croissant sandwiche (that are quickly becoming legendary) or later in the day for something heartier like beef tartare or a smash burger with a bowl of fries, you won’t leave hungry.
Near the Louvre: Ha Noi 1988
It’s common to smell the scent of cardamom and cloves on the streets of Paris, but the best Vietnamese restaurants are not often located smack in its center on Île de la Cité, just off Pont Neuf a hop and skip from the Louvre. That is, they weren’t until this bi-level restaurant boasting bamboo light fixtures and floral bird cages opened in July. Here, chef Huy, who is 33 (hence the 1988), focuses on cuisine from his native northern Vietnam and makes everything in house — including the yeast for his signature whole-wheat steamed bao with ground beef and quail egg. Most Vietnamese classics are also on the menu — from piping hot bowls of spicy beef pho to heaping plates of bò bún with the crispiest of nem to dip in the house chili sauce. Even better? It’s open every day for both lunch and dinner with continuous service on the weekends. Reservations aren’t necessary, but recommended.
Near Opéra Bastille and the Marais: Brasserie Rosie
The southern part of the Marais, closer to the river, is more densely packed with chic boutiques and parks like Place des Vosges than it is truly stand-out, sit-down dining establishments. So when Brasserie Rosie opened a few months before the pandemic on busy rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine near Place de la Bastille, those of us who live nearby were trés contente. The space is surprisingly large for Paris with a few distinct sections for seating: diner-style booths and counter seats up front, a more open dining room towards the back, and two private rooms with large tables for groups upstairs where vintage wedding photos are hung on whimsical wallpaper. While the menu itself is standard brasserie fare — steak frites, a veggie parmentier, and duck breast — the execution and presentation is anything but. Rosie prides itself on using seasonal ingredients from local purveyors. The cocktail menu is also spectacular, with drinks like the “Chai Pineapple Kush” served on napkins that cleverly list a phone number and, “You are cute, call me” note. (Sadly, the call didn’t go through!)