What to eat in Paris? You could do nothing here but eat and it would be marvelous. The trick is that you don’t need to do it at restaurants—you’ll eat even better if you eat like Parisians do, which by patronizing fishmongers, fruit and vegetable vendors, bakers, pastry makers, and of course the occasional splurge. But no Western culture eats better on the cheap. Take a close look at the picnics they take to the banks of the Seine on summer nights and seriously half of it came from Franprix.
Here, the 12 things I try to eat literally every time I’m in Paris—and in the case of #7, would smuggle home in my coat if I thought I wouldn’t eat the entire thing on the plane.
#1: Eat this: Pain au chocolat
In brief: A “chocolate croissant” by another other name. The ultimate French baked good, non?
Go here: Du Pain et des Idées
#2: Eat this: Fraises des bois
In brief: The most ephemeral of summer foods—or foods, period—fraises des bois (“woodland strawberries”) are like normal strawberries, but a million times sweeter and smaller. Also, they’ll ruin you for regular strawberries forever .
Go here: Keep an eye out for them in June at your nearest fruits ‘n’ veg shop.
#3 Eat this: Paris-Brest
In brief: A French pastry with praline-flavored cream (weirdly enough named for a bike race between the two cities)
Go here: Philou
#4 Eat this: The Paris take on the American burger
In brief: You’ve had a hamburger, even a gourmet one. But it’s interesting to have a Parisian take on our classic, since it’s basically like having a regular burger but with the best possible ingredients (local beef, organic vegetables, etc.)
Go here: PNY
#5 Eat this: A regular croissant
In brief: Once you have a one here, the sad ones at Starbucks will be no bueno for literally ever.
Go here: Boulangerie 69 RdS
#6 Eat this: A baguette
In brief: There’s no more foundational French food. Until recently, a law dictated when bakers could go on vacation, so no quartier would be left without its corner boulangerie during the summer months.
The best baguette in Paris: Maison Bichon
#7 Eat this: St. Albray cheese
In brief: You won’t need a fromagerie for this cheese, which is a sort of very chilled out style of Camembert. It is heaven with the baguette you just bought.
Go here: Basically any local supermarket
#8 Eat this: Seasonal crepes
In brief: You’ve had crepes—and if you’ve had savory ones, you’ve probably had them with ham and cheese. But what about something a little more…artisanal? Like with blue cheese and grapes and arugula and honey?
The best crepes in Paris: Are at Breizh, right near the Picasso Museum.
#9 Eat this: Salmon in a beurre blanc sauce
In brief: The lightest, Frenchest way to eat the tastiest fish (this is highly subjective BTW)
Go here: The Saint-Regis on Ile Saint Louis—there’s no where nicer to be, summer or winter
#10 Eat this: Macarons
In brief: There are more macarons on Pinterest then, like, paleo chicken recipes. The French version of extremely expensive cookies.
The best macarons in Paris: You can get macarons almost anywhere—including Monoprix and McDonald’s—but of all the high-end purveyors, Pierre Hermé has debatably the most interesting seasonal varieties.
#11 Eat this: Sole meunière
In brief: Pan-fried sole with brown butter and lemon
The best sole meunière in Paris: La Mascotte in Montmartre. Not cheap but it can easily feed two.
#12 Eat this: Boeuf bourguignon
In brief: A beef stew with pearl onions and mushrooms. Best served with coquillettes–tiny pasta.
The best boeuf bourguignon in Paris: Bouillon Pigalle, where it is also delightfully cheap.