All Articles 10 dishes to try in Paris

10 dishes to try in Paris

From steaks to sandwiches to sweets to take home with you.

Regan Stephens
By Regan Stephens28 May 2024 6 minutes read
Hand holding up croissant in front of Eiffel Tower
Image: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Plenty of cities try to claim the title of the world's top culinary destination, but Paris has plenty of compelling proof to back it up. France's capital city is currently home to more than 100 Michelin-starred restaurants. But you need only visit for yourself—to taste the dynamic flavor of a lychee and raspberry macaron, or a simple, crusty baguette layered with salted butter and ham—to agree. If you need more proof, it's just as easy to find a memorable meal at a falafel stand or decades-old bistro as it is at one of those Michelin-starred, multi-course tasting menus. Below, find some of the dishes you must seek out on your next visit to Paris.

Steak Frites

Plate of sliced steak and french fries
Le Severo
Image: 紅花/Tripadvisor

Cuts of meat like côte de boeuf (rib steak) and sirloin, either naked or under a pool of au poivre, are all served aside a pile of golden fries. To order your steak like the locals, ask for it cooked bleu (essentially bloody,) saignant (rare,), or a point (medium rare,) but know that these degrees of "done" tend to run a bit more rare than the ones you might be used to.

Where to get it: Le Severo, 8 Rue des Plantes

At the tiny, 10-table spot in the 14th arrondissement run by a former butcher, each cut of steak shines. The wine list, including plenty of reds, is three times as long as its concise menu, but with the handful of laudable starters (including the rich blood pudding served with a sweet apple compote) and perfect desserts, you don't need more.

Tip: Le Severo is closed on le-week-end, so plan your visit on a weekday.

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Macarons

Display boxes of various macarons in different colors
Pierre Hermé Bonaparte
Image: Mallorcababe/Tripadvisor

The delicate pastry consisting of French buttercream, jam, or ganache sandwiched between two almond-based cookies can be found in a rainbow of shades in some of Paris's most celebrated patisseries. Options range from classics like chocolate, raspberry, and caramel to more experimental and seasonal flavors.

Where to get it: Pierre Hermé, many locations

In a city where top-tier macarons are as easy to find as Eiffel Tower souvenirs (see also: Laduree, La Maison du Chocolat), Pierre Hermé is among the creme de la creme. The fourth-generation pastry chef, named the world's best in 2016, is known for his signature flavor creation: Ispahan, a surprisingly perfect mixture of raspberry, lychee, and rose water.

Tip: Like every other high-end pastry shop in the city, macarons at Pierre Hermé come beautifully boxed, making them a perfect gift to bring back home.

Falafel

Plate of hummus topped with falafel balls
L'As du Fallafel
Image: 8minem/Tripadvisor

Crispy chickpea fritters, sometimes stuffed into a pita alongside pickled and fresh vegetables and tahini, may have deep roots in the Middle East, but falafel has been famous in Paris since L'As du Fallafel first opened in 1979. The Marais shop is still wildly popular, but these days the city is home to a growing number of places where you can find great falafel.

Where to get it: Miznon, 22 Rue des Ecouffes, 75004; 37 Quai de Valmy, 75010; 3 Rue de la Grange Batelière, 75009

The Middle Eastern fast-casual restaurant has three outposts in the city—all with excellent falafel and a robust menu of other options, including a supremely tender boeuf bourguignon sandwich and plenty of vegetarian-friendly fare.

Tip: All three locations are closed for Shabbat, from mid-afternoon Friday through sundown on Saturday, and reopen on Sunday..

Crepes

Crepe topped with grilled bananas and ice cream
Breizh Cafe
Image: Vanesa C/Tripadvisor

The dense, springy pancake, made by spreading batter thinly over a hot griddle, is dusted with a sprinkle of sugar or filled with sweet or savory ingredients like chocolate and banana or ham and cheese. Crêperies and kiosks abound in the city and make crepes that are a delightful snack or handheld meal on the go.

Where to get it: Breizh Cafe, multiple locations

For a taste of Brittany, visit one of the dozen locations of Breizh Cafe and order savory buckwheat crepes with comte and ham or dessert crepes with salted caramel and apple.

Tip: The cafe's Marais location is also home to Breizh Épicerie, which stocks Brittany imports like fleur du sel, tinned fish, and Bordier butter.

Cheese

Large tray of various cheeses
Le Clarence
Image: MIYUKI_12/Tripadvisor

France's long history of dairy farming and cheesemaking—using techniques passed down through generations—is on full display in Paris's restaurants, fromageries, and farmers markets. The country is home to over 1,000 different types of cheese, in which residents take serious pride. Depending on your devotion to dairy, you can find tastings and classes or just seek out some of the exemplary varieties, including tangy blue Roquefort and creamy Camembert.

Where to get it: Le Clarence, 31 Av. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 75008

Book a table at the exquisite Le Clarence, set inside an 18th-century townhouse, choose a tasting menu, and add the cheese course to your meal. The cheese trolley will appear, with its rotating selection and the perfect accompaniments like housemade chutney and quince honey.

Tip: If you're not sure what to pair with your cheese, ask one of the wine experts on staff for their recommendation. The two Michelin-starred restaurant has a wine cellar on site.

Croissants

Four pastries, including croissant and snail
Du Pain et des Idées
Image: ichinose/Tripadvisor

The first time you taste a croissant in Paris is the moment you realize that the French are lightyears ahead of everyone else when it comes to this buttery breakfast pastry. How do they do it? It's the precision, perhaps, but no one really knows. (I believe it's the butter.)

Where to get it: Du Pain et des Idées, 34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010

The croissant is indeed divine at this perpetually busy bakery in the 10th, but do not leave with snagging at least one snail. The pinwheel-shaped "escargots" are laced with pistachio, dark chocolate, and other seasonally rotating (and all heavenly) flavors.

Tip: Go early for the best selection.

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Madeleine

Oval box of glazed madeleines
Ritz Paris Le Comptoir
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Since the mid-18th century, when the mini, scallop-shaped butter cakes first appeared in France, Madeleines have held a special place in the country's culture. (For proof, look no further than Marcel Proust's "In Search of Lost Time," in which the French writer describes a madeleine dipped in tea that highlights the connection between taste and memory.) Made with a genoise cake batter, which has a spongy texture thanks to beaten eggs, they typically have a hint of lemon flavor and are perfect for pairing with afternoon tea.

Where to get it: Ritz Paris Le Comptoir, 38 Rue Cambon, 75001

Chef François Perret, who helms the Ritz Paris pastry program, including the famed hotel's restaurants and this stand-alone bakery and cafe, was also named best pastry chef in the world by the same organization that crowned Pierre Herme. The madeleines here come in the classic variety but also in a slate of others, like chocolate glazed and passion fruit-filled.

Tip: Beautiful gift boxes come in sizes of 5, 8, and 12 and last up to five days.

Baguette

Paper bag with normal and black-colored baguettes
Boulangerie Utopie
Image: misopiso88/Tripadvisor

Perhaps no food is associated with French culture more than the baguette. The long, slim loaf of crusty bread is a daily staple in many households and is often eaten plain or filled with jamon beurre or ham and butter.

Where to get it: Boulangerie Utopie, 20 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 75011

The famous boulangerie in the 11th sells a platonically perfect baguette, but to rationalize all the time you spent in the (typically) long line, you should also pick up a pain au chocolat, tarte aux fraises (strawberry tarte) and anything else from the selection of pastries and breads.

Tip: If you're short on time and cannot make it to Boulangerie Utopie, don't fret. Do like most locals do: Walk to the closest bakery outside your door and buy your baguette there.

Charcuterie

Plate of terrine with greens and pickled veggies
Les Arlots
Image: Linda K/Tripadvisor

The word charcuterie comes from the French words chair (flesh) and cuit (cooked.) For centuries in France (like elsewhere), artisans have been using all parts of the animal to reduce waste and curing the meat to preserve it. Besides dried meats like saucisson sec, soft charcuterie includes pate (spreadable meat, fat, and seasonings), terrine (similar to pate, but with thicker chunks of meat and sometimes vegetables), and foie gras (specially fattened goose liver)—and all are common on menus in Paris today.

Where to get it: Les Arlots, 136 Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière, 75010

The tiny menu at the cozy, much-lauded bistro in the 20th changes often, but they'll always offer complimentary saucisson slices to start. A reliable standard is the saucisse-purée, an herby sausage atop a bed of mashed potatoes that may be mostly butter.

Tip: Make a reservation. The restaurant is popular, and the space is small.

Croque Monsieur

Croque monsieur with side salad
Cafe Les Deux Magots
Image: Meghan C/Tripadvisor

Although the exact origins of the Croque Monsieur aren't totally clear, the classic French sandwich first started popping up on Parisian café menus around 1910 and has been a popular lunch option or afternoon snack ever since. Croque means "to crunch" in French, which will make sense when you bite into one. A ham and cheese sandwich, usually made with Gruyère or Emmental, is grilled or fried, then topped with béchamel sauce.

Where to get it: Cafe Les Deux Magots, 6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006

You will definitely find a croque on bistro menus all over the city, including this perennially buzzy, historic cafe in Saint-Germain.

Tip: A croque madame is a variation on the monsieur, topped with a fried egg.

Regan Stephens
Regan Stephens is a Philadelphia-based travel writer and co-founder of Saltete, a publishing platform for creating niche travel guides. Her work has appeared in outlets including Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, and The New York Times.