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My Paris Notebook: My Six Favourite Meals in The City of Lights

the frisée aux lardons of my dreams from La Plomb du Cantal
We might not travel the way other people do. We almost never stay in a hotel, preferring to rent an apartment in a more residential area so that, along with having more room as far as lodgings go, we kind of get a taste of what it might be like to live there. We try to eat in typical neighbourhood restaurants, dining with the residents who live and work near by, preferring to make the occasional mistake while ordering off the menu in a language we are not fluent in over being given an english tourist menu upon being seated. We also don't hit all of the big tourist sites, instead choosing just a couple of them and spending the rest of our time getting lost and walking from morning til night.

I actually lived in Paris briefly when I was barely out of my teens and although I don't remember many details, I do recall that I loved Montmartre so when I went looking on airbnb, that was one of the neighbourhoods I was concentrating on. We ended up staying in the northern end of the 18th arrondissement at the butte of Montmartre and it was, indeed, very residential with lots of bakeries, cheese shops, grocery stores, cobblers, little hair salons and the cafe's and bistros were down to earth and full of Parisians who live there. 

We did not dine in any of the hot restaurants manned by young, rock star french chefs, no Michelin stars and nowhere that I had previously heard buzz about. We spent 7 days just walking around, discovering odd little pockets of the city and apart from two dinner reservations that I made before we left, we just stopped when a place looked like it might be a good spot to eat. If there was a gaggle of old guys, smoking and arguing loudly in french over lunch, that was our cue to grab a table.

If you are looking for a list of the trendiest, hottest places to check out, this list is not for you but, if you like to pretend you are a local for a week, read on.

The best way to start the day

We had our regular cafe, Le Championnet, where we started each day, huddling underneath the heaters to warm up with an expresso and a croissant. There is nothing special about this place since there are hundreds of cafes just like it all over the city, but this was OUR cafe and you have to find YOUR cafe that will be a short walk from your apartment or your hotel.

my morning view from my outdoor perch at La Championnet

I hope you love dogs
Every afternoon was punctuated with rosé pit stops for a bit of rest and people watching
I know this might not be a popular view, but I was not blown away by the restaurant food in Paris. Out of a solid 7 days in the city (we left to spend three days in Rome mid trip), I am only featuring a small handful of places that I liked enough to recommend. If we were there longer or if we return, I will do more shopping and cooking at home because the food that you can buy at the local butchers, cheese shops and produce stands is, on the other hand, out of this world.

 I don't want to have to feel like there is some secret code to crack, spend a small fortune or devote all of my time travelling from one hot spot to another to get great food and I found that most of what we ate was good but nothing spectacular, especially after we spent three day in Rome halfway through the trip where EVERYTHING we ate was delicious.

I know that I will probably get a million emails and responses yelling at me about the amazing places we didn't visit and I welcome that - I will build another list of places to eat when I return.

so much amazing food to be bought from small, local vendors, flowers everywhere

In the meantime, here are the places that I enjoyed in Paris:

Au Bon Coin

Okay, this family run Montmartre bistro was the very first place we ate on our very first day in Paris and we all agree that it was our favourite restaurant, overall. We seem to have very good first restaurant mojo because the same thing happened in Lisbon, in Rome, in Amman - we always wander into some little place, bleary eyed and jet lagged and that place ends up being the unanimous favourite by the end of the trip.

If you close your eyes and imagine a typical, Parisian, working class neighbourhood bistro, this is what you will see. The same tiny, rickety tables with wicker chairs line the exterior of every restaurant so that, if you choose, you can sit outside and people watch, enjoy the weather and chat with your friends as they pass by. If you would rather eat indoors, the bright, sunny interior is relaxed and welcoming, nothing fancy but clean and comfortable.

This was the best duck confit I had in Paris and also the cheapest
The wait staff are brusque but friendly and clearly not used to tourists as we were the only ones there each time we visited. It sits in a pretty residential neighbourhood so apart from people, like us, who might be renting an airbnb or a lost group of Germans, I think this is not on your list from Trip Advisor, but it should be. In fact, it only has about 30 non French reviews on Trip Advisor, so, there you go.

Paupiette de Veau with Mushroom Sauce

From our first mid day snack consisting of a charcuterie/cheese board with glasses of pale pink rose to our lunch dining on duck confit and paupiette de veau, both served with the most addictive duck fat fried potatoes with garlicky homemade mayonnaise, this little neighbourhood place delivered some of the tastiest food we ate on our entire trip.The food is simple, inexpensive, authentic and delicious, the wine list was surprisingly extensive and everything was, by Paris standards, very cheap.

Wine by the glass a very reasonable 3.20 euro, easily half the price of many of the other places we dined at

A gorgeous charcuterie/cheese plate, a glass of rose and we had a perfect lunch for three

If we lived in that apartment, this would be our "Cheers"

Au Bon Coin
49 Rue des Cloys,
75018, Paris, France
Phone: +33 1 46 06 91 36


Les Tantes Jeanne

Shack thought he ordered beef carpaccio but was quite pleased that the language kerfuffle brought this scallop carpaccio instead

I made reservations here so that we could enjoy at least once fancypants dinner to serve as our official celebration of The Kid's high school graduation and impending entrance to university in the fall. After an exhaustive research, I finally decided on Les Tantes Jeanne and hoped for the best as this one was not one of the places recommended by friends and on the higher end of our usual dining budget.

Arriving at 7:30 we were, as always, the first people to arrive but the staff did not treat us like silly tourists eating like seniors in Florida for one second. The service was attentive without being overbearing, gracious and patient with our rusty french. They have a really nice wine list with some eye watering prices at the top end of the scale but, luckily, they also have some lovely bottles that won't break the bank.

Everything we ate here was delicious and despite the quality and playfulness of the food, it was not nearly as expensive as I would have expected. Sadly, we ate here for dinner and the restaurant is a bit dark in the way that it is romantic and beautiful but difficult to get great photos without looking like a total boorish idiot, but trust me, the food was beautifully presented and I would love to return during the day just to eat and take beautiful photographs to share.

our complimentary amuse bouche of salmon wrapped in paper thin radish with foam

Standouts were the scallop carpaccio, a seafood bowl full of tiny clams and other creatures of the sea and my mushroom stuff pasta in broth.

The Kid devoured this bowl of seafood in a light broth

Wild mushroom stuff pasta in a ginger broth with creme fraiche

Iberian pork chop with mashed potatoes, lightly sauced, perfectly cooked

A grass fed, local cow provided this beautiful medium rare steak. Meri Mme Vache 

Pigeon with roasted vegetables for The Kid

The carnage on The Kid's plate should tell you how good it was

Les Tantes Jeanne
42 Rue Veron
75018 Paris
phone: 01 42 51 14 21

Open every day from 12:00 to 15:00 for lunch
18:00 to 02:00

La Mandigotte

We all enjoyed our dinner here, in the heart of Montmartre but the clear winner of the evening was The Kid's little crock of fois gras baked with egg - Oeuf cocotte au foie gras. If I could only order one dish here, I would be happy with my own little croque of silky fois gras with a basket of crusty bread and cold, salty butter. 

 the best 8euro we spent that day.

The only real disappointment was that there was a huge, private party downstairs when we arrived and it seems that they ordered all of the rabbit in mustard sauce (Lapin à la moutarde for 13euro) so, despite being the first patrons in the actual restaurant upstairs, the rabbit was sold out already. I actually made the reservation here because I wanted to introduce this dish to The Kid and they had it on the menu. He ordered tartare instead and, although gorgeous, ice cold and really fresh, he found the added flavourings overpowering and oddly sweet. Luckily, he had the fois gras to fall back on and he ate the rest of stuff on his plate as well as a large slice of tarte tartin for dessert, followed by a banana, biscoff, chocolate street cart crepe later on that evening, so don't feel badly for him.
 I do want to be clear that this tartare was very good and his issues with the flavour were due to his personal palate because I found it to be perfectly executed and tasty.

My Boeuf Bourguignon was hearty and filling and exactly what I was hoping for so that was a win. Shack's steak was very good and although he found the French Onion Soup a bit lackluster, overall, he enjoyed his meal very much. All in all, a really lovely little place with nice ambiance, friendly service and good food. I hear the rabbit is delicious.

The steak was very nice, cooked perfectly although the plate looked a bit sparse - I do like a bit of food staging lol

Tarte Tartin was a perfect end to the meal

Sandwiches from a BERTRAND'S Paris Notre Dame

Rainbow coloured meringues the size of a baby's head!

Paris is not a cheap city to eat in and the restaurant meals really start to add up. Add in the dodgy fare in the more touristy areas and you can start to get a bit frustrated so that is when you realize that the best lunch option is often to grab a sandwich at a Boulangerie. One of our favourite's is this place, Bertrand's but there is a bakery on almost every corner, each one selling lovely sandwiches, wedges of eggy tarts, pastries and other sweets. Some are a bit better than others, but I find them to be consistently good and you just can't go wrong, wherever you choose.

For the price of buying lunch for one person in a restaurant, the three of of us dined on two delicious, sandwiches (most are big enough to share), drinks and a huge almond sable, sitting outside of Notre Dame Cathedral on a bench. If you ask me, this is the only way to lunch when in this part of the city.

The view from our park bench/picnic spot

Bertrand's Paris Notre Dame
10 Rue Lagrange, 75005 Paris, France
+33 1 43 25 37 00


 La Plomb Du Cantal Rive Droite

a terrible photo of the best French Onion Soup I have ever had

The Kid and I had lunch here and the food was so good, we returned that same day for supper.

He chose this restaurant when we were out walking and even though I was skeptical, he said that there was a group of old dodgers sitting outside, smoking and drinking coffee and, since that is one of our barometers for finding a great place to eat, we grabbed an outdoor table under the heaters.

This is a restaurant serving food from the Auvergne region of France and their specialty is Aligot, a ridiculously creamy, cheese dish that looks like the love child of mashed potatoes and cheese fondue. They also make Truffade (the potato cooked slowly in goose fat and then mixed with tons of tome fraiche  and mixed until it's a stringy, gooey, delicious, cheesy mess) which is very similar but prepared with the potatoes left in chunks and since we have had Aligot before, we thought we would try out the other version. This was the most sinfully rich, indulgent dish either of us had tasted on the entire trip. Every forkful brought strings of chewy cheese all the way to your mouth, it was so rich and creamy, loaded with garlic and stringy cheese. Amazing.

Despite the fact that my Frisée aux Lardons came in a giant bowl with, what felt like, a pound of crispy lardon, I managed to finish the entire thing. Yup, we were coming back and bringing Shack.

We returned that very night and the place was jam packed so we were lucky to snag a table upstairs. Maybe because it was so busy, the service was aloof and the house specialty we enjoyed so much at lunch, Truffade  was very different from the truffade we ate at lunch (the lunch truffade was light in colour, every bite involved giant strings of cheese and it was rich and creamy beyond belief but the evening dish was darker in colour and much less cheesy)

My sausages and side salad were fine, The Kid's Stuffed Cabbage was delicious and the French Onion Soup was probably the largest and the tastiest any of us have ever had. Sadly, Shack's steak came blue instead of medium rare and so it had to go back. By the time it was returned to the table, it was properly cooked but the truffade was now congealed and cold and after a couple bites of steak, it was clear that Shack got a bad cut of meat - it was all sinewy and chewy and full of gristle. It took so long to get the busy waiter's attention that, by this time, the rest of the meal was finished and when the bill came, the barely touched steak dinner was still on the bill and it took another ten minutes to get a manager to come talk to me. After much cajoling , he finally agreed to remove the uneaten steak dinner from the bill, but the damage was done. A mostly great meal was tainted by one bad steak and bad service.

So, it is with slight reservations I recommend it but our lunch was remarkable and our dinner, apart from the steak, was very good. I will also add that some young men beside us were eating am Omlette with ham and the potatoes mixed in and it looked amazing, smelled amazing, they were all moaning and groaning and, again, it looked it could of fed the three of us and if we ever return, we are sharing one of those for lunch.

I really wanted to go and just ask if I could photograph their omelettes but The Kid intervened so I had to snap a sneaky pic through the glass

Order wisely and maybe go for lunch and remember that portions are HUGE.

Le Plomb du Cantal Rive Droite
4 Boulevard Saint-Denis, 75010 Paris, France


L'Etoile de Montmartre

terrain made in house, beautiful selection of meats, a slab of salty butter and basket of bread. Perfect
My only regret was not finding this little gem until our last night. I was too tired and too full after the beautiful charcuterie board to finish my dinner although, in my defence, my crispy roast pork would have easily fed all three of us. Shack broke down and ordered a burger and was thrilled to bite into a perfectly cooked medium burger, still full of slightly pink meat at the centre and the afore mentioned charcuterie board was one of the best we had in Paris. 

our waiter offered to make us a special gin cocktail that was off menu and I am so grateful to him
 Our waiter was also the bartender and he offered to make The Kid and I his signature gin cocktail, which was amazing, and gave us really wonderful service. It was also one of the few places still open at about 10pm on a Sunday night in our neighbourhood, which is a good thing to know.

This is another small bistro in a residential neighbourhood that does not appear to see a ton of tourist traffic and very little english was spoken but they were lovely and patient, again, and we all managed to get along swimmingly. This is another place that we all agree would be our weekly charcuterie/wine later night haunt. There are two rooms inside and the obligatory outdoor seating, lots of tables and has a lovely, relaxed ambience.

The menu said something about pork and pastry but what I got were these three giant chunks of delicious roast pork covered in crispy pork skin so I don't care that it didn't match up to the menu lol

A perfect, medium burger was actually a pleasant surprise in a city not known for it's burgers

L'Etoile de Montmartre
26 Rue Duhesme, 75018 Paris, France
phone:  +33 1 46 06 11 65


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