When you think of French food, what immediately comes to mind?
If your first reaction was to say “toast” or “fries,” please, just no.
Besides being a completely magical city in its own right, Paris is home to some of the most delicious food you will ever eat. Rich, decadent, and flavorful are descriptors that can apply to literally almost everything I’ve eaten there, regardless of if it was savory or sweet. This city just does it right! But while you really can’t go wrong (I mean seriously, I ate foie gras and head cheese and enjoyed it…), there are 5 quintessential foods you just can’t miss.
So on that note, here are the 5 most iconic foods that you must find and try while you are in Paris!
Macs from a market street.
Anywhere, everywhere, all day. THEY ARE SO CUTE HOW COULD YOU RESIST. Besides the fact that I am mac-obsessed, these really are the perfect treat. Whether it was a little plate of baby macs welcoming us to our hotel or a bite or two for something sweet to finish off a meal, these guys are one of my favorite things about Paris (maybe because they are so readily available!? Or is it just because they make perfect photo ops? #dontknowdontcare).
If you want to feel fancy and are looking for a cute commemorative box to take home, head to Ladurée
(where they were purportedly invented decades ago). However, Ladurée can get pretty expensive. My preference is to make one gorgeous take-home box on the last day of the trip to share with family when I get back…but while in the city, I scour the local market streets, patisseries, and sweet shops for all the macs my heart desires.
One more tip – try a bunch of different flavors! You will be surprised at how creative some are. And quite honestly, I’ve never met a mac I didn’t like. Pistachio, hazelnut, raspberry (could be my fave), classic vanilla, coffee, blueberry, rose, lemon, black currant…the list could go on and on and on. Do yourself a favor and try them all!
See how large that spoon is? See how deep that bowl is? #allthemousse
Nothing is quite so decadent as eating chocolate mousse in Paris. I mean, come on! While I’m not one to discriminate against other mousses, the one you really need to get is from Chez Janou
. The bowl is bigger than your head, and it will be the most magnificent thing you’ve ever eaten in your life. You will dream about it…months, if not years, later. We split one bowl between the three of us and still had a little trouble finishing it. But finish it we did! At the end we were chocolate wasted (it’s real). Listen, I can’t say much else about this other than just please go and eat it. And if you DO get it…take a picture and post it with #choosetolivewonderfull because I need to relive the glory every so often. Thank me later!
Croque Monsieur / Madame
Croque Madame + Champagne = the perfect lunch upon arrival to the city.
Let’s talk about something that’s actually a meal: croque monsieur and croque madame. At it’s core, it’s essentially a glorified ham and cheese sandwich. But the addition of the béchamel and cheese on the outside of the bread takes it to the next level. The madame version has an over easy egg on top, which I would highly recommend. The sandwich was created to be a quick snack in cafés or bars, so you can find them most anywhere. That said, I would definitely get it at a sit-down restaurant / café instead of a patisserie or take-away storefront so you get the whole effect of the creamy, gooey deliciousness (most take-aways are pre-made and then heated in a toaster oven).
Croissants / Baguettes
A chocolate almond croissant on the balcony is the best way to start the morning.
A bag of baguettes? Yes please!
Yes, I know croissants and baguettes are two very different things. But, I put them into one category because #bread. I don’t care how much bread you eat, when you get back to the States, you will wish you’d have eaten more. Be it a classic buttery croissant, a chocolate almond croissant, or a ham and cheese croissant, you need this flakey goodness in your life…for breakfast, for a snack, for any reason, really.
On the baguette front – get yourself some French butter, and bask in the goodness of this life. Any grocery or convenience store will have butter, but we found the best French salted butter at cheese shops and specialty shops. One of my best memories of the last trip to Paris is of my friend Sally buying a baguette and butter and sticking both in her purse for all three of us to snack on during the day. You guys, we ate an entire stick of butter that day. AN ENTIRE STICK. That is not healthy, but it was glorious and I think reflects how delicious said butter and bread can really be. We are missing out in the States, for real (but given this example, it’s probably for the best…). One other note: while you are in the patisserie, pick up anything else that looks good – now’s the time to try it all!
A savory crepe filled with ham, egg, and artichoke hearts.
The cool thing about crepes is that they can be plain, sweet, or savory. And come to think of it, the only crepes I had while in Paris were savory (given the rest of this list, you might understand why…gotta break up the sugar a bit at some point!). They come in all different forms, too: folded up kind of like an ice cream cone, flat, or stuffed and folded on a plate. Crepes are the choose your own adventure of Paris.
The best crepes we had were at Breizh Café
in Le Marais. Tip: there’s a shop next to the restaurant by the same name (allowing you to buy some of their goods to take home and cook with)…if the restaurant is busy, they will pull up some crates and create a table to serve you food in the shop! I would totally recommend that if you are able to pull it off – it was a really cool experience. Plus, this is where we found our butter!
A Word to the Wise: Live It UP!
I know there are likely tons of things I’ve missed that locals or those who have been there dozens of times would include. However, these items are all easy to find and budget-friendly (depending on how many macs you buy…), which is perfect for the first-time traveler.
Notable exemptions from this list include cheese, chocolate, wine, and champagne. Cheese and chocolate are just too generic – they are fabulous, but I just don’t have any specific recommendations there. If you’re looking for a local selection, I would check out Rue Cler – it’s a market street pretty close to the Eiffel Tower. It’s not touristy, so you’re sure to find a knowledgeable clerk that can give you great recommendations. And when it comes to wine and champagne…well, just make sure one accompanies each meal and you’ll be set 😉
My personal goal when in Paris is to “live my best life” – aka if I want it, I’m going to eat it. There is no macro counting, and no worrying about the sheer amount of bread and sugar I consume. LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR THAT, PEOPLE. The amount of protein and vegetables I ate on either trip to Paris was embarrassing, but did I regret it? NO. In fact, every time I’ve left, I’ve said something along the lines of “I wish I would have gotten that extra chocolate almond croissant…”
So go ahead. This is your permission. Get that extra croissant, and enjoy every. single. bite.