Our son scarfing down the whipped cream off of our chocolat viennois | Photo by Catherine O’Hara

Ah Paris. The ‘city of love’ is one of the top foodie destinations in the world. Whether you are looking for the best croissants and baguettes for breakfast, shopping for seasonal produce at the market for a picnic, discovering regional specialties for lunch, or indulging in haute cuisine for dinner, there really is something for everyone. Following are just some of the most famous Parisian must eats to try while you are visiting. Believe me there is so much more to explore. But this is just to get you started. Of course French wine is a given if you are of drinking age and do partake. But that is something to drink so I didn’t add it to the list below. Nevertheless, consider it a bonus ‘must eat.’ Enjoy.

1) Baguettes

Baguette tradition | Photo by Jacyln

2) Croissants

Croissants, pain au chocolats, and briochettes at Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Terroirs d’Avenir | Photo by Jacyln

Other than baguettes, if there is one thing our son loves for breakfast it is his croissants (actually its pain au chocolat for him. But they are is still made with the same laminated dough as croissants so it loosely counts. lol.). As for myself, I can go for a plain, flaky croissant every time. Afterall, it is the petit-déjeuner (breakfast) of choice for French locals, paired along with coffee of course. So when in Paris, do as they do and order the same. But don’t forget to say hello first and politely ask, “Bonjour. Je voudrais un café et un croissant s’il vous plaît” (Hello. I would like 1 coffee and 1 croissant please.). Oh and don’t forget to thank them once you receive your order, “Merci“.

3) Crêpes and Galettes

Crêpe flambéed with fine de Bretagne at Breizh Cafe | Photo by Jacyln

Did you know that there are both sweet and savory crêpes? Well if you didn’t know, now you do. Legend has it that a 13th-century housewife in Brittany accidentally spilled a thin amount of buckwheat porridge from a kettle onto a flat cooking stone. In those days, nothing was wasted. So she ate it and the rest is history.

In modern day France, crêpes for sweet recipes are made with white flour. Savory crêpes known as galettes, on the other hand, stick to a traditional buckwheat flour base; as a result they are browner in color and nuttier in flavor. Crêpes are commonly served as sweet snacks topped with sugar, nutella, fruit or any combination of dessert toppings. They can also be served plain or better yet flambéed with Bretagne (see picture above), Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, or orange Curaçao liqueur. Galettes, on the other hand, can be rolled into appetizers (e.g. fig and camembert cheese) or folded into hearty main courses (e.g. ham with butter, comte cheese, and a sunny side up egg). And if you are going to order this Breton favorite, don’t forget to pair it with Normandy cider!

4) Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame

Croque Madame at Le Royal | Photo by Jacyln

A Croque Monsieur is a grilled French ham and cheese sandwich. A Croque Madame is the same as a Croque Monsieur but with a luscious egg on top. They are both akin to a grilled cheese but with ham and crustier rustic bread. Both versions make for a wonderful breakfast.

5) Jambon Beurre

Jambon beurre baguette sandwich | Photo by Jacyln

The essence of jambon beurre are sandwiches made with 3 simple ingredients: ham, butter, and baguette. From there you will find variations with cheese, gherkins, and/or lettuce. The picture above is just a simple ham and butter that I bought from a neighborhood boulangerie that is sadly no longer around. But maybe the next time I go to Paris, I will have to do a taste test scavenger hunt for the best jambon beurre.

6) Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée

“Les Halles” Onion Soup Aug Gratin at Au Pied de Cochon | Photo by Jacyln

French onion soup, known as soupe à l’oignon gratinée in France, is an ultra comforting starter and the preferred hangover cure for many French households. The classic French version of onion soup is made with deeply caramelized yellow onions and beef stock, topped with a hearty piece of bread gratinéed with melted cheese (such as gruyere). You can find great renditions of this quintessential favorite at Au Pied de Cochon, La Jacobine, and Bistrot des Vosges.

7) Escargot

Escargot de Bourgogne | Photo by NatashaBreen, Depositphotos

Escargots de Bourgogne is a common worldwide recipe for preparing Burgundy snails (species Helix pomatia or Roman snail). Snails are baked in a traditional ceramic dish with garlic, butter, and parsley sauce. It is nice to sop up the herb butter with crusty bread.

8) Plateaux de Fruits de Mer

Plateaux de Fruits de Mer at Au Pied de Cochon | Photo by Jacyln

When it comes to Paris, you may not think of seafood as a French regional specialty. But if you look at France’s geography, it has four coastlines – the North Sea, English Channel, Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. That is a combined coastline length of 2,129 miles (3,427 km). With such easy access to the ocean and sea, it is no wonder that French cuisine is so deeply rooted in seafood. Paris has a plethora of fresh fish and shellfish it can have delivered daily from its coastal neighbors. So if you are ready to splurge, try a plateaux de fruits de mer (seafood platter) at least once. You can find varying towers of fresh rock oysters, flat oysters, clams, scallops, whelks, lobster, crab, langoustines, prawns, and shrimp.

9) Steak Frites

Entrecôte de boeuf “Fort des Halles” (Irish cut ribeye) and kids steak haché de boeuf (minced beef burger), both with fries at Au Pied de Cochon | Photo by Jacyln

Steak frites is a great introductory dish for Paris newcomers to enjoy. It looks familiar to steak and fries in the US, but it carries extra panache with flavorful seasonings and sauces like béarnaise. But if you are dining with a picky eater who likes their meat plain, this is one of the easier dishes to ask for sauces on the side. The frites or fries are of course a big hit with adults and kids alike. Common cuts of beef include entrecôte (ribeye steak), faux filet (sirloin steak), rumsteak (rump steak), bavette (skirt steak), and onglet (flank steak). If there is a kids menu, you may see steak haché de boeuf normand a la plancha (minced beef burger patty cooked on a metal plate) or just steak haché de boeuf (minced beef burger patty).

10) Moules Frites

Moules Frites at Léon de Bruxelles | Photo by Jacyln

An imported Flemish dish beloved in France and the national dish of Belgium, moules frites are mussels steamed in white wine, butter, and shallots. They are also usually accompanied with crispy golden fries (a strategic favorite to share when eating out with kids and picky eaters).

11) Confit de Canard

Confit de Canard | Photo by Piyato, Depositphotos

Confit de canard (duck confit) is my personal favorite. It is duck slow cooked in its own fat until it is seductively tender; the skin is then seared to a crispy golden brown. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. It is probably why I don’t have any pictures of this dish myself. This is one meal I eat unwaveringly first with cameras as an afterthought. I just can’t help myself.

12) Chocolat Chaud or Chocolat Viennois

Chocolat Viennois with whipped cream at Les Deaux Magots and Cafés Richard | by Jacyln

Hot chocolate in Paris is much thicker than the powdered cocoa variety you find in America. Traditional Parisian hot chocolate, known as chocolat chaud, is made with a richer density of melted dark chocolate (not cocoa) and heavy cream. You can get your French hot chocolate with whipped cream (chocolat viennois) or without whipped cream (chocolat chaud). If you couldn’t tell from the very first photo in this article, my son loves whipped cream. So when we order a chocolat viennois we always ask for A LOT of whipped cream. Hot chocolates are convenient to get at cafes if you don’t drink coffee. But the most popular place for chocolat chaud is at Angelina’s where they are made of high quality chocolate and served in ceramic pitchers. It is quite rich and decadent there; so make sure you ask for a carafe d’eau (carafe of water) while you are ordering. If you do want to visit Angelina’s, be sure to also line up early. It gets really busy. Otherwise, drop by any number of sidewalk cafes (like Les Deaux Magots or Cafés Richard) to enjoy a nice cup of chocolate while you leisurely spend the afternoon people watching.

13) Profiterole

Profiteroles are choux puff pastries filled with vanilla ice cream with warm chocolate sauce ceremoniously poured on top. You simply must order this for this dessert at least once in Paris. It is utterly rich and satisfying.

14) Pastries

Assorted pastries at Les Gourmandises D’ Eiffel | Photo by Jacyln

There are so many delicious pastries to enjoy. They are a feast for your eyes available almost everywhere. The best place to get them of course are at Patisseries and other specialty shops (such as Pierre Hermé or Ladurée for macarons). Boulangeries may also feature a smaller selection. The most popular pastries are eclairs, macarons, madeleines, Mont Blanc, pain au chocolat, Paris-brest, and tarte au pomme.

15) Cheese

Cheese display at La Fromagerie de Grenelle | Photo by Jacyln

There are so many varieties to choose from. Fromagerie’s (cheese shops) are theme parks of wonder for foodies. If you are unsure of what to try, start off with a Comté. It is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France bordering Switzerland and it tastes like a cross between gruyere and cheddar. But even if you are not a diehard cheese fan, visit a Fromagerie at least once. If nothing else, you can pick up the best beurre salé (salted butter) for your baguette. Please note though, if you pick-up raw soft cheese and don’t eat it right away the pungency will carry a lingering strong scent in your hotel room. Stinky cheese is delicious if you are into them. But learn from my mistake and be courteous to your fellow travelers. Also, if you are pregnant, you should avoid soft cheese as well as they may be unpasteurized (don’t forget about those lovely bries in jamon and brie sandwiches).

Last updated July 9, 2023 by Jacyln

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About Jacyln

Jacyln is a luxury culinary travel advisor, Japanese tea ceremony practitioner, and frequent traveler to Europe and Asia. When she is visiting France, she is often looking for regional specialties that her clients and whole family will enjoy.

What are your favorite must eats when visiting Paris or other regions in France?

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