One of the things that I’ve come to love most about travel is food. It is also one of the places where I’ve experienced the most growth in my life. (Recovering picky eater right here!)
When I studied abroad, I saved all my money for travel. I skipped restaurants and lived off plain pasta (with olives if I felt a little extravagent!) and bread when I was at home in Florence. With each trip I took, I tried to push myself a little further beyond my comfort zone with food, even though I was still on a tiny budget. When Tom and I started traveling on our honeymoon, we both had a lot to learn, but over the years, we’ve become more adventurous and are more excited to try different foods when we travel.
In the last year, we have taken both of our parents on their first trip to France. We tried to come up with a list of the best foods to try in Paris – and where we think the best places to try these foods are in Paris. I’m excited to share this list with my readers, as I know that finding places to eat in Paris was a challenge for us while we learned more about French food and what we liked.
Note: This is not meant to be an all-encompassing list of every single food in Paris or in France. Food is subjective. Restaurants are subjective. We do A LOT of research, but we also need things that are easy from time to time. These are a few foods that we’ve really enjoyed trying in Paris. We’ve tried multiple restaurants, and we’ve been to all of the places listed here multiple times. When applicable, I’ve shared some of my favorite Paris restaurants where we’ve tried and enjoyed certain foods, but with so many restaurants in Paris, it would be impossible to try them all.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for tours and products I love at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
My friend and home cook extraordinarire, Larisa, likes to make fun of me because I didn’t like croissants until I came to Paris. I thought croissants in the United States were greasy and overrated. And then I came to Paris… and now some of my favorite foods to try in Paris are the pastries, particularly the Viennoiserie variety. Viennoiserie pastries originated in Austria and were brought to France in the 1800s. These are the flaky, buttery, layered pastries that can take up three days to make. Personally, I think almond croissants are some of the best Viennoiserie in Paris, but I also love fresh pain au chocolat in the morning.
There is no shortage of boulangeries in Paris, so choose a couple close to you to try over the course of your stay. Viennoiserie that are handmade will vary in size and shape. If a croissant or pain au chocolat look a little too perfectly shaped, they are probably machine made. It doesn’t mean they won’t be good, but if you’re looking for handmade Viennoiserie, you’ll be looking for the imperfect pastries. If you are in a pinch, we like Eric Kayser. (Tom especially loves their pain aux frommage.)
Comte and French Cheeses
Hear me out. Cheese in the United States is not the same as cheese in France (or Italy). Trust. And, for some people, it’s an acquired taste. (I am people. People is me.) Through numerous food tours in Paris, I am learning to love French cheeses. The best introduction to French cheese is by taking this wine and cheese class in Paris. I’ve taken it three times, and every time, I go a little bit deeper into French cheeses.
If you’re just starting out, I recommend trying Comte. Comte is a staple of French cheeses, and it’s the least overwhelming one to start with. I recommend starting with an 18-month Comte (or older, if you like hard cheeses). If you want a softer French cheese, I LOVE Reblochon. It’s divine on a warm baguette. I can make a meal out of that.
You can find French cheeses at any grocery store, but the good stuff lives with the cheese mongers. You can take cheese home from France, it just has to be vacuum-sealed. I HIGHLY recommend leaving room in your suitcase for cheese as a souvenir. The stuff you can find in the United States is *not* the same.
TRY: Paris Cheese and Wine Tasting (5 wines, 5 cheeses!) // BUY: La Melodie des Fromages, 4 Rue Bellart, 75015 (15th arrondissement)
Soupe à l’oignon
Is French onion soup just onion soup in France? I think so. There’s no descrption identifying it as a l’oignon de Francais, but every English translation will identify it as French onion soup. Never you mind, if you find onion soup, order it.
Made correctly, onion soup is a rich, meaty broth of cooked onions, soft bread, and comte cheese. Often served in a ceramic crock, it stays warm throughout your meal. (Why aren’t more soups served like this?!) It’s perfect for cold winter days in Paris and is the perfect way to whet your appetite or hold you over through lunch.
Every restaurant makes this dish a little bit differently, which means everyone has a preference on their onion soup. My favorite version is heavy on the broth and onions with very little cheese. My mom prefers her onion soup heavy on the cheese. Whatever your preference, don’t miss this classic French dish. It’s one of the foods to try in Paris.
TRY: Le Souffle (for cheese lovers), 36 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001 (1st arrondissement), Sacre Fleur (for a simple, elegant version), 50 Rue de Clignancourt, 75018 (18th arrondissement), and Bistrot Richelieu, 45 Rue de Richelieu, 75001 (1st arrondissement) .
Look, I get it. Beef Bourguignon is not native to Paris. It is from the Burgundy region, but if this is your first trip to France, it is unlikely that you will be headed to Burgundy. Beef Bourguignon is a rich beef stew made with a red wine sauce, seasonal vegetables, and sometimes served over potatoes or pasta to make it last longer. Personally, I prefer the stew on its own. The rich flavors are perfect in the fall and early spring.
This was an acquired taste for me, as I typically tried to avoid stew. It wasn’t until I fell in love with Peposo in Tuscany that I realized what I was missing with Beef Bourguignon. It’s often a hearty and inexpensive meal in an expensive city.
Once you try the beef bourguignon (and like it), you can elevate the experience by having it served a souffle. Tom rates this meal as a 11/10, and it’s one of his favorite restaurants to book in Paris.
TRY: Le Septième Vin (classic Beef Bourguignon), 68 Av. Bosquet, 75007 (7th arrondissement) // TRY: Chez Dumonet, 17 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 (6th arrondissement) // TRY: Le Souffle for Beef Bourguignon souffle, 36 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001, (1st arrondissement)
Grand Marnier Souffle
We cannot talk about the best foods to try in Paris without talking about the Grand Marnier souffle (or any sweet souffle for that matter). Grand Marnier is an orange liquor made of Cognac, bitter orange, and sugar, and it perfectly complements a beautiful souffle. A souffle is whipped eggs, butter, a bit of flour, and can be made savory or sweet. When made correctly, it rises beautifully with a golden crust. A good souffle has a fluffy, smooth texture that allows you to taste the flavors and not the individual ingredients. It’s considered one of the most difficult desserts to make, as any abrupt changes to the cooking environment can cause the souffle to fall.
While I love a great chocolate souffle, I think you have to try the Grand Marnier souffle at least once.
TRY: Bistro Paul Bert, 18 Rue Paul Bert, 75011 (11th arrondissement)
Of all the foods to try in Paris, this is probably the most adventurous for me. We don’t eat a lot of duck in the United States. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it on the menu, to be quite honest. But, when traveling, I’m always a bit more adventurous. I was listening to a podcast, and they were sharing more about how duck confit is prepared – and I was hooked. Crispy on the outside, succulent on the inside, and served with garlicky potatoes? I was convinced to try it.
Duck is tricky. If it’s overcooked, it’s burned on the outside and dry and stringy on the inside. Because of the propensity of Americans to request overcooked meats, I’ve ended up with more than few overcooked duck confit. The best thing you can do is allow the French to prepare meat how they like it cooked. (This is true of both duck and steak.) When left to the their own devices, you can end up with a lovely meal cooked perfectly.
While I probably wouldn’t order duck at home, it is one of those foods to try in Paris. Now, I will order different versions of duck, the most memorable being a sliced duck filet served with a mango sauce. There is also a duck pasta at one of my favorite restaurants in Florence that is UNREAL. I would have never tried it if I hadn’t tried duck confit in Paris.
TRY: Bistrot des Victories, 6 Rue de la Vrillière, 75001 (1st arrondissement) // Josephine Chez Dumonet, 17 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 (6th arrondissement)
Steak au Poivre
Since we are already talking about allowing the French to do what they do best, let’s discuss bouef, and more specifically filet au poivre. Steak au poivre is served with a peppercorn sauce, and it’s one of my favorite dishes. This is another place where I encourage you to allow the French to cook the steak as they would cook it for themselves. The result is a flavorful, tender piece of beef, flavored with black pepper, and served with a peppery cognac-cream sauce. This is another dish where there is not a uniform recipe, so it is possible to end up with different versions of it. Le Petit Châtelet serves a steak au poivre that is less creamy and more peppery.
My absolute favorite steak au poivre in Paris is at Bistro Paul Bert. It’s also served with the best fries that are always crispy and piping hot. My favorite Paris steakhouse, Sacre Fleur, serves a pepper sauce on the side of their steaks, but they also make a delicious shallot sauce, and it’s difficult for me to choose which one I prefer!
TRY: Bistro Paul Bert, 18 Rue Paul Bert, 75011 (11th arrondissement)
Bûche de Noël at Christmas
The buche de Noel is a traditional yule log cake that is served at Christmastime in Paris. My first introduction to the Buche de Noel came from a magazine that I was reading at the spa at the Park Hyatt Paris in December 2019. They were talking about Francois Perret’s version for the Ritz Paris, which was an absolute work of art. It was a chocolate hazelnut masterpiece.
In 2020-2021, I studied Perret’s pastry cookbook and realized that I didn’t have the skills to create these pastries at home. That’s when I found out that the Ritz Paris offers pastry and cooking classes.
When we returned to Paris in December 2021, we weren’t able to get at table to try Perret’s newest version at Bar Vendome and the Buche de Noel pastry class was full. However, we did purchase Perret’s buche de Noel from Le Comptoir to enjoy over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in our hotel room. It was incredible, but nothing beats the ambiance at Bar Vendome. (It’s my favorite place in Paris for dessert and a nightcap.)
In 2022, I took 3 classes at the Ritz Escoffier cooking school: basic pastry, a week-long pastry class, and a Bûche de Noël class. The Buche de Noel class was certainly the most challenging course for me. The result turned out (almost) perfect and we enjoyed it throughout our stay in Paris.
I say all of this to say that every Buche de Noel I’ve ever seen has always been different. They are always delicious. It is absolutely worth trying the Bûche de Noël if you are spending Christmas in Paris. If you are feeling adventurous, you can always take a pastry class and bring your recipe home as a souvenir!
If you aren’t visiting at Christmastime, please try all the pastries. The pastry chefs in France are so talented. I love visiting various pastisseries, seeing what is on offer, and trying whatever looks good. Millefeuille, Madelienes, macarons are all perfect pastries to try in Paris, no matter what your experiences have been with them elsewhere. However, there are so many inspired creations to try.
I feel like I could do an entire post about all the different pastries to try in France. I’ll start with the Paris brest, which is made of choux pastry and filled with praline cream made with caramel, almonds and hazelnuts. When baked correctly, the choux pastry has a nice crunch and holds up well to the dense praline cream. What I love about the Paris brest is that none of the components are overly sweet.
I love the version at Paul Bert, but if you find it on the menu, try it! You can also take a pastry class and learn to make it!