Paris’ cafe culture emerged in the mid-19th century as a form of self-expression, back when intellectuals gathered to share their latest artistic works on outdoor, sidewalk-facing seating. Today, this café culture is alive and well: on nearly every street you turn, there’s an opportunity to sit and enjoy a coffee or croissant.
As for Parisian dining, you can expect a slow and intimate dining experience with minimally processed entrees. When ordering, you can’t go wrong with a Coq au Vin, French Onion Soup, or Blanquette de Veau. Keep reading for five must-visit cafés and restaurants, as well as my favorite gelato shop in Paris.
1. Les Deux Margots
Located in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Les Deux Margots has always been a popular café for the intellectual elite of Paris. Many notable figures have dined at this cafe, including Jean-Paul Sartre and Ernest Hemingway, who wrote about Paris’ café culture in his book “A Moveable Feast.” I highly recommend this book if you want to take a peek into the atmosphere of Paris in the 1920s. Les Deux Margots is also the perfect place to stop if you’re looking for a quick bite to eat: a croissant, slice of bread with butter and jam, or hot drink. The café is a convenient alternative to the bustling Café de Flore across the street.
2. Café Oberkampf
If you are health-minded or prefer to eat vegetarian or vegan, Café Oberkampf is a great spot for you. This hole-in-the-wall café in Saint-Ambroise has a great variety of healthy selections. When visiting Paris, it’s easy to get caught in a routine of eating croissants, bread and butter, and pasta for every meal. Café Oberkampf is a nice departure from classic French food because it offers healthy breakfast staples, including granola, overnight oats, and avocado toast.
3. Café de Flore
While the coffee is good at Café de Flore, what you’re really paying for is the experience. This café is arguably one of the most popular spots in Paris–and it comes with a long and interesting history filled with famous clientele and celebrity meet-ups. Founded in 1887 under France’s Third Republic during World War II, Café de Flore was a safe haven that was not interfered with nor destroyed during German occupation. Later, the café grew to be a central hub for intellectuals such as Georges Bataille, Robert Desnos, Léon-Paul Fargue, Raymond Queneau, and Pablo Picasso.
4. Chez Janou
Chez Janou has a classic café-style experience with crowded seating, lively music, and colorful decor. Book a reservation in advance because the food does not disappoint! I ordered the Ravioles du Dauphiné, Ratatouille tiède, Risotto d’épeautre, and several orders of the Pommes de terre à la normande. The ratatouille was also incredible. Vegetable dishes aren’t as common in France, but a ratatouille dish is a must-try while visiting Paris. Pair whatever you order with a red wine to elevate your dining experience.
5. Pink Mamma
The Italian food is great here! Frustratingly so because everyone seems to know about this dining spot. You can always count on a line out the door, no matter what time you arrive. The restaurant decor is charming and elevated: the staircase walls are covered with vintage paintings and pictures, the upstairs dining section is adorned in floor to ceiling foliage, and the downstairs dining section and bar offers a subtle retro feel. As for the food, I recommend the Big Star Burrata as an appetizer, Pasta alle Vongole for your first course, and Mamma’s Steak Cut for your main course. The Mammargherita Pizza Napoletana is also delicious.
Favorite Dessert Spot: Amorino Gelato
If you manage to eat all of the food listed above, I hope you save room for dessert! Amorino is an Italian gelato shop based in Orly, France. Founded in 2002, this gelato shop has locations all over Paris, as well as in other locations in Europe, Asia, United States and Mexico. Amorino’s gelato is denser than ice cream due to its higher proportion of milk and slow churn process. Try it and see for yourself–you’ll find yourself eating Amorino’s rich gelato for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
There’s no question that Paris has a lot of delicious food to offer. The true question is: do you have enough time to visit all the cafés and restaurants? If you’re interested in learning more about my trips to Paris, check out my articles on the Top 16 Sites to Visit in Paris, France and Trip to Paris, France: Visiting the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Arc du Triomphe. Thank you for visiting!