"This is a city brimming with choice, and among the good is a lot of mediocre."
It's easy to get swept away by the magic of Paris and miss some of the city's best dining. And that isn't so horrible—you could do worse than nibbling on a baguette from a random boulangerie with goat cheese from the market. But if you're interested in approximating the glorious eating habits of actual Parisians, plan ahead. Here, find three tips for eating your way through Paris without regrets.
1. Don't wing it.
Lindsey Tramuta, Paris resident and author of The New Paris, says this is the most important rule you can follow. As romantic as wandering upon random cafés may seem, you'll want to stick to a plan, or else you could be very disappointed.
"Do your research before arriving or at least scope out a handful of canteens, bakeries, and restaurants that have been vetted by trusted sources—like locals journalists and food writers," she says. Tramuta recommends David Lebovitz’s blog, Paris by Mouth, and Le Fooding as reliable sources.
"The trouble with improvising: this is a city brimming with choice, and among the good is a lot of mediocre," she says. "When you’re starving and are judging on menu alone, the chances of landing on something completely average or good but overpriced is high. Another downside is the annoying trend of restaurants not accepting reservations."
2. Scroll Instagram.
We officially give you permission to check Instagram on your vacation, even though you promised to yourself this trip would be about "unplugging and recentering." Let's say you didn't plan ahead with a list of must-visit spots. Instagram is, surprisingly enough, a quick resource for dining within specific neighborhoods. Investigate geotags so you can see what the food (probably) looks like.
"Instagram is a fairly decent way to get a sense of what’s available," says Tramuta. "Using the right search terms or checking the feeds of in-the-know locals can lead you in the right direction."
3. Book an apartment.
On a recent trip to Paris, I booked an elegant little apartment in Saint-Germain-de-Prés through Sweet Inn, a startup founded in 2014 that offers guests "vacation apartments" in top tourist destinations with hotel-like amenities (toiletries, Nespresso machines, adaptors.) My goal? To have a big, user-friendly kitchen where I could prepare meals with all of the treasures I found at Marche Raspail, the largest organic farmers' market in France. Indeed, having a well-outfitted kitchen with essentials like oil, salt, and pepper transforms the experience of visiting Paris—I could pretend I lived there, and I could try so much more of the local products, since I had proper storage and cooking tools.
If you're staying at a hotel, sans kitchen, you're limited to buying foods you don't need to cook, like fresh bread, fruits, cheeses, and prepared foods (which, of course, would make a spectacular picnic at the nearby Jardin du Luxembourg.) But armed with an airy apartment kitchen, I could purchase chard, squash, and fresh eggs for quiche, allowing me to enjoy some of the best ingredients, products, breads, and dairy in the Paris area.