The 5 best things I ate in Paris: October-November 2013

I had this silly notion in my head that whenever I returned to Paris after I’d ‘officially left’, I’d run around revisiting the favorite restaurants I missed. After all, my Paris time was now limited to the occasional weekend here and there — did I really want to take a chance on new places that would possibly disappoint? Stick with what you know and all that, right?

Well, I went back four times in October and November, and I don’t think I went to a single one of my previous standbys (bars excluded, of course).

The thing about Paris is that you’ll never run out of new places to try — and that’s probably a good thing. Ruts are boring and Paris just has so darn much to offer.

I may be fond of my old haunts, but I’m pretty happy to have discovered these new ones too:

1. Steak and boudin noir — Le Severo

Steak and boudin noir, Le Severo, Paris by Expat Edna

A tiny corner restaurant that could easily be mistaken for just some locals’ joint, Le Severo consistently tops numerous “best steak in Paris” lists. It’s the kind of place where the owner doesn’t offer you a taste of wine after he opens the bottle, but instead sniffs the cork with a professional flourish and decides himself. It’s the kind of place where asking for your steak well-done will get you a shake of the head and an outright, “No.” So keep it simple, order the boudin noir to start, the côte de boeuf a point (or for some real respect, saignant), a nice bottle of red, and enjoy.

2. Brunch — Holybelly

Pancakes and coffee, Holybelly, Paris by Expat Edna

A whole crop of new cafés have opened up in Paris this fall, but something about Holybelly just clicked with me from the moment I checked out their facebook page. Maybe it was their quippy chalkboard (“we might have ruined Paris but we brew a mean cup of coffee” was a recent favorite, in response to Hipster-gate) or the delicious-yet-affordable brunches, or the hip banter-ready staff — whatever it was, I wanted to try to whole menu at Holybelly (it took me ten minutes to decide on the pancakes), and it makes me genuinely sad I won’t be around for more weekends in Paris to do so.

3. French onion soup — Cafe St Regis

French onion soup, Cafe St Regis, Paris by Expat Edna

Onions and I, generally, do not get along. I tolerate them sometimes, like the obnoxious girlfriend of a good friend — you know they’re going to be around, and sometimes they’re even necessary, but given the choice you’d rather not invite them to dinner.

But one day, trapped in the midst of a horrendous sleep-deprivation/hangover combo, I found myself at Cafe St Regis because I didn’t have the energy to even make it off the island, and I ordered the soup because I didn’t have the strength to chew real food. And that’s how I found myself falling head over heels for a soup that changed my worldview on onions — this is a bowl of rich, cheesy happiness (subsequent visits have confirmed it’s just as delicious when not a hungover zombie), good until the last drop is mopped up with bread. These onions are welcome in my life at any time, especially during the cold clutches of a Parisian autumn.

4. Seafood — Le Table d’Aligre

Le Table d'Aligre, Paris by Expat Edna

Four reasons to visit Le Table d’Aligre, in no particular order:

Fantastic starters. Razor clams, scallops, anchovies — they’re so gorgeous, I could eat the whole starters menu as a meal.
Fresh, fresh fish — which the waitress brings out in a large tray to your table, glistening on ice, to inspect and give the a-ok before she hands it off to the chef. (Although the fish itself is just alright; see recommendation above about starters instead.)
Sorbet. Outstanding.
The decor upstairs makes you feel like you’re dining in the Abominable Snowman’s ski chalet. When reserving, ask for a table on the second floor. It’s the best.

5. Syrian food — La Rose de Damas

Syrian food, La Rose de Damas, Paris by Expat Edna

I wouldn’t have given this non-descript restaurant on Boulevard Saint Germain a second thought had it not been recommended by an Egyptian friend who said the Syrian food here was legit. So another evening, when it was too cold and I was too exhausted to walk very far, my friends and I traipsed over the bridge to try this place for ourselves. And while I know nothing about Syrian food, my worldly dining companions said it held up pretty well. Plus, if I can eat raw beef while sick and still enjoy it, that’s saying something. Don’t miss the lamb on hummus and the rose flan for dessert.

Honorable mention: Le Refuge des Fondus

Le Refuge des Fondus Paris by Expat Edna

I’ll tell you right now, this isn’t the best fondue in Paris.

Le Refuge des Fondus, Paris, by Expat Edna

But it is a place where you have to step on the table to get into your seat.

And a crotchety middle-aged French server will make mildly offensive jokes at your expense but somehow still come off as gruffly charming.

And you drink wine from a baby bottle.

Le Refuge des Fondus - Paris by Expat Edna

Cheese, bread, meat, wine, Frenchmen — it’s the perfect place to let your hair down and kick off one final debaucherous Paris weekend with two of your best friends before you all leave for new adventures.

Le Refuge des Fondus, Paris by Expat Edna

To Joe and Ari, merci for the recommendations and company these last months; to all the dining companions I’ve had over the past two years, thanks for the good times. Paris wouldn’t have been as enjoyable without you.

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  1. Oh dear, you only “tolerate” onions? I love them! Not sure why I do though.

    These all look fabulous. I’m salivating.

    And…wine from baby bottles?! hahah great!

  2. I’m about to go to Paris for vacation and needed advice on where to dine, so this post was very helpful. Merci!

  3. That soup has my name all over it! Has it really been 2 years already since you moved to Paris???!

  4. I adore your onion analogy! I feel exactly the same way. I’m surprised you found an onion soup to rave about, though the addition of cheese sounds like a winner.

  5. I just had lunch, but I’m already dreaming about food again — this all looks just too delicious! I’ve been following Holybelly’s opening on Instagram and I already loved it even from afar. And you just convinced me that I absolutely have to include this café on my next Paris itinerary!
    Also, I’m a former onion-hater turned onion-lover, so I’m positive that there’s still hope for onions and you, too. :)

  6. I want to drink wine out of baby bottles!

    Bookmarking this for when I’m there in March. Hopefully I won’t be sick again so I can actually finally try some of your recommendations :)

  7. Hahaha I wrote a blog about how I’m like French Onion Soup and now here you are talking about French Onion Soup! I always love reading your blog <3 I don't always post, but I always enjoy! Love ya Lady :)

  8. Oh, that steak…what a great lunch at Le Severo! I am intrigued by this Syrian restaurant – I am definitely adding it to my to-do list!

  9. That French onion soup looks amazing–haven’t had that in a long time. And I’m not sure how I’d feel about drinking wine out of a baby bottle. It sounds like something I’d find at one of the odd maid cafes in Tokyo.

  10. Totally don’t care if that fondue is not the best in the city, the country, the world… after pretty much 1.5 years without cheese I would eat that BY MYSELF by the bucketful. Well done, Edna! :D

  11. I like onions, but I wonder how French onion soup would taste like. I guess it’s super delicious! I see France has treated you with some delicious food :).

  12. Omg that steak. Looks amazing. I want some. Now.

  13. I’m with you on the onions! Not really a fan of them in most dishes but I love French onion soup. May have to have this for lunch, although I don’t think my version will be nearly as good as the one you posted.

  14. i’ve always wanted to go to le severo! this entry just reminded me that i must do that, very soon :)

  15. That soup looks amazing! I’d love to enjoy a bowl on a snowy night with a glass of wine and a crackling fire!

  16. I’m not a bigger lover of onion soup but, wow, that one looks delicious.

  17. Some of this definitely sounds tasty, must of been a nice experience :))

  18. Mmmm brunch…I’m for sure putting Holybelly on my list of cafes to visit next year.

  19. Gorgeous pictures! I absolutely the loved onion soup, and ordered it whenever I went to Paris. I’ll definitely have to look out for the steak and fondue next time :)

  20. Everytime I read your posts, I drool… and drool… and drool…

  21. That steak looks perfect. Sadly I never found a perfect stake in France, but I’ve head great luck in Russia and Portugal.

  22. Been to paris a few years back, the food is wonderful apart from the snails aha :)

  23. Ahhh Cafe St. Regis is one of my faves in Paris… their Chicken Paillard is so delicious! :)

  24. You know, I’ve never really had a thing for French food. I’ve actually heard it is quite overrated. But I think your post has me reconsidering! That fondue is calling out my name!

  25. Looks great thanks for sharing this with us! Can’t beat French food !

  26. Thx for sharing this – just planning a trip to Paris and coming across your blog couldn’t have been more timely!

    Can’t wait to sample the best of Paris and ur recommendations would just do the trick – the steak & cheese fondue just look so drool-worthy! ;)


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  2. […] all of our favorite restaurants and bars — we basically live at Cafe St Regis — with just a few […]

  3. […] my top pick in the city (that would still be Le Severo). However, the boudin noir was possibly the best […]