In this series, I round up the five best things I ate in a particular city or country. Click here to read previous 5BTIAs from London, Boston, and more.
As I’ve returned to Paris increasingly over the past year and made it something of a home base again, I find myself going out less, and trying to stay in and cook more (both for financial and not-getting-fat reasons). So when I do venture outside, I’m pickier about the places I decide to try. Here are my most recent finds that make it worth it to put on pants and leave the apartment:
1. Burger & fries, Le Burger Fermier
(This burger has been getting increased press recently, but for the record: Marina got there first.)
In the summer of 2014, my friend Marina discovered and proclaimed this the Best Burger in Paris. Back then, Paris’ burger scene was very hit and miss (in some ways, it still is) — and I was skeptical.
But a few months ago my boyfriend happened upon it randomly when hungrily waiting to meet a friend, and when he told me I had to check out this nameless, random burger stand in the Marché des Enfants-Rouges, I knew something was up.
Turns out there is a name — Le Burger Fermier — and the menu doesn’t even say the word “burger” on it: it is simply a blackboard listing five cheeses (cheddar, tomme au cidre, bleu, cantal, chevre) plus a note that adding bacon costs 1 euro.
So you order your preferred cheese, say yes to bacon, and enjoy an artisanal Limousin beef burger on house-made buns (those buns alone are worth going!) with a side of twice-cooked fries. All for 10 euro. Marina, you’re a star.
2. Duck, Le Petit Canard
This place is all about that duck, all about that duck, no chicken.
Song parodies aside, if you want to really just faceplant into French duck cuisine, you can’t skip Le Petit Canard in Pigalle. You won’t find anything on the menu but canard in various forms: appetizers like duck charcuterie, duck carpaccio, smoked duck breast salad — our duck rillette even arrived shaped like a duck.
Duck mains include confit de canard, magret de canard, duck a l’orange, and duck tartare. And it’s not just a gimmick; their food is actually good. Years of specialization tends to make that happen.
For vegetarians there is a duck-less salad on the starters side, but otherwise, it’s obviously a duck-lover’s hangout.
3. Steak, Robert et Louise
Some places are tucked away. This one is literally tucked away — as in I walked past it regularly for three years (it’s right next door to my favorite jam shop, embarassingly) without ever knowing it was there.
Basically, it’s a steak place. But what makes it special is the open kitchen and fireplace that take up the back of the room, which — added to the exposed brick, stone, and wooden beams — makes you feel like you’re enjoying dinner in someone’s living room. If that someone was a French homesteader from the 1800s.
Food-wise, the steak is pretty good, though it’s not my top pick in the city (that would still be Le Severo). However, the boudin noir was possibly the best I’ve had yet, and the portions are incredibly filling. So if you’re looking for a steak place with a homey feel in the Marais, try Robert et Louise.
4. Lobster roll, Les Pinces
Les Pinces is all about quality — they fly in lobsters from the US and Canada and keep them alive in a tank in the basement until you order, ensuring you have the freshest lobster on your plate.
This is yet another place that has a very small menu (is the hipster thing now to not have choices?): for €25 you can either have a whole lobster, a lobster roll on a toasted brioche bun, or a 500g prime rib. That’s it.
We tried both of the lobster options, and the roll had a surprising about of meaty goodness going for it. But for my New England-raised boyfriend and I, it was too painful watching the unaccustomed lobster-eaters around us hack away at 60% of the crustacean, and send the rest of the meat to waste.
Verdict: Look, I appreciate that lobster is an expensive commodity. So if you’re absolutely dying for it, or have euros to burn, then Les Pinces is a good choice for Paris. But if you’re from a region where you grew up with lobster, or are picky about it, you’re better off saving your money for a plane ticket to Maine.
5. Chablis & black truffle mustard, Maille
Like many other foodstuffs (see: bread, cheese, butter) I didn’t consume mustard until I moved to France. But now I can’t get enough, especially of the flavors Maille puts out in their shop by Madeleine: prune & Armagnac, chestnut & orange, sundried tomato & espelette pepper; the combinations are overwhelming.
On a recent visit they were sampling their Chablis & black truffle mustard, and it was so luxuriously flavorful I bought a pot immediately. It goes well with cheese, with sausage, with your finger…if you even remotely like truffles, you’ll want to get some of this.
Next time: 5BTIA goes to NYC and Amsterdam!