Food in Paris is delicious. But some food or places we ate in Paris were truly memorable. The food or meals that linger in memory were not necessarily expensive. Some of the most unforgettable food experiences we had in Paris were at an excellent patisserie, a superb cafe, and a department store cafeteria. Others were a splurge, once-in-a-lifetime experiences,worth it only to celebrate being in Paris.
While nearly every meal we had in Paris was delicious, some food memories were extraordinary. And the most memorable foods weren’t necessarily the most expensive.
Memorable Food in Paris – a Bakery
One of my family’s favorite Paris food experiences was at Eric Kayser, a bakery with about 15 locations throughout Paris. Eric Kayser is famous for excellent bread and pastries, but also sells sandwiches and salads. We headed to the Eric Kayser location across the street from the Gare de Lyon train station to stock up on treats to sample during our four hour train ride from Paris to the South of France. Our takeout lunch – three salmon salads, two prepared sandwiches, drinks, and an ample dessert of seven (!) pastries – lemon tart, plum tart, chocolate croissant, chocolate tart, chocolate éclair, chocolate financier – cost 48 euros.
A tiny chocolate bundt cake, called a financier, was slightly crisp on the outside rim, moist and almost chewy inside, with depths of chocolate flavor. If you ever taste a chocolate cake as good as Eric Kayser’s, let me know, and I’ll make a pilgrimage to try your discovery.
Memorable Food in Paris – a Pastry Cafe
For a taste of luxury without breaking the bank, indulge yourself at Carette, a pretty pastry café across from the lively city square Place des Vosges. This café feels like an authentic Parisian experience, from its décor to its opportunities for people watching. Lingering here over a coffee and a pastry is affordable elegance and will be a delicious memory.
Memorable Lunch in Paris – a Rooftop Cafeteria
Even if you don’t go up on the roof, you’ll want to visit the Galleries Lafayette department store to see its spectacular stained glass ceiling. But while you’re there, visit the roof terrace for a sweeping view of Paris. You’ll see the Eiffel Tower in the distance and the famous Parisian boulevards laid out below you, lined by elegant apartments and offices. To appreciate the view even more, stop by the cafeteria to pick up fresh salads, hearty sandwiches, or hot dishes, for about 10 euro per person. On a warm day, you can eat outside while you take in the view. If it’s chilly or windy, you can enjoy the view through a big picture window from the comfort of an inside table and chairs.
Old World Elegant Dining in Paris – in a Train Station
If you want to celebrate being in Paris and splurge on old world elegance that seems completely foreign from the casual style of the U.S., try Le Train Bleu. This restaurant is – where else? – inside a train station, the Gare de Lyon.
Its design is European glamour from another era. The restaurant’s towering ceilings are covered with frescoes of romantic nudes and pastoral scenes, lush plaster curly cues, all brightly colored. Huge arched windows on one side frame a quintessential Paris view. On the other side, windows look down at the bustling train station traffic. The six of us lingered over a delicious 3-hour meal, from appetizers to dessert, and drank two bottles of good French wine for $450. The food was good but the real draw was the chance to revel in the luxurious Europe of an earlier age and enjoy good conversation. (If you’re curious about how you can eat delicious French food for every meal, on a French river cruise, click here.)
This One Will Break the Bank – Dinner Inside the Eiffel Tower
Did you know there’s a restaurant INSIDE the Eiffel Tower? If you’re willing to skip paying the mortgage to spend it on dinner instead, try Le Jules Verne, located on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. It’s run by the famous French chef Alain Ducasse, and the food is memorable.
I’m not kidding that dinner here costs a month’s rent. We justified it by thinking of the experience as a once-in-lifetime, full evening family entertainment, as well as a great meal with terrific service. The theatrical show was the view. We arrived at 7, when the sun was still bright. We watched the sun’s golden light make the cream stone of Paris glow. Then as the sun set over the city, the city lights turn on.
Paris illuminates its big monuments with floodlights. After nightfall, the Eiffel Tower itself is illuminated and, for 5 minutes every hour, it puts on a light show. The sparkling lights are fun to watch from the outside, and enjoyably odd to watch from the inside, as if you’re seeing lightning strike. After our 2 ½ hour meal, we walked outside on the terrace to enjoy the night view of Paris from the 2d floor (so we didn’t have to wait in line). Dramatic view that gave me chills.
Entering and exiting the Eiffel Tower restaurant was just as dramatic. Restaurant goers take a private elevator up the inside of the Eiffel Tower. It’s like riding inside a gigantic sculpture, with marvelous views of the crowds and Paris below. The elevator ride was part of the adventure.
Le Jules Verne is usually booked months in advance. An advantage of visiting Paris in August was fewer tourists. At any rate, I was able to reserve a table for 4 with only 6 weeks notice. To walk off all that food, I was glad to take a 3-hour walking tour of Paris.
Food in Paris is delicious, and some of most memorable food experiences were not expensive. (If your trip to France takes you south of Paris, to Provence, check out this walking tour of Aix en Provence.)
Have you ever had a meal on vacation that lingered in your memory? Tell us about it in the comments.