The last time I went to Paris (over 10 years ago), I had a particularly non memorable time, mostly because I was a starving student who knew very little about good wine and food, and couldn't afford it even if I did know something. This past weekend I returned with more knowledge, not to mention the desire and the means to experience everything good about France. Ruth and I had basically three goals: eat, drink, walk.
After having a wonderful time in Italy using a similar guide, we opted to use Patricial Wells' book, The Food Lovers guide to Paris as our bible. We found the guide useful (though not as great as the book we used in Italy) and between that book and our own wanderings and experimentation, we discovered several gems.
What would Paris be without patisseries? What would mornings be like without a cafe au lait and a croissant. Most Parisians don't actually eat croissants for breakfast apparently, but that didn't stop Ruth and I from enjoying one every day at breakfast, and most days at lunch as well. We ate a lot of baked goods from a lot of places, and arrived at three that we felt were superior.
Patissier Jean Millet
103, Rue Saint Dominique
Paris 7 (seventh arrondissment)
Nearest Metro: Latour-Mauborg
If you're on your way to see Napolean's tomb on a Saturday morning, or even if you're nowhere near the left bank, it's worth a trip to get simply the best pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) in the universe. This guy is amazing, and everyone in the neighborhood seems to know it. On the weekends they make tiny pastries -- fruit tarts, eclairs, napoleans, cream puffs, gateaus -- all no bigger than a mouthful, and there is constant stream of old ladies who stop by to buy them. The place is small, but has a few tables where you can sit to drink some coffee while you eat your pastry(ies). They offer savory pastries as well as a daily soup and some delicious small pizzas. We didn't try the house made chocolates but judging by the quality of everything else we ate there, they will be stellar. Monsieur Millet also has a shop in Yokohama.
Paul, Maison de Qualite
63, Rue Montorgueuil
Paris 1 (first arrondissment)
Nearest Metro: Les Halles
Since 1889 this company has been producing top quality breads and pastries around France. Yes, they are a chain (75 locations in Paris alone), but their stuff is so good I can't avoid recommending them. This particular location, on the bustling market street of Montorgueuil, is a fabulous place to get a cheap lunch while wandering Paris, and is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. I try and eat a Tart au Frais every day, and they have one of the best ones I've tried. In addition to fabulous sweets, they have great breads, and at lunchtime, excellent sandwiches and quiches.
75, avenue Champs-Elysees
Paris 8 (eighth arrondissment)
Nearest Metro: Georges V
Laduree is a Paris institution, widely regarded as the patisserie with the best macaroons in the universe. Situated smack dab in the busiest part of the Champs-Elysees, this shop is always jammed with anyone and everyone who is looking for top notch pastries at any cost. The place is a little pricey, but how can you put a price on a Napolean so good that you cry just looking at it?
* There must be more...
Unfortunately, we were unable to eat at every place we heard about, read about, or walked by. We needed to save room for dinner. So, while these may be the "Best" for now, stay tuned for future revisions.
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