Paris is a city known for its world-renowned tourist sites. Travelers know of the Louvre Museum, The Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Eiffel Tower. However, one Paris’ top attractions often goes unnoticed and unannounced — the food. Instead of hopping from museum to museum throughout the city, I like to hop from one delicious Parisian meal to the next, and one of my favorite meals of the day is lunch.
I love lunch in Paris. It often means dining outdoors while people watching in the plazas or taking a meal to-go and eating it on the steps of a famous monument. Lunch in Paris allows you to sightsee and dine on uniquely Parisian dishes at the same time. These are the five dishes I think everyone must try when visiting the City of Lights.
1. Steak Frites
Steak Frites, French for steak and fries, may sound like a simple dish, but when you taste one served up at the famous Le Relais de l’Entrecote, you’ll know it’s more complex. This restaurant, with several locations throughout the city (all often with lines out the door), is known for cooking Steak Frites just right. Enjoy a mouthwatering steak cooked to your preferred temperature topped with a heaping pile of crispy fries and a recommended French wine, and you’ll never think of steak and fries the same again.
2. French Onion Soup
The origins of French Onion Soup are uncertain. One tale tells that King Louis XV was given this soup when famished following a hunting trip. Another says it was made for the Duke of Lorraine who was so enamored with the dish, he later served the same dish to the king and queen. No matter the origins — this soup, which is hearty enough to serve as a full meal, consists of a rich beef broth and perfectly-cooked onions topped with freshly toasted bread and melted, extra gooey cheese. While you can find French Onion Soup served in restaurants around the world, there’s nothing like one slurped up in Paris.
3. Duck Confit
This classic French dish, known as Confit de canard, is an absolute must-try, and the sauces and spices used throughout can vary from restaurant to restaurant. You can order this dish 10 times in Paris and never taste identical flavors. Duck confit is made with a whole duck and is often seasoned garlic, thyme and other unique ingredients, like juniper berries and cloves.
You’ll find Confit de canard on menus across the city, but some simply do it better than others. The best duck confit will be crispy on the outside with a juicy meat on the inside, and some restaurants simply fail at reaching the desired crispiness. Restaurant Josephine Chez Dumonet, known among locals simply as Chez Dumonet, offers what is often regarded as the best duck confit in the city. After 134 years in the business, you can trust they’ll do it right.
Crepes are often considered breakfast or dessert foods, but if you’re like me, you can eat sweet or savory crepes at any time of day. My favorite part of enjoying crepes for lunch in Paris is that I can grab them to-go from the tiniest hole-in-the-wall restaurants or buy them on the street and eat them along the river or in another beautiful locale. When it comes to lunch-to-go in Paris, I suggest a savory crepe made with your preferred meats, vegetables, and cheeses.
5. Croque Monsieur
A sandwich may sound like a boring, everyday lunch, but the Croque Monsieur is anything but. This carefully broiled sandwich made with ham, cheese, fresh bread, then topped again with more cheese is the hearty lunch everyone needs during a busy day of sightseeing. You can even elevate your Croque Monsieur to a Croque Madame by requesting a fried egg on top. It’s breakfast and lunch in one.
While most Parisians will tell you the best Croque Monsieur in the city is made at home, there are a number of restaurants serving crave-worthy versions that taste just like a Parisian grandma’s. Le Petit Cler is known for its gigantic single-slice version of the sandwich, while La Fontaine de Belleville features a simple and hearty Croque Monsieur with some kind of secret ingredient they won’t release. This is a sandwich that will make you book a return ticket to the city just to taste it again.
While Paris may appeal to others for its fames and romanticism, it’s the unique dishes, often loaded with my favorite ingredients bread and cheese, that make this city one of my favorite places to eat in Europe. Whether you’re looking for a five-star sit-down lunch or a crepe to-go on the street, Parisian cuisine is guaranteed to exceed your expectations.