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10 Restaurants Parisians Won't Tell You About

02/19/2014 11:31 am ET | Updated Apr 21, 2014
  • Epicurious The most trusted, authoritative and award-winning digital voice in food

bt Wendy Lyn

Forget everything you ever thought you knew about how Parisians eat. Instead of croissants for breakfast, two-hour bistro lunches, wine bars, and even making reservations, these days the locals are all about Anglo breakfasts, fast gourmet street food, and artisanal cocktails. Want to go where they go? Grab your Métro pass, put on your best walking shoes, and get ready for a glimpse of a Paris most tourists never see. The City of Light is now home to eat-in butcher shops, chic rooftop bar/restaurants, a candlelit cocktail hideaway in a 16th-century cave, and even a late-night chefs' hangout with a self-service wine bar and its own currency.

  • Vandermeersch
    278 Avenue Daumesnil, 12th arr.; Métro: Porte Dorée Pierre Hermé–trained pastry chef and baker Stéphane Vandermeersch's vintage boulangerie/pâtisserie on the eastern edge of Paris is so far off the tourist path, locals never need worry about out-of-towners finding it by accident. But Parisians leave their own neighborhoods regularly, crossing town for Vandermeersch's breads, quiches, and divine pastries, especially his standout mille-feuille and galette des rois (available seasonally). The bakery buzzes on weekends with early-bird customers hoping to score one of Paris' most sought-after sweet treats: moist and buttery kouglof cakes, tinged with orange-flower water and rolled in sugar, and available only on Fridays and Saturdays. DON'T MISS: The weekend-only kouglof, which is worth your entire trip to Paris. Get up early and arrive around eight—they regularly sell out in an hour. Photo: Wendy Lyn
  • Clamato
    80 Rue de Charonne, 11th arr.; Métro: Faidherbe–Chaligny Michelin-starred chef Bertrand Grébaut and Théo Pourriat's no-reservations seafood house is so new, the folks rushing past it to Septime, their hyped sister restaurant next door, have no idea it even exists—yet. The decor at Clamato is understated yet warm—wood-planked ceiling, brick bar with high stools, reclaimed-wood tables—while the sharing-plates menu, which changes daily, is modern and refined. Arrive early—sevenish—to get a seat, and order a rosemary gin and tonic or a glass of Cornelissen rosé to accompany your Maldon oysters, followed by smoked eel and lentils, or scallops dressed up with endive and orange. DON'T MISS: The octopus carpaccio with grapefruit pulp and anchovy. Photo: Wendy Lyn
  • Holybelly
    19 Rue Lucien Sampaix, 10th arr.; Métro: Jacques Bonsergent This new coffee shop next to the Canal Saint-Martin is a beloved local favorite notable for its Anglo breakfasts and specialty coffees from new local roaster Belleville Brûlerie. The place has a youthful, friendly vibe—there's even a pinball machine—thanks mostly to co-owners and serial Instagrammers Nico Alary and Sarah Mouchot. Throughout the day, in between shaking hands with new customers and old friends—not to mention their cooking and barista duties—they snap photos of their house granola, fruit pancakes, and Alary's latte art on frothy cappuccinos. DON'T MISS: I repeat, do not miss the layered fried-egg-and-pancake tower topped with crispy bacon and bourbon butter. Photo: Nico Alary
  • Boucherie des Provinces
    20 Rue d'Aligre, 12th arr.; Métro: Ledru-Rollin Though Christophe Dru's eat-in butcher shop is brand new and hidden behind the chaotic Aligre farmers' market stalls, it has already garnered a massive following, with regulars waiting in hour-long lines for his perfectly aged prime rib, steak tartare, chops (veal, pork, and lamb), charcuterie, and homemade meat terrines. Each dish is cooked to order and served with garlicky sautéed potatoes and bottles of Christophe Pacalet Beaujolais, Dominique Léandre-Chevalier Bordeaux, and other natural wines. You can order your food to go, but we recommend sitting at one of the communal tables in the animated dining room, surrounded by chefs, restaurant staff, and top winemakers who consider Chez Chris their private club during lunch and on weekends. DON'T MISS: The côte de boeuf for two. Photo: Wendy Lyn
  • Lockwood
    73 Rue d'Aboukir, 2nd arr.; Métro: Sentier Tucked away on a side street in Paris' garment district, Lockwood is an unassuming coffee shop by day and a hot rock-and-roll cocktail bar by night. Those in the know literally go underground via the back stairs to sip, eat, and listen to vintage rock (Jimmy Hendrix, Rolling Stones) in the labyrinth of 16th-century vaulted stone caverns lit by candelabras. The young owners—brothers Thomas, Olivier, and Christophe Lehoux—developed the hybrid idea based on their experience working behind top coffee and cocktail bars around the world. DON'T MISS: Quesadillas filled with six-hour cooked pork, Southern-fried chicken buns, and the smoky, soothing Penicillin cocktail—honey, lemon juice, fresh ginger, and scotch topped with aromatic wood-smoked malt. Photo: Cara Tobe
  • Restaurant David Toutain
    29 Rue Surcouf, 7th arr.; Métro: La Tour Maubourg Star chef David Toutain's new restaurant is the most buzzed about opening this year, with a loyal fan base that followed him in droves from Agapé Substance to his new namesake restaurant near Les Invalides. What's the attraction? Diners are crazy for Chef Toutain's sleek, cerebral cooking style, respect for quality ingredients, and daily changing menus. Toutain's memories of his grandparents' farm and time under Alain Passard's tutelage mean that he takes vegetables seriously, notably in dishes like kale and lamb; a grilled hay, eel, and foie gras skewer; and a dish of parsley served three ways (cream, mousse, meringue). The modern monochromatic dining room has been packed since its December 2013 opening, so go while you still can. DON'T MISS: The black sesame mousse and smoked fish, and the dehydrated fennel sorbet. Photo: Thai Toutain
  • Le Perchoir
    14 Rue Crespin du Gast, 11th arr.; Métro: Ménilmontant or Rue St. Maur Half the fun of the chic new rooftop bar and restaurant Le Perchoir ("the bird's perch") is in finding it. Get past the guy at the door (there's a limit of 100 people a time on the roof) and take the elevator to the seventh floor for stunning 360-degree city views, music, and cocktails. The swanky roof bar gets packed with sun worshippers in summer, while guests lounge on pillows under heated safari tents in winter. Multicourse meals—we love the pumpkin soup with seared foie gras and the crispy roast chicken, as well as the côte de boeuf with buttery whipped potatoes, available only for Sunday brunch—are served family-style in the urban loft downstairs, while the wine list, focused on small producers, is outstanding. DON'T MISS: The seared tuna potato chips topped with spicy mayo and crispy leeks—both deserve top billing on any dishes-worth-the-trip-to Paris list. Photo: Studio CuiCui
  • Frenchie to Go
    9 Rue du Nil, 2nd arr.; Métro: Sentier Just a few doors down from his cult-favorite Frenchie bistro, chef Gregory Marchand's Anglo-style no-reservations deli may as well be called "Frenchie's Smokehouse" since all meats are cured and smoked on site. Frenchie's specializes in killer toasted Reubens, smoked beef sausage hot dogs, and pastrami on rye, but the kitchen staff makes everything they can from scratch—including ginger beer. Looking for something a little harder? Order an Agent Provocateur or another of their high-quality artisanal beers. DON'T MISS: The maple syrup–cured smoked bacon scone for breakfast, and the pulled pork barbecue sandwich on soft brioche buns. Photo: Virginie Garnier
  • L'Avant Comptoir
    9 Carrefour de l'Odéon, 6th arr.; Métro: Odéon As wildly popular as celebrity chef Yves Camdeborde's Le Comptoir du Relais Saint-Germain bistro is, not many people realize he has a little hors d'oeuvres bar next door, hidden behind an unassuming crêpe stand. Step behind the plastic curtain with the painted-on pig, and rub elbows with locals, chefs, winemakers and other food-industry people standing (no chairs) around the zinc bar. From noon to midnight, the place is packed with folks ordering Yves' fantastic finger foods—ham croquettes, duck confit sausage hot dogs, fried Parmesan cheese puffs—from the drop-down ceiling menu and chalkboard daily specials. DON'T MISS: Artichoke and cured ham waffles; the hand-churned Bordier butter, set on the bar for everyone to share; and a wine recommendation from friendly barman Eric, who curates the all-natural wine list and knows exactly what you need to drink. Photo: Wendy Lyn
  • La Pointe du Grouin
    8 Rue de Belzunce, 10th arr.; Métro: Poissonnière, Gare du Nord At chef/owner Thierry Breton's kitschy and charmingly chaotic new wine bar—a favorite late-night hangout of chefs and winemakers—there is no telephone, no servers, and no reservations, and euros must be exchanged at the change machine for the bar's own currency. Diners select their (natural) wine from the cave themselves (magnums are the only bottles sold) and give their food order to the guys behind the bar, who then scream through a megaphone over the rowdy crowd, "Grilled sausage crepe with mustard and salted butter, you're up!" Be sure to listen carefully—your neighbors will be belting out everything from French ballads to Daft Punk alongside the guy banging on the baby grand piano. DON'T MISS: Breton's own home-baked loaves served with his freshly shucked native Brittany oysters, ice-cold and briny. Photo: Wendy Lyn

Wendy Lyn chronicles her obsession with restaurants and chef news on her site TheParisKitchen.com. Her private food and wine tours are a must-do for foodies in Paris. Follow her on Twitter: @thepariskitchen

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