The City of Lights has been one of the main European culinary landmarks for centuries. Even though in recent years the globalization took over the French food sector and has seen a significant rise in popularity for international specialties, the old-fashioned French cuisine is slowly coming back.
The habits of the locals, however, haven’t changed. Eating habits are strict and this is reflected in the way that restaurants serve their clients. If you’re planning to travel to France, then you must learn how to eat like a local in Paris. Plus, at the end of this article, you’ll find a few places that Parisians like to frequent.
Where to eat in Paris
As I mentioned I dug up some places you must try, that are recommended by actual locals from Paris. Nobody knows better than them after all
1. La Rotisserie – traditional French cuisine
2. Les Petits Plats – a bistro that serves traditional wine and many course meals in small portions
3. Le Café de la Nouvelle Mairie – affordable meals made from organic produce, and is frequented by students
4. Il Etait Un Square – steak house and burgers
5. Vandermeersch – a bakery with mouth-watering pastries
6. Lockwood – the place for rockers, café during the day, and bar during the night; they serve food as well which is always a plus
7. Le Perchoir – a rooftop bar and restaurant with a full view of the city
Dinner time in Paris
The French are pretty strict when it comes to their eating schedule. If you’re new to Paris and want to have breakfast at one of the many restaurants or cafés, you must know they serve breakfast until 11:30- 12 PM.
Generally, a restaurant will start serving lunch at 11:30 up to 1:30 PM, but that policy varies from place to place. If you favor some places it’s best to inquire what the times are for the three main meals.
If you don’t like to follow a strict routine, don’t worry. There are plenty of pubs and bistros, that even though they’re mostly focused on drinks, they serve light foods such as sandwiches or omelets. Fast food boomed in France in the last decade so it’s not unusual to see people having small picnics with their friends outside.
Must eat in Paris
The menus in Paris are mostly written on blackboards because they change so often, so the traditional laminated menus are not so used anymore. A typical meal at a restaurant consists of three or more courses. The breakfast is lighter and doesn’t consist of much food, just some coffee, and a pastry, but the lunch starts with a soup or a salad, the second course is normally meat-based and heavier, followed by the well known French cheese course and the dessert. The cheese course is normally served first. This order is usually applied for dinner as well.
If you want to get the most of your buck (or Euro in this case) you can go for the menus of the day (menu du jour) which are cheaper.
Keep in mind that meat preparation is a bit different from America. If you order steak you need to learn a bit of French. An American “well done” steak is actually a “medium” in France.
The words you need to know are Bleu ( very rare, almost raw), Saignant (rare), A Point (medium rare, but more rare than medium), Entre à Point et Bien Cuit (medium), Bien Cuit (medium or well done), and Très Bien Cuit (well done).
The French court has set the bases for etiquette and class a long time ago. In modern times good standing people are still respecting it. Respecting the meal times that I mentioned above is one of the rules the French love to follow. For them, food is not just a way of sustenance, but also a means of socializing, which automatically calls for good manners.
Even though you can get a table at restaurants that are not very crowded, making reservations is what is expected. Not just that but you want to make sure you have a table at your favorite place. In America, tipping is expected, but in France is not, however, is greatly appreciated. For those who choose to tip is customary to give 10% of the total bill if they are happy with the service.
While dining, the French normally hold the fork in the left hand and their knife in the right one. After they’re done eating, they leave it on the right side of the plate next to each other. The meal only starts once everyone said Bon appétit. During the 3rd course, which is normally a cheese platter, you should never grab it with your fingers. The French always have bread with their meals and after you took your slice, always put it on the side of your plate.
How to done like a Parisian
Mealtimes are the main family time in France. Many of them invite friends over once a week. Even though it’s more relaxed than eating at a restaurant, some good manners are still expected.
If you’re new to France and got invited to dine at someone’s home, it’s customary to bring a gift. If you’re planning on bringing a bottle of wine, it must be French wine. They are very keen on what their country has to offer and consider French wine to be the finest out of all of them.
Leaving too much food on your plate mind offend your host. That’s why the French eats slowly and their meals can take up to several hours. During that time you have time to digest some food and make some space for another course.
Cook french food at home
Locals in Paris have a more organic approach when it comes to their food. They mostly shop from produce markets and specialty stores. There are stores for every category: meat, wine, cheese, etc. Some markets will even allow you to sample the produce. There are lots of choices, but some of the most popular marketplaces are Marché couvert Saint Didier and Port Royal.
It’s not hard to blend in and eat like a local in Paris. The city booms with places to eat and relax, so discovering everything that it has to offer is up to you.