It used to be that you could go into any café or restaurant in Paris and get a great meal. A woman was telling me about the food she fondly remembered enjoying in Paris a few decades ago. "Oh, the meals we had!", she said, then looked up to the heavens..
Sure, there are still a number of good places to go, but a lot of the old favorites have waned over the years (especially the classic bistros and brasseries, sadly), suffering from a combination of employee disinterest, cost-cutting accountants, high labor costs, the shorter work week, and the profileration of frozen and pre-prepared food.
To combat the use of pre-prepared ingredients (like the canned green peas that were dumped all over my poulet fermier the other night at a café, and the chocolate cake – from a mix – that we had at a Left Bank bistro recently), the French Sénat is currently debating a bill that will require places that serve frozen or pre-prepared food to state that on the menus, like they do in Italy. While I'm certain the restaurant union here is fighting it, and will likely succeed in not letting it pass, it would be a boon to French cuisine and would reward places that cook with fresh ingredients. And who could argue with that?
There's a number of very good places on the My Paris page at my website, and in my Restaurant Archives, but here are a few new – or new to me – spots in Paris that I've been hitting lately:
Le Siffleur de Ballons
A wave of wine bars has washed over Paris, and the friendly folks at Le Siffleur de Ballons pour natural wines, and prepare lovely charcuterie boards and cheese plates to serve alongside. Cocktail fans might be interested in picking up a bottle of French Dolin vermouth, which is hard to find (even in France), for only €10.
Open every day of the week, for lunch and dinner, this unassuming, yet authentic Parisian bistro, is a bargain, with two- or three-course menus running at €16.50 and €20.50, respectively. The food is pretty much textbook bistro fare, with no surprises. But it's encouraging that traditional places like this still exist.
I'm no expert on Indian food, but this chain is an import from India, and serves vegetarian fare at reasonable prices. (Tip: I forgot the name, but the onion pancake is great.)
Le Camion Qui Fume
Belly up to the burger truck in Paris!
Pizza e fichi
Tasty Roman-style pizza sold by the slice. It's a bit tiny, but worth squeezing into a table for a bite.
Cuisine de Bar
The new outpost of Poilâne bakery in the Marais serves open-face sandwiches, in a hip, yet casual atmosphere. I love coming here and snacking on toasted slice of pain Poilâne spread with mustardy mayonnaise, roasted chicken, and topped with capers and anchovies. Be sure the try the Paris-Brest by Jacques Genin.