Many would say Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, a fashion capital and a mecca for museums. It is also a epicurean paradise with more than 100 Michelin-starred restaurants. Only three cities in the world have more.
In 2018, the three Michelin star restaurant in Paris’, L’Arpège, was honored as the 8th best restaurant in the world. Not only are reservations difficult to secure, you best be ready to chew into your wallet. The Sea and Land tasting course will set you back 390 euro per person.
An individual who loves to gush about his dining experiences in Paris takes his listeners through the menus of several Michelin restaurants he has visited. Just one of his dinners for two costs more than all the euros my wife and I spent at cafes during our three day stay in Paris. Whereas he never tires of Michelin, for us, any of the 7,000 cafes in the city are just as memorable.
Within a block of our hotel we took a seat at our first café, outdoors of course. Two tiers of tables, red umbrellas, checkered table clothes, people chatting and sipping wine. It was a vintage snapshot of what a Paris café should look like.
We picked a medium priced bottle of Bordeaux which cost only 21 euro. That will be one of your first nice surprises. Good French wines at most cafes are not expensive.
We shared a cheese plate, each of us had onion soup, and I enjoyed escargot. However, the best experience was people watching. An elementary school was nearby and children in stylish uniforms skated and scooted by. It was Fashion Week in Paris and models passed by wearing 5” stilettos and somehow crossed the cobblestone street. We saw bubbas and high society, heard many languages, smelled the nearby bakery, were touched by the antiquity around us and tasted the commoner’s joy of Paris.
During our two day stay we never ate at a fancy restaurant. We choose a café overlooking Notre Dame, another in a Latin Quarter backstreet, one tucked away for locals and one on a barge cruising the Seine. They all had a different type of star than a Michelin. The cafes’ stars were the ambiance and flavorful, food you could afford. Plus, backdrop of some of the most beautiful architecture, monuments and parks in the world.
We had Boeuf Bourguigon and Coq Au Vin for less than 18 euro and a bowl of French Onion Soup and a pureed asparagus soup for under 8 euro. They were all remarkable in both taste and reasonable costs.
The adventure of selecting the ideal café is part of the bliss of strolling the streets of Paris. Walking past numerous open-air establishments, reading the posted menus, finding the perfect table and enjoying some of the best food created is a memory not forgotten.
If you have favorite cafés in Paris please share it with our readers. We would love to hear about your experience.