“Everyone comes to Paris to eat,” says Wendy Lyn as we stumble into L’Avant Comptoir, chef Yves Camdeborde’s counter grill next door to his famous bistro, Le Comptoir du Relais. A chatty blond Southerner turned restaurant consultant, blogger, and tour guide who is seemingly on a first-name basis with every “it” chef in Paris, Lyn has just spent the past few hours leading me around the Left Bank, sampling everything from lemon-curd pastry to donkey-meat salami as we go. Now we’re about to finish the official tour portion of the day over some Japanese-style fried chicken and a glass of Marcel Lapierre’s all-natural, unfiltered 2010 Morgon, the very first magnum of which the manager, Eric, has held aside for Lyn.
It’s true that everyone comes to Paris to eat, and that can be equally inspiring and terrifying. The complex rituals of the marketplace, the multiple facets of wine (and determining where best to drink it), how to know a place is good even if you’ve never heard of it—it takes time to crack such codes. A guide will help you do just that, while showing you the often secret haunts that you may not discover otherwise. “When I got here 22 years ago, I cried myself to sleep every night,” says Lyn, who went on to do public relations work for mega-chefs Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy and helped launch the U.S. edition of the Michelin Guide. “But I love it here, and I want to help people experience the city like I do.” To that end, Lyn offers a small number of private food tours for up to four people, all of which are chock-full of tips based on the quirks of Parisian traditions and focused on food-centric neighborhoods such as Les Halles and St.-Germain. (Next up: Montmartre.)
Here, she shares her little black book, from earthy bistros and category-defying markets to shops loaded with goods that you can’t get anywhere but here. Paris at your fingertips? Look no further.
Alexandra Marshall is a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure.