Insider's Guide to Paris
“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.
Find Wendy Lyn online at thepariskitchen.com; tours from $230.
Fromagerie Laurent Dubois
Those harboring serious cheese fantasies will be disappointed to know that the number of independent fromageries in Paris has fallen by half in the past 20 years. Luckily, one of the country’s Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (a top honor for craftsmen) has recently renovated and expanded his sleek, well-lit shop. “The line stretches out the door on Saturdays, but I can get a variety of aged Comtés here from all different years,” Lyn says. The selection is exhaustive and the service friendly, as long as you follow one cardinal rule: Do not help yourself. Salesclerks need to discuss and hand-wrap your choices. “They’ll want to know when you’re going to eat your Époisses or chèvre and what with,” she says. 47 ter Blvd. St.-Germain, Fifth Arr.; 33-1/43-54-50-93. —Alexandra Marshall
A standing-room-only tavern in the Sixth Arrondissement serving inventive tapas from France (macarons of boudin noir; brochettes of foie gras and piquillo peppers) and beyond (cubes of tuna tataki garnished with alfalfa sprouts), L’Avant Comptoir started as a place for diners to cool their heels while waiting for a table at the perennially busy Le Comptoir du Relais next door. But you can have a low-key meal, too. “I like to bring clients here after tours because of how Yves highlights his producers,” Lyn says. “The artichokes and the Bordier butter from Brittany, the fleur de sel from the Béarn, jamón ibérico from the Pays Basque—it’s like a food journey in one little spot.” Dinner for two $55. —Alexandra Marshall
The most hotly anticipated restaurant from Pierre Jancou—a handsome, tattooed natural-wine nut whose years of living in Italy have imparted a welcome minimalism to his food—has just opened: a bistrot à vin called Vivant. “With Pierre, there’s an equal amount of passion for ingredients and traditions,” Lyn says. He’s known for hanging a picture of his grandfather in every place he owns. Try to spot the photo among the faïence tiles of pheasants, a nod to the space’s original incarnation as a bird shop. With more than 150 different bottles of biodynamic and organic wines available, you’ll have plenty of reason to prolong the hunt. 43 Rue des Petites Écuries, 10th Arr.; 33-1/42-46-43-55; dinner and drinks for two $140. —Alexandra Marshall
Endless rows of hard-to-find culinary treats—candied violets; pearl sugar; baking chocolates of all forms; flavor extracts; tinned sardines—distract from the unremarkable ambience at this hard-core cooks’-supply depot. But cute isn’t the point; serious food is. “The place is run like an old general store,” Lyn says. If you need it for your kitchen, you’ll find it here. 58 Rue Tiquetonne, Second Arr.; 33-1/42-33-96-43. —Alexandra Marshall
Aux Tonneaux des Halles
This resolutely blue-collar watering hole dates back to the early 1900’s, when the nearby Les Halles market was still running and hungry workers would fill the tables. The only things in the restaurant that were revamped when the current owner took over in 1991 were the wine list (now mostly biodynamic) and the quality of the food. Lyn favors the purée de pommes de terre (some of the best in town), the steaks (often served with enormous marrowbones), and the crisp duck confit. It’s a good sign that many of the restaurant’s patrons have been lunch regulars for the past 40 years. Warning: As in many bistros with one foot in the early 20th century, vegetables are a bit of an afterthought. 28 Rue Montorgueil, First Arr.; 33-1/42-33-36-19; lunch for two $50. —Alexandra Marshall
“At a proper chocolatier—a place where they make chocolate from actual beans and don’t just mold other producers’—the smell of dark cocoa and butter should hit you when you walk through the door,” Lyn says. What also hits you at Patrick Roger’s five Paris outposts, which sell powdered truffles, 40 different single-origin bars from around the world, and ganaches including basil and lime, oat infusion, Guinness, and Sichuan pepper, is the sharp, modern design. Roger is also the sculptor who creates the massive confection displays, clearly influenced by Alberto Giacometti, for the windows of all his shops. —Alexandra Marshall
This wine and fine-foods store is the latest offshoot of Daniel Rose’s deservedly hyped restaurant, Spring, around the corner. You may not be able to score a table at Spring, but you can sample glasses of wine chosen by Rose’s sommelier or buy a to-go lunch of charcuterie and smoked fish. 52 Rue de l’Arbre Sec, First Arr.; 33-1/58-62-44-30. —Alexandra Marshall
Boulangerie Éric Kayser
“Some folks call Éric ‘McKayser,’ because of the number of locations he has opened,” Lyn says, speaking of the Paris-based pâtissier who has branches across the city as well as in Moscow, Tokyo, and Dakar, Senegal. “But he’s a third-generation baker! No one can argue with his skills.” Kayser’s creative, seasonal treats include a bichon au citron, a flaky turnover filled with delicate lemon curd and sprinkled with just enough sugar for a caramelized crunch. Unlike many of his peers, Kayser succeeds at everything he tries, from baguettes de tradition to precious and gorgeous fruit tarts. —Alexandra Marshall
Autour d’un Verre
The down and dirty diner with chipped Formica tables and minimal décor in the Ninth Arrondissement isn’t winning any design awards. It’s the hearty comfort food and organic wine list that make Autour d’un Verre “a place where restaurant people love to eat,” Lyn says. Chef-owners Kevin Blackwell, a northern California transplant, and his Welsh girlfriend, Victoria Perry, paradoxically combine a foreigner’s flair for nonchalant hospitality with an obsession for ingredients that is normally only found among natives. 21 Rue de Trévise, Ninth Arr.; 33-1/48-24-43-74; dinner for two $65. —Alexandra Marshall
The Montorgueil area is food central, with endless rows of shops filled with fresh fish, vegetables, and just-baked bread. Among the better-known emporiums, this 90-year-old, three-story superstore is uniquely friendly, with a spread of items including heavy-duty appliances, Porsche’s Chroma Type 301 cutlery, chef’s toques and clogs, plastic lobsters (why not?), and magnificent Mauviel copper cookware. 36 Rue Montmartre, First Arr.; 33-1/42-36-09-99. —Alexandra Marshall
The go-to vegetable peddler for chefs like Hélène Darroze and Pierre Gagnaire, Thiébault sells produce that he and his family have been growing on the same 54 acres just outside Paris for centuries. “I love his passion and dedication,” Lyn says. If you’re visiting Thiébault on Wednesdays or Saturdays, she advises checking the table closest to the sidewalk for the most-seasonal goods. “Then you’ll know what to seek out at restaurants. If they’re not using local products, why eat there?” Joël Thiébault at Marché de l’Avenue du Président Wilson, near the Pont de l’Alma. —Alexandra Marshall