How To Eat Like A Parisian When You're Hopelessly American
First time in the City of Light? This is how I spent three days eating in Paris.
Bienvenue à Paris! The capital of France is one of the most popular destinations in the world for tourists and celebrities alike. The City of Light has it all; from historic Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower to the iconic Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre Museum. Whether you're spending a romantic vacation on the Champs-Élysées or have just a layover, you can't leave without trying these signature foods. Here's how I spent three days eating in Paris.
Warning: Come hungry and leave your calorie counter at home.
Get An Actually Good Croissant
When it comes to breakfast in Paris, the locals keep it simple. Head to a local boulangerie (which is just a fancy word for "bakery") and pick up a flaky, buttery croissant and coffee. At around $2, croissants are tasty and perfect to eat while on-the-go sightseeing. Croissants can be found pretty much everywhere but not all croissants are created equal. It's worth doing research to find a place that bakes their bread on site.
Pro tip: Eat when the locals eat. Breakfast is from around 7:00am to 10:00am, so if you want a hot croissant, you better make sure to get to the boulangerie early. Don't be like one tourist I saw at Pierre Hermé asking for a croissant at 1:00pmand getting the sad face when they were sold out. The early bird gets the bread.
Eat Dessert For Breakfast
If you need a little more sugar in the morning, reach for a sweeter croissant. The pain au chocolat, or chocolate croissant, is especially popular. Different bakeries may offer items like pain au chocolat almond, a chocolate and almond croissant, as well.
Don't Be Afraid Of Steak Tartare
By this time, you're probably starving from walking up and down the 270 steps at the Sacré Cœur Basilicia. Lunch is the perfect time to refuel and enjoy a sit down meal. Parisians are known to spend one or two hours at lunchtime, so pace yourself. Get a nice glass of wine and try something fancy like steak tartare. The traditional dish of raw beef can include onions, capers, seasonings and even an egg yolk. Don't get freaked out. There's no blood and the cow isn't going to moo at you. The dish tastes like a soft beef salad and is surprisingly light.
Eat All Of The Cheese
The cheese in Paris is so good that it can be dessert. Pick up some rich and velvety cheese from the local fromager. Throw in a crusty baguette and fresh fruit and picnic at one of the city's many parks.
Bring Macarons Home And Impress Your Friends
Desserts almost too pretty to eat. Macarons are great to eat in Paris and also to bring back home. Ladurée is the most famous outpost for these treats. Go outside your comfort zone to try unique flavors like rose and orange blossom.
Go To Town On Pastries, Calories Be Damned
A pâtisserie specializes in pastries and other sugary-laden goodness. Eclairs, financier cakes, tarts; you really can't go wrong with anything. Even Kim Kardashian flew to Paris just for a bite of her favorite cheesecake. The portion sizes are smaller than in America so don't feel too bad for eating more than one.
Croque Monsieur. Period.
After traipsing through the Marais historic district or checking out open-air markets, wind down at a neighborhood cafe with a croque monsieur. The broiled ham and cheese sandwich-the bechamel sauce takes the humble grilled cheese to another level-and a glass of wine makes for a filling but light meal. Often paired with a salad or frites, it's inexpensive and tasty. The female counterpart, the croque madame, comes with a fried egg on top, if protein is your thing.
The best part about eating out in Paris, is that it's an experience. Don't feel pressured to get in and get out. Waiters don't rush you and the bill comes only when you ask for it. One waiter let me nurse a cup of coffee for two hours. Sit, take all your food photos for Instagram and savor each bite.