Our former Head of Communications shares her tips for family-friendly meal ideas in Paris.
Consider Meal Timing
When eating with your kids in Paris, when you eat is almost as important as where. Most restaurants are not open before noon for lunch or 7 p.m. for dinner. Arriving or reserving right at these times is a good idea. If you need more flexibility and you’d like to eat at a different time of day, cafés or brasseries with service continue (non-stop service) are an ideal option.
A picnic is a wonderful family-friendly option because Paris is packed with green spaces to take a break—and on your time just when your kids need it! Start the day at your neighborhood bakery and be prepared for when the hungry horrors hit. Bakeries sell a wide variety of sandwiches, quiches, pizza, and salads to go. A selection of food from one of Paris’ glorious open-air food markets offers ideal picnic fare, too.
At the Bar
Eating at the bar with children is a perfectly acceptable option in Paris. Kids enjoy watching the bustling activity behind the bar as the staff prepares drinks and food for customers. Our most recent bar meal was at Ellsworth restaurant, which serves small plates that are perfect for small appetites. Paris by Mouth describes it as “serious-casual,” serving dishes like corn dogs paired with bitter mustard greens, or potato skins topped with melted cheese and crunchy chicken skin. They also have some of the best fried chicken we’ve ever tasted. The food was just familiar enough that my kids would try it, but at the same time allowed them to discover new tastes and flavors.
Crêpes (pictured above) can be found almost anywhere in Paris, from the street to sit-down restaurants. My girls’ new favorite is the chocolat-banane (chocolate spread with bananas) for dessert. Make sure and also try the savory buckwheat versions called galettes. They come in an endless variety: cheese, eggs, ham, spinach, fresh tomatoes or artichoke hearts, to mention just a few. Café Breizh is an excellent option in the Marais that never disappoints. We also love Ar Poul Gwen, a traditional Breton crêperie near the famous rue Montorgueil in the center of Paris.
Oui, there is a food court or two in Paris that we would recommend! They offer many choices and unique Parisian dining experiences. The Marché des Enfants Rouges is Paris’ oldest covered market tucked away off the rue de Bretagne in the Marais. It offers many kinds of cuisine including Japanese, French and North African, in a casual atmosphere. On the top floor of the main BHV department store, just off the rue de Rivoli, there is also a fun, recently-renovated cafeteria. The food is fresh and the views lovely. There is also a food court in the underground mall at the Louvre (the Carrousel du Louvre) which can be helpful in a pinch. But if you’re looking for something else near the Louvre, we prefer stopping at one the cafés (like Marronniers) in the Tuileries Gardens. They are not exactly celebrated for their food but the setting is nice and it’s a good place to rest your weary museum feet.
Steak and Fries
Try this classic French dish at Le Relais de l’Entrecôte, where they only serve steak and french fries. First, choose how you would like your steak cooked (the cuisson): à point is closest to medium rare, and bien cuit translates as well-done. They’ll bring you a green salad with walnuts followed by the first portion of your steak and fries. The kids love the surprise when the server comes back with the second half of the delicious steak (or entrecôte, a specific cut of beef, the namesake of the restaurant) and a second helping of fries. The meat comes smothered in their signature, mustard-based green sauce. Be sure to leave room for the profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream and covered in chocolate for dessert.
Stopping in at Ladurée for some macaroons and hot chocolate is always a special treat. Kids and adults love the decor and the thick, French-style hot chocolate. Most cafés serve a chocolat chaud maison (homemade hot chocolate) and Angélina’s remains a popular favorite as well.
The Ultimate Splurge
Michelin 2- and 3-star restaurants have traditionally been child-free zones, but many of them are making an extra effort to accommodate families. We tried L’Epicure at the luxury hotel Le Bristol. They offer a reduced-price children’s menu. This is a real splurge but if it’s in the budget, it is something your children will never forget. UNESCO added French cuisine to their list of intangible world heritage sites, and it’s easy to understand why.
Bon appétit à tous !