On the Trail

Paris Hot Spots

David Driscoll

Since we spend a lot of time traveling through France, it's only inevitable that we end up spending a lot of time in its capital: Paris—our travel hub to the great world of French wine and spirits. Over the years we've come to rely on a number of Parisian cafés, diners, bars, and restaurants for their fantastic fare; places that turn the end of a long work trip into a moment to savor and thoroughly enjoy. Here's a look at a few of our favorites: 

St. Germain's Café de Flore is hardly a secret. In fact, it might be the most prestigious and glamorous café in the entire world. That's hardly a reason to cross it off your list, however. If you think there's some tiny, non-touristic hole-in-the-wall spot where you can get this type of pampering, think again. The Napoleons are to die for, as are the older women who dress up to the nines consuming them. 

If coffee isn't your thing, you can still get a drink while taking in the sites at Café de Flore. If you order a Campari & soda you'll get your own ice bucket and seltzer bottle, along with a basket of potato chips. What could be fancier than that?

The more decadent café experience is just across the Seine over at Angelina. Located on the Rue de Rivoli, the legendary coffeehouse has pastries so buttery your napkin instantly becomes a translucent sheet each time you wipe your hands. The hot chocolate is so thick it pours like sludge at a snails pace. Nothing is overly sweet, however. Angelina knows just where to draw the line.

Looking for that classic French bistro lunch? Head on over to La Fontaine de Mars in Paris's seventh arrondissement for an authentic and affordable experience. Our owner Clyde Beffa has made this traditional spot a must-dine destination for more than a decade. Try the duck confit if you know what's good for you. $10 carafes of Beaujolais are also on the menu.

Looking for a more unique and truly-French experience? Try the Maison de la Truffe on the Place de la Madeleine for an out-of-this-world black truffle enlightenment. You think those truffle dinners you pay an arm and a leg for at your local Bay Area spot are giving you the real deal? Probably not. Unlike that light dusting you got on your pasta there, here you're getting chunks of black truffle so thick you'll be picking them out of your teeth for a week.

If you've ever wanted to try the whole Michelin three-star thing, make a reservation at L'Arpege—beloved Parisian chef Alain Passard's vegetarian vision over on the Rue de Varenne. It won't be cheap, but you'll never forget this meal for as long as you live. Passard will likely come out at some point and chat with you face-to-face as well, putting a very personal touch on to a very special occasion.

For a more artistic and exotic experience check out the café in the Musée de Orsay after you've checked out their impressive Impressionist exhibit. The atmosphere is absolutely gorgeous and the pastries are works of art themselves.

If you're feeling non-traditional and want something both hearty and affordable, check out Hokkaido on the Rue Chabanais just outside Place Vendome. The multi-storied Japanese ramen house has steaming bowls of noodles and a surprisingly-diverse selection of French wines. It gets packed around lunch time, however, so get there early.

If you're looking for more eclectic options, visit the food portion of the world-famous Galeries Lafayette in the ninth arrondissement for a literal smorgasbord of selection. The Petrossian counter has caviar with ice cold vodka as a lunch option!

And, of course, if you want the true Parisian experience with all the attitude it's known for, you absolutely must visit Le Relais de l'Entrecôte in St. Germain for their world-famous steak frites with green peppercorn sauce. You get two servings, but only one choice. It's this or nothing. You only get to decide how you want your meat cooked and you'd better not take too long to decide!

-David Driscoll