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Vegetarian-friendly Paris: Successfully Navigating the Dining Scene

EverJean

Being vegetarian anywhere requires extra effort and planning when it comes to dining out. Being a vegetarian in a place that eats pigeon, adores offal, and extols a head to tail philosophy (that is, Paris) requires Napoleonic strategizing.

At least it used to. In recent years, the dining scene in the City of Light has been opening up to alternative styles and menus, making it easier than ever to go veg (although you can still expect the occasional eye-roll from a waiter who simply doesn’t understand les végétariens). But whether you chalk it up to Anglo and ethnic infiltration, acceptance of new ingredients and spices, or simple ennui with traditional French cooking, it’s a great time to embrace your inner green goddess and take this meat-eating city by storm. Here are four delicious strategies to help.

Merce and the Muse (Julien Hausherr)

Strategy 1: Eat a big lunch

When Rose Carrarini (who’s British) and her French husband Jean-Charles opened Rose Bakery in 2002, their focus on fresh market salads—think: grilled tofu and tomatoes, and artichokes mixed with millet and chickpeas—was shockingly different from the staple of steak frites that many Parisians ate for lunch. Ten years and two additional outposts later, it’s hard to imagine Paris without Rose’s organic market salads, fresh quiches and famous carrot and pound cakes.

Similarly, when Marc Grossman opened Bob’s Juice Bar in 2006, the smoothies and bagel sandwiches the native New Yorker served up were wildly novel. Since then Grossman has not only spawned another café, Bob’s Kitchen, which serves additional goodies like pancakes and muesli, but a whole wave of casual cantines have followed suit. Hypercool concept stores Merci and Colette both have veg-friendly subterranean eateries; take-out lunch spots like Lemoni and Cojean always offer beautiful soups, sandwiches and salads; and lovely little cafes and bakeries such as SuperNature, Merce and the Muse, Tartes Kluger and Bread and Roses all offer outstanding veg fare.

Chez Omar (Roboppy)

Strategy 2: Eat ethnic

Another way to sate yourself without a bite of bifteck is by taking advantage of Paris’ ethnic restaurants. In the first arrondissement, Rue Saint-Anne is an oasis of Japanese dining options including hearty udon soups (try Kunitoraya or Higuma) and “okonomiyaki,” Japanese pancakes made of flour, grated yam, water or dashi, eggs and shredded cabbage. Or you can get stuffed on Indian lentils and curries (Saravanna Bhavan, Krishna Bhavan) and Moroccan couscous and tagines (Chez Omar). Decent pizza (Pizza Chic, La Briciola), and Italian (Caffe dei Cioppi, Olio Pane Vino) abounds and, with last year’s arrival of Candelaria, Mexican is firmly on the ethnic eating map of Paris. Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 11 Comments »

Casual Eating in Paris’ Haut Marais

Merce & Muse Paris Eatery Marais Merce and the Muse – Julien Hausherr

Life used to be so easy. At least my lunch choices were. I’d saunter over to the Haut Marais, into le Marché des Enfants Rouges, and hit up Alain, “my” sandwich guy. It started one day when I ordered the delicious organic smoked salmon sandwich that he made on ciabatta and slowly, patiently toasted up to crunchy perfection on his crepe burner. I quickly became addicted. Then he introduced the Cornet Vegetarien, and suddenly all bets were off. Inside a savory crepe, he’d combine gobs of delicious ingredients (“tout bio!” he’d proudly point out) such as fresh greens and mushrooms, grated carrots and fennel, marinated onions, sliced avocado and chèvre, olive oil, chives, sea salt, diced parsley, lemon juice, lime zest, and, à la fin, honey—or, ”the French touch!” in Alain’s words. In my own words, the best sandwich in the city.

Merce and Muse, Tartes Kluger, Marais ParisMerce and the Muse, Tartes Kluger – Julien Hausherr

But suddenly, my choices are a lot more plentiful. Casual eateries keep popping up, making me feel a little torn about sampling the new goods versus sticking to what I know and love. But let’s be honest: a girl can’t live on sandwiches alone. And as much as I’d like to eat several lunches a day, I must make my choices wisely. So, while I still visit Alain as often as possible, I’ve also been eating up the other fresh dishes put forth in the Haut Marais these days.

CocoCook Marais ParisCococook – Julien Hausherr

Say it’s a nice, sunny day and I’m heading to Square du Temple or Square Georges Cain, craving something beyond a sandwich for lunch. I exit the back of the Marché des Enfants Rouges, on rue Charlot, to the brilliant Cococook. Open for nearly a year now, it’s the kind of fresh and simple take-out food that has been perfected in U.S. cities like New York and San Francisco: a simple spinach salad, studded with sesame seeds, for example, or quinoa with coriander chicken and butternut squash. There are healthy drinks (carrot-ginger-orange juice) and naughty desserts (chocolate caramel tarte). But maybe the best thing is that the cute and clean operation is open every day and every night and even delivers—a true rarity in this city. Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Parisian Living, Restaurant Reviews | 5 Comments »