John Donohue’s A Table in Paris

by Will Mountain Cox

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John Donohue’s book A Table in Paris features more than 100 ink drawings of the city’s most beloved restaurants. With his signature one-color style, Donohue has rendered iconic institutions from Bofinger to Mokonuts, and everything in between. The book is also full of tips from locals and cultural experts such as Ruth Reichl, Lindsey Tramuta, Alec Lobrano, Maira Kalman, and HiP Paris founder Erica Berman. It’s the perfect companion for your next trip to Paris, be it real or imaginary.

A montage of John Donohue's sketches of Parisian restaurants. On the left is a drawing of the restaurant "Chez L'Ami Louis" in black, white, and red. On the right is a drawing of the restaurant/pâtisserie "Angelina", with its usual queue of people outside, in brown, black, and white.
Chez L’Ami Louis & Angelina by John Donohue

Living in Paris and trying to “make it as a writer” means I don’t often go to restaurants, and when I have the money to drink, I do my drinking at the same cheap bars. But, after six months of the city sitting shuttered, I was missing our restaurants. Luckily, I was sent a copy of John Donohue’s A Table in Paris, a collection of drawings and conversations celebrating the combination of dining and artistic creativity that is so uniquely Parisian. A follow-up to John’s All the Restaurants in New York, A Table in Paris pairs delicious visuals of iconic restaurant architecture with the sweet nothings of Parisians waxing poetic about the restaurants they love. I recently spoke with John about how his book can transport us to better tastes and conversations.

A montage of John Donohue's sketches of Parisian restaurants. On the left is a drawing of the restaurant "Racines" in black, white, and yellow. On the right is a drawing of the restaurant "Verjus", in yellow, black, and white.
Racines & Verjus by John Donohue

Will: I find the perspective of your drawings to be very full of potential. Always just outside your favorite restaurant, waiting for a table, or for a friend, or for a lover. What have your drawings, and even more, your drawings in these unfulfillable times, taught you about longing?

John: If I’m ever anywhere without my pen and paper that’s when I feel intense regret and longing. When I’m standing in front of a place drawing, I become so engaged with the present moment that I lose track of where I am. Drawing brings me incredible joy, and I’m fortunate that my finished pieces have a similar effect on many viewers. I’m grateful my images can help people overcome their sense of missing a place and bring them back to the memory of a good meal and good company, and also offer the hope of returning to a favorite place soon. 

Pictures from the Parisian restaurant "Verjus". On the left is a shot above on a table of 5 sharing their meal. On the right is a private space in the restaurant in the themes of wood and navy blue.

W: Which restaurant in Paris will you go first, when travel restrictions are lifted and restaurants reopen? Who will you meet there? What plate will you share?

J: On my second trip to the city in the summer of 2019, when I was drawing restaurants for the book, there was a moment when my family came to join me. The first night we were all together we booked a table at Verjus. The staff jumped through amazing hoops to accommodate our needs (nut allergies, gluten issues), and my teenage daughters, who had never faced a tasting menu before (they almost always order a steak), learned to trust the kitchen and we had a kind of magical meal. I would think of heading back to Verjus to have another transformative dinner. Or, not wanting to spoil that memory, I might opt to take everyone to Le Severo, which I missed out on because of the August holiday that year. It’s famously out of the way and almost all meat, so I’m sure that would be a fun trip!

John Donohue's sketch of Parisian restaurant "Le Severo" in black, white, and red.
Le Severo by John Donohue

W: You mix art and food in your book. In my interviews with chefs, I’ve found chefs shy away from being considered artists (though I find them to be). What do you think the restaurant community can teach us about life and living?

J: My art is drawing, which, for me, is very therapeutic. The chef’s art is cooking, which is always very nurturing. Restaurants exist to feed people, but they do more than fill the stomach. Done right, with the proper combination of food, company, and atmosphere, they fill the soul. And nowhere in the world do they do this better than in Paris. The word “restaurant” even has its root in the French “restaurer,” which means “to restore.” A lesson I would take from the work of French chefs, who are so good at taking care of others, is to take care of yourself. If you want to live well, you have to make time and space to restore and repair yourself, for only then can you live life to the fullest, which is perhaps the truest art of all. 

You can purchase A Table in Paris via Amazon.

Two pictures from the Parisian restaurant "Pétrelle". On the left is a candle-lit table for two. On the right is a special slice of the french 'pâté'.
A montage of John Donohue's sketches of Parisian restaurants. On the left is a drawing of the restaurant "St. Regis" in black, white, and teal green. On the right is a drawing of the restaurant "Frenchie" in brown, black, and white.
St. Regis & Frenchie by John Donohue

John Donohue

John Donohue, a former editor at The New Yorker and erstwhile cartoonist for the magazine, is a self-taught artist. In 2017, he launched the website All the Restaurants, where he sells signed, limited-edition prints in part to aid hospitality workers impacted by the pandemic. His book All the Restaurants in New York was published in 2019.  A volume of London drawings is due out next. He lives in Brooklyn and draws at least twice a day.

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Written by Will Mountain Cox for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates. 

Written By

Will Mountain Cox

Will Mountain Cox is a writer living in Paris. His first book With Paris in Mind, is a collection of conversations with the most exciting writers, artists, musicians and chefs living in Paris right now. It was named a “Favourite Book of the Year” by Shakespeare and Company. He also serves on the Artistic Committee at the American Center for Arts and Culture, focused on supporting the work of young artists in the city. View Will Mountain Cox's Website

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26 comments on “John Donohue’s A Table in Paris

Please consider this my entry for the Givaway as I don’t have FB or Instagram.

Given the possibility again, the first place, I would eat in Paris is somewhere I found via the Hip Paris Blog, of course. I would start a day the way Lina Nordin Gee would — at Papilles in the Pigalle area. It sounds like my type of place.

Aww thanks for your entry Robby!

Bonjour, my May 2020 planned month in Paris was, obviously, cancelled, so am anxiously awaiting the day when I can be there again. One of my favorite dinners on my last stay (2018) was in Les Bouquinistes, a fun little restaurant with a great staff — food and atmosphere were fantastic. If it is still open and surviving these difficult times and lockdowns, I’d definitely make a return visit. Salut!

Salut! And sounds like a plan 🙂

I am delighted to share this post as HIP Paris continues to be a light in our days of shut down. As my husband and I have been to Paris many times, we can dream and imagine the many places mentioned in HIP Paris about Parisian experience during the Pandemic and the attitude of sharing and hope that has sustained this City through many challenges. We cannot wait to revisit the Cristal Room in the Maison Baccarat in the 16th. We have taken guests as well to this glorious display of mirrors and light and the food and service have always been brilliant.

Aww thank you so much Pamela and I hope you can visit soon!

Holy Belly is a wonderful place in Paris, to sit over most delicious
breakfast leisurely, listen to great music and eat fabulous food.
I know it’s not the swankiest, but it is a great place to go early in
the day, when you plan to walk for miles afterwards.

Love Holybelly indeed!

What a delightful book concept. So hard to choose where I’d go first. What initially popped into my head was steak frites at Le Relais de Venice.

Love steak frites. Will have to try le Relais!

I can’t wait to return to the Rue Levis neighborhood in Paris and have dinner at L’Air de Famille!

Très bien! 🙂

I long to be in Paris and enjoy the sights and smells and tastes that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. I think my first stop would be les Papilles, just around the corner from the Jardin du Luxembourg. And if not there then, perhaps a neighborhood resto like La Mandigotte in Montmartre. And if not there, maybe something like standing around the bar at Avant Comptoir. And if not that …..

So many options indeed…. soon, we hope Richard!

I would give anything to blink my eyes and be back at La Closerie des Lilas, sitting in the covered terrace, within earshot of the piano bar, enjoying the storied ambiance of this landmark establishment on the edge of Montparnasse. The bistrot fare is good, if predictable, so it’s really about the whole experience of the place. In fact you can skip the food and just sit at the wonderful bar and have a glass of the champagne on tap, it could still be Taittinger, and feel on top of the world.

Yes, there is so much in the experience!!

I didn’t have to think about this. Been to all manner of places, three stars et all.
But the hanger steak at Le Paul Bert has to be the first place I will go. Second place , L’Ami Jean for you guessed it, the rice pudding!

My husband and I stopped in at Flora Danica to have a coffee and sit and watch the world go round last time we were in Paris in 2017. I would love to get back there soon!

Le Boudoir is the restaurant in Paris I would go to first. My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary there and it was lovely. The restaurant manager/owner came over to talk to us about the French eating experience. He had a real passion for food and it was very informative. We followed his recommendations and enjoyed one of the best meals ever.

I would go eat at Bouldogue on Rambuteau for the welcome (and the fact that my dog is welcome too).
Also at Les Gars dans la cuisine on Vieille du Temple for the same reason.
Neither is haute cuisine but both are a pleasure.

I would love to go to Rice Trotters Colisée! The last time I was there was two years ago. I moved to Belgium in late 2019 (from Australia), and have wanted to go back to France. I can’t wait for the borders to open again so I can go back to this restaurant!

Jacqueline Bucar

I would eat again at L’Arcane ( 39 Rue Lamarck) for its innovative, creative dishes. Excellent cuisine and service.

Excellent to know… and I see you are in Maine Jacqueline! Where?

Viaje a París en 2015 y almorzamos en “La Coupole”. Lo disfrutamos mucho con mi esposa. Espero encontrarlo en el libro de John. Saludos Will!

How to enter this Givaway if we are not on FB or Instagram?

Ah ha! I guess can you write a comment below here and subscribe to our newsletter if you are not already? All the best!

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