By Ruby Boukabou
While Paris is known as the City of Light, it’s often the City of Light Meals for vegetarian travelers. Travelers looking for a vegetarian meal may find their best, if not only, option on a typical French menu is goat’s cheese salad. For vegans, it's worse—a green salad with a baguette and, if lucky, a twig of parsley or a few slices of tomato. Waiters may even assume that vegetarians also eat fish or forget to mention that the lentils have been cooked with goose fat too.
But, do not despair. Here are 10 tips for a vegetarian in Paris.
1. Head to Rue de Paradis.
The "street of Paradise" in the 10th arrondissement lives up to its name for vegetarians in Paris. Options include Vietnamese-inspired creations, Japanese bento boxes, fat veggie burgers, pastas and much more. You’ll find some places exclusively vegetarian and others with both options.
At Nanashi, how about some veg spring rolls for starters, followed by a bento tofu burger with freshly squeezed apple juice, finished off with a raspberry cheese cake with sencha tea? Ticks all around for this Parisian bento joint that can really hit the spot.
Just beside Nanashi is Vietnamese-inspired Cho Cantine. Priding themselves on quality of produce and good simple Vietnamese street food-influenced recipes, Cho Cantine offers many vegetarian options in their original soups, stir fries and tofu dishes.
At Nous there are many vegetarian options for dining in or takeaway. In this healthy canteen, travelers can enjoy burgers, tortillas and lunch boxes. The meat options are free range here too.
2. Have lunch at Bob’s Kitchen.
This is an iconic vegetarian restaurant with options for vegans too (you can have almond milk with your coffee or tea, for example, though they do use eggs in some meals). Bob’s Kitchen dishes up hearty vegetable stews, veg curries and delicious smoothies. You'll be tempted by the blueberry and maple syrup pancakes!
Breakfast and lunch only
3. Stop off in the Jewish Quarter for seriously good falafel sandwiches.
The Marais is famous for trendy boutiques and cafés. It’s also the Jewish quarter, which means there’s seriously good falafel on offer in pita sandwiches stuffed with salad, tahini and often a slice of delicious aubergine (eggplant) on top.
There are several options on Rue de Rosiers. The most famous (you’ll see by the queue) is L'As du Fallafel at number 34 but there’s also MI-VA-MI at number 34. Around the corner at Chez Marianne you can also get into some baklava and strudel as an afternoon pick-me-up.
4. Get into the vibe at Marché des Enfants Rouge.
The oldest covered market in Paris (since the early-1600s) is a good stop for vegetarians. After buying your fruit and veg, you can enjoy various vegetarian options including enormous organic sandwiches with salad, fennel, carrots, avocado, mushrooms, goat's cheese, honey and lemon zest by local character Alain, who will make you laugh with his antics while chopping, flipping and serving. ‘The Stand’ has a simple, healthy vegetarian menu with a soup du jour, a snack du jour and a dish du jour. Mosey around the other stands before you choose and soak up the market ambiance.
5. Watch out for lardons in "vegetarian salads!"
Some French chefs think a few lardons, or bits of bacon, in a salad won’t hurt anyone. They don’t intentionally mean to be offensive to vegetarians, they just don’t quite get it. Always ask or check before diving into your salad to be safe.
6. Watch out for soups made with meat stock.
To be on the safe side, ask if your soup is cooked with meat stocks. You don’t want to find out there were beef bones in your delicious vegetable soup after you’ve downed a bowl. Similarly check that your lentils weren’t enhanced with some goose fat.
7. Try Italian, Japanese, Indian, and Vietnamese options.
The melting pot of cultures awakens Paris today and that means more reliable vegetarian choices. You can’t go wrong with Italian restaurants with many vegetarian pizza and pasta options.
Pizzeria Il Posto has delicious meat and vegetarian pizzas spun by two chefs from Napoli. The word is out with locals, so get there early or book, or be ready to wait 20 minutes for a seat.
Krishna Bhavan is a vegetarian Indian restaurant that’s tasty and also busy.
In Belleville there are many Asian restaurants with several veg options. Try delicious peanut-based soup at Chez Yu.
Down a soul-reviving vegetarian couscous at Chez Omar.
8. Dine at the (mostly) vegetarian restaurant from multi-Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse!
It sounds unlikely but it’s true. The man often labelled the godfather of French gastronomy, Alain Ducasse, has made Plaza Athénée hotel a mainly vegetarian affair. That means there is still some meat, but it’s not the focus. Why? “Nourishing oneself in a healthier and more natural way is an expectation and a necessity that it is now time to implement in haute cuisine,” says Ducasse. It’s a chic affair and you’ll want to be dressed up, but it will definitely be worth writing home about.
9. Head to the market and have a picnic à la Parisien(ne)!
There are street markets with good produce in every area of Paris, but if you want bio-quality and don’t mind paying a few euros extra, head to Marché Raspail. You’ll also find treats (cheeses, strawberries, macaroons, pastries and dips) perfect for taking to the park or the banks of the Seine with a baguette and a bottle of rosé for a Parisian picnic.
10. Check out HappyCow.
This is a practical site where you can find out about vegetarian options in Paris or elsewhere. Not only will it list the vegetarian restaurants near your location, it will also give ideas for shops such as Naturalia, which is a good spot to pop into when you arrive to stock up on healthy snacks and drinks to keep you going on your explorations.