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Helen Rosner

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If You Love Food, Heaven Is Paris's 11th Arrondissement

Stay in this neighborhood on your visit, and live happily ever after

It will shock no one that the best dining in Paris isn’t clustered around the morass of tourist attractions (and traps) in the center of the city. Rather, the most dynamic restaurants can be found in its northeastern neighborhoods, particularly the historically working-class 11th arrondissement, where lower real estate prices have allowed entrepreneurs to flourish. The sheer concentration of destination-worthy bars and restaurants makes the 11th an ideal home base for the food-focused traveler, whatever else may be on your agenda.

Martin: The overflowing terrace here can best be described as "chaotic," but that’s part of the fun at this wine bar near Oberkampf. Chef Peter Orr arguably serves the best bar food in the city, and at reasonable prices. On any given night, you’ll find oozy runny Scotch eggs with mustard-tinged piccalilli served alongside homemade pastas, or liver parfaits that truly are boozy, buttery perfection. 24 Boulevard du Temple | +33 (0)1 43 57 82 37

Martin/Facebook

Clown Bar: Eating poached brains in a clown-themed restaurant sounds like the stuff of nightmares, especially lately, but Clown Bar is positively dreamy. This historic spot near the Cirque d’Hiver is as elegantly decorated as a place covered in murals of clowns can be, while the terrace is wonderful in warm weather. Most important, the food is excellent. Chef Sota Atsumi’s intriguing offal dishes will entice even the most timid eaters, and the pithiviers de canard, a flaky puff pastry stuffed with foie gras and duck, is the most soulful meat pie imaginable. 114 Rue Amelot | +33 1 43 55 87 35

Aux Deux Amis: Unpretentious small plates, great wines by the glass, and a raucous, fashionable crowd that pours out into the street. You can make a meal out of the excellent charcuterie, while natural wine geeks will be delighted by the selection. Be prepared to get a bit sweaty and make some new friends. 45 Rue Oberkampf | +33 1 58 30 38 13

Le Petit Keller: It may look like a super-traditional bistro, but the food is anything but. Kaori Endo, formerly at Nanashi, is serving Franco-Japanese fusion for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Think mackerel donburi bowls with marinated, poached eggs, followed by chocolate quenelles with Armagnac-soaked figs and cream. You’ll leave feeling not just full, but healthy and refreshed—what you imagine all of the beautiful people drinking natural wine at the formica tables feel like all the time. 13 Rue Keller | +33 1 43 55 90 54

Astier/Facebook

Astier: If you’re looking for old-timey bistro fare, look no further. Astier has red-checked tablecloths, ancient radios, and hammy waiters to spare. The cheese course is legendary, and for good reason: it’s not a cheese plate, but a communal, serve-yourself cheese platter. 44 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud | +33 1 43 57 16 35

Aux Deux Cygnes: This spare but pretty natural wine bar offers great service and thoughtful French-Vietnamese snacks on brightly patterned dishes. You can come simply for a drink—owner To Xuân Cuny has curated an interesting wine list showcasing unusual grapes and regions, with a particularly good selection from the Savoie—but the small plates are substantial enough to constitute a meal. 36 Rue Keller | +33 9 80 52 45 66

CheZaline: A former horse butchery turned sandwich shop—and the delicatessen of your dreams. Delphine Zampetti attracted attention with the brilliant small plates she whipped up on a simple hot plate inside Verre Volé, a tiny wine bar. She hasn’t disappointed since opening her own spot: Whether it’s a bright octopus salad, old-fashioned veal tongue sandwiches, or an oozing tortilla patata served with chorizo, you’ll get a hearty lunch for less than €10, even if the cramped space means you might not get a seat. 85 Rue de la Roquette | +33 1 43 71 90 75

Muscovado/Facebook

Muscovado: Hearty breakfast, good coffee, and sweet service from Filipina sisters Francine and Quina Lon, who have decorated the café with their personal flea-market finds. The globe-trotting breakfast menu includes shrimp and corn beignets, a classic sausage bap, sumac-dusted avocado toast, and homemade jam-stuffed donuts. With so much to choose from, it’s a good thing breakfast is served all day long. 1 Rue Sedaine | +33 1 77 16 31 32

Pas de Loup: Sophisticated but playful cocktails (a recent visit showcased a Prince-themed menu) from owner-bartender Amanda Boucher served alongside a good playlist and, from chef Lina Caschetto, more vegetable-focused dishes than you typically find at a bar. I constantly crave the popcorn with nutritional yeast and mushroom powder, which tastes much better than it sounds. 108 Rue Amelot | +33 9 54 74 16 36

Le Servan: Chef Tatiana Levha, who worked her way up at Michelin-starred establishments L’Arpège and L’Astrance, offers seemingly simple seasonal food with surprising twists at her beautiful neighborhood bistro. The value can’t be beat—c’est très bon marché—but choices are minimal on this tightly edited menu. You can expect offbeat (for the French) twists like boudin noir wontons, duck hearts with chile, or fish sauce–soaked clams. 32 Rue Saint-Maur | +33 1 55 28 51 82

Septime, Corinne Moncelli/Flickr

Septime: Don’t bother trying to call for a reservation—you won’t get through. But if you’re willing to wake up early precisely three weeks before you want to eat, you can hammer the refresh button on your browser in hopes of scoring a table. If you’re lucky, you’ll be in for a delightful tasting menu from chef Bertrand Grébaut at what is widely considered to be one of the best restaurants in Paris. If not, head down the street to Clamato, which is far more relaxed and informal, but still excellent. 80 Rue de Charonne | +33 1 43 67 38 29

Clamato: Grébaut’s more casual, seafood-oriented spot is a delight in its own right, featuring crab fritters with spicy mayo, warm razor clams with hazelnuts and herb butter, and sea urchin the size of a human head. Come early to avoid the crowds and seat your party at the counter, in small groups. 80 Rue de Charonne | +33 1 43 72 74 53

Septime Cave: Couldn’t bring yourself to get to Clamato early? Happily, there’s no better place to wait in line than at Grébaut’s neighboring wine bar, which is a destination in and of itself. In addition to unusual natural wines by the glass—orange wines or pét-nat—you’ll find excellent cheese and charcuterie plates, plus other simple bites like tiny sardines with tandoori butter. The bar doubles as a wine shop, so you can grab a bottle to take to your next destination, too. It’s tiny, so be prepared to spill out onto the sidewalk. 3 Rue Basfroi | +33 1 43 67 14 87

Fulgurances/Facebook

Fulgurances: There’s a new chef-in-residence at Fulgurances every six months, so you never know exactly what to expect. Hugo Hivernat, Sophie Cornibert, and Rebecca Asthalter, the team behind the bilingual food magazine of the same name, opened the space with the expectation that it would become a culinary testing ground for talented sous chefs trying out their personal restaurant concepts. The staff and space remain the same, so you will enjoy warm, polished service no matter what. 10 Rue Alexandre-Dumas | +33 1 43 48 14 59

Le Repaire de Cartouche: Boisterous chef Rodolphe Paquin has an enormous natural wine list that will excite trend-driven boozehounds, particularly those interested in wines from the Rhone Valley, but the real draw here are the classic and traditional French dishes. You’d be hard pressed to find a better chef for complicated, old-fashioned game dishes—meats stuffed inside game meats stuffed inside cabbages or pastry—so add this to the top of your list during a fall or winter trip. Downstairs is an informal wine bar that showcases his phenomenal terrines. 8 Boulevard des Filles-du-Calvaire | +33 1 47 00 25 86

Mokonuts: The black-olive-and-white-chocolate-chip cookie at Mokonuts is much better than that combination has any right to be, and it’s worth coming here for a coffee and cookie alone. You’d be remiss in not eating lunch, though, given the well-priced Middle Eastern options that change daily and are served with fluffy, homemade bread. This is a two-person operation, so even though the service is invariably gracious, it can at times get overwhelmed. 5 Rue Saint-Bernard | +33 9 80 81 82 85

Ten Belles Bread/Facebook

Ten Belles Bread: Ten Belles became famous as a coffeeshop along the Canal Saint-Martin, but has since branched out into baked goods with its latest establishment. Part coffeeshop, part bakery, you’ll find great Anglo-inspired breakfast and lunch options like rum-raisin bundt cake with salted-caramel glaze, Cornish pasties, and flaky sausage rolls, as well as crusty loaves of bread to take home. The large terrace is meant for lingering on sunny days. 17–19 bis Rue Bréguet | +33 1 42 40 90 78

Chambelland: Forsaking bread in France feels sacrilegious, so for the gluten-averse, the grainy loaves at Chambelland are heaven-sent. The gluten-free bakery and café has its own mill to grind buckwheat and rice flours. I’ve witnessed celiacs cry (with joy) at the array of traditional tarts, pastries, and breads. The chouquettes, sugar-crusted puffs eaten traditionally as an after-school snack, are particularly exciting, as choux pastry is particularly tough to do well without gluten. 14 Rue Ternaux | +33 1 43 55 07 30

Yard: It’s hard to beat the lunch deal at Jane Drotter’s natural-wine focused bistro—three courses for €19—and even harder to beat the terrace in sunny weather. Chef Nye Smith offers a simple, elegant menu that changes daily—a recent visit showcased grilled mackerel with fattoush and housemade ravioli with pumpkin, walnuts, and sage, as well casual tapas in the "Backyard" bar. 6 Rue de Mont-Louis | +33 1 40 09 70 30

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