France’s second-largest city grew around one of the great natural harbors of the Mediterranean. During the 19th century, Marseille shared the title of the world’s fastest-growing city with Chicago as immigrants from Italy, Spain, Greece, and elsewhere came to work its docks, mills, and factories. This diversity explains the city’s spectacularly cosmopolitan food scene, which became even richer with the arrival of repatriating French and North Africans from France’s colonies following their independence in the 1950s and ’60s.
Marseille’s gastronomic reputation was long summed up for the French by bouillabaisse, the famous fish stew that’s the city’s signature dish. Now that’s changing fast. When Marseille became one of Europe’s two cultural capitals in 2013, the city smartened up with impressive urban-renewal projects, including Richard Rogers’s beautiful renovation of Le Vieux Port and a sleek new tram system. Tourism boomed.
With these new mouths to feed, talented young chefs from all over France suddenly saw Marseille through fresh eyes. Cheap rents and outstanding produce clinched the deal, and they moved south and started opening small restaurants serving a cuisine that never existed here before — moderately priced contemporary southern French bistro cooking, which spins on a cosmopolitan axis of global flavors, freshness, and creativity. Marseille’s restaurant scene has never been so good, and it just gets better every day. What follows is a list of the essential restaurants of this historic gem on the Provence coast.
Editor’s Note: Eater is not updating international maps at this time given disruptions to global travel during the COVID-19 crisis.
Prices per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than 20 euros (Less than $22 USD)
$$ = 20 - 50 euros ($22 - $55 USD)
$$$ = 50 - 100 euros ($55 - $109 USD)
$$$$ = 100 euros and up ($109 USD and up)
Alexander Lobrano is a Paris-based food writer and the author of Hungry for Paris and Hungry for France.Read More