Paris is known for its terrace seating and cafe culture, but sometimes you want something a little more unusual for a special afternoon or evening out. Here are some Parisian restaurants with exceptional food, ambience, and views.
When in 1852, Emperor Napoleon III tasked Baron Haussmann with transforming the Bois de Boulogne into a pastoral experience for Parisians, he kept one of the two islands built in the man-made lake to house the Empress’s Swiss Chalet, transported stone-by-stone. During the Belle Epoque, the Chalet des Iles became a popular writers’ café frequented by literary lions such as Zola and Proust. Now, more than a hundred sixty years later, it is one of Paris’s most charming restaurants, accessible only by vaporetto. You’ll need to reserve well in advance for the popular Sunday Brunch (€60/person). Main dishes range €21-32, with menu highlights like Tuna Tartare with Capers and Avocado, House-made Foie Gras served with Pear Chutney and Brioche, and a Café Gourmand for dessert. Note: Great star gazing on summer nights, fantastic for fall foliage, and check the website for cool special events such as Thursday DJ work “pause” and Brazilian music nights.
Embarcadère des Îles, Porte de la Muette Entrée by Avenue de Saint-Cloud, 75016 Paris
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The Guinguettes, convivial outdoor waterside cafes where Parisians gathered on weekends in the 19th century and perhaps most famously represented in Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”, are back. Bocca Sur Seine is a decidedly twenty-first century take on this fun French waterside dining and drinking experience. Inspired by its sister outpost, Bocca Nissa in Nice, it delivers a Riviera ambiance in Paris. It advertises itself as a “mini vacation,” so if you’re visiting Paris, think of it as a vacation-within-a-vacation.
There’s lots of sunbaked wood and wicker, faded brown hues with splashes of color from the beautiful cocktails and mouth-watering Mediterranean tapas served up on blue earthenware. Highlights include: Fried mixed seafood plate, Chorizo Croquettes, BBQ Ribs with Basque Xipister Sauce, and Sea Bream Ceviche.
1200 Quai Marcel Dassault, 92210, Saint-Cloud
Just feet from both the Seine River and the Champs Elysée, nestled at the center of the four wings of the neoclassical Petit Palais Beaux Arts Museum, sits a perfect oasis. Simple metal park chairs and tables dot the patio and veranda, encircled by grey marble columns. Tasty food, served cafeteria-style, is made remarkable by splendid views of the imposing rotunda with its crescendo of details, sculptural reliefs and ornate picture windows. Try the chicken and tomato salad with a dessert for under €15. [The space is also available for private events, catered by the premium Lenotre Catering company and patisserie.]
Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008, Paris
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Named after the first woman to receive the Legion of Honor for art in the mid-nineteenth century, Rosa Bonheur was known as a tolerant, free-thinking, pants-wearing, convivial, and popular personality. Her namesake guinguettes [outdoor dance-pubs] have succeeded at capturing this spirit. “Mimi” and “Zouzou” are the fabled proprietor-hostess duo who preside over the festivities and see to it that everyone has all the bonheur in the world.
While there are four separate Rosa Bonheur branded guinguette restaurants across Paris, including Rosa Ouest and Rosa Seine, each is by a body of water, and Rosa Est and Rosa Buttes have at their center brightly colored nineteenth century chalets surrounded by eclectic collections of picnic tables, chairs, and lawn art (think pink flamingos, monkeys and ducks). The tapas menu features shared plates like wood oven pizzas, Sea Urchin Tarama, Fig Tapenade, Oysters, tinned Sardines, Spanish Iberico, and Pelardon Goat Cheese from the Cevennes Mountains, ranging from €6-8 apiece. Sunday Brunch is twenty-nine euros, Mojitos are eight, and a glass of champagne ten.
A few stand-outs among the cavalcade of events are the “Color the Street” art festival, a bike maintenance workshop, live music, DJs, and seasonal celebrations (they went BIG for Pride month).
Rosa Buttes, 2 Allée de la Cascade, 75019, Paris
Rosa Est, Porte Jaune, Avenue de Nogent, 75012, Paris
Rosa Ouest, 20 Quai du Dr Dervaux, 92600, Asnières-sur-Seine
Rosa Seine, Port des Invalides, 75007, Paris
The tea salon at the Grand Mosque of Paris is the perfect respite from a day of binging on Paris. You will sigh with relief as soon as you step off the rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire into the honeycomb of nooks, corners and multi-leveled terraces with an abundance of trees and greenery that make up this oasis of tea, pastry, and hospitality. As soon as you take a seat at the copper-topped table a server brings you a refreshing cup of sweet tea. The menu offers up a cornucopia of North African sweets and savory treats, priced about €2 each. Stand-outs include: Makrat, Pistachio Ghoriba, honey and almond crescent shaped cookies, ice cream, and sorbets. For €4-8 each, you can try a medley of savory Birks, triangle-shaped flaky dough morsels filled with either egg, tuna, or prawn. This is also a good spot to relax after a visit to the marvelous Jardin des Plantes, just a few blocks away.
39 Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 75005, Paris
With the Eiffel Tower facing front-and-center over the vast terrace, you’d be hard pressed to find a more eye-popping outdoor dining setting in Paris than at Girafe restaurant. For a special splurge, enjoy elegant contemporary seafood dishes at this tasteful 1930s Art Deco eatery, right in Paris’s Place du Trocadéro. Highlights include: Prawn Ravioli in Curry Bouillon, Spiced Codfish Cakes, Beechwood Smoked Salmon, and Sea Bream Tartare with Dashi and Glasswort leaves. Seafood towers range €60-540, and for dessert try the Milleféuille, Strawberry Pavlova, or Praline Waffles.
1 Place du Trocadéro, 75016, Paris