Delicious Dining In The Former Fresh Market of Paris - Les Halles

Among the many excellent restaurants in and around Les Halles, there are two that are so emblematic of Paris that any time spent in the city without stopping in at either or both of them is a missed opportunity. These two restaurants are Au Pied de Cochon and Georges.

Au Pied de Cochon, now in its 72nd year, is not just a true Les Halles tradition but also a veritable Parisian institution. Up until 2016 it had never once closed its doors remaining open 'round the clock, 24/7.  That has since changed and it's only Thursdays-Saturdays that it remains open 24 hours. Au Pied de Cochon is where you come for a hearty meal of the best onion soup you'll find in Paris, a plate of homemade pork charcuterie and some of the choicest cuts of meat, fish and poultry to be found anywhere.

The other emblematic restaurant of Les Halles district is Georges. This true jewel sits atop the Centre Georges Pompidou and is considered one of the most romantic, upscale dining spots in Paris. The sweeping views over Paris from the glass-encased dining room provide an unforgettable backdrop. The chef here turns out asian-fusion dishes of fish, filet mignon and duck.

A newer addition to the neighborhood is Odette. Its Executive Chef is Rostang whose other restaurants include a 2-Michelin star in Paris' 17th arrondissment. Chef Remi Henaux's house specialties include flaky pastry encrusted seasonally fresh white fish, gnocchi in a delicate creamy poisson sauce and for dessert be sure to sample his very own take on crepes suzette. The back terrace dining area, open in warmer months, offers comfortably discreet dining. 

The Auberge Nicolas Flamel is a favorite, especially of the English. Legend, as well as historical record, has it that this is the building in which Nicolas Flamel, the alchemist credited with discovering how to turn metal into gold, lived in the XIVth c. All you Harry Potter fans can take it from there to color in more of the rich history!

The other stellar Les Halles restaurants on this list are also not to be missed. In short, dining at any of these establishments before, after or while enjoying the nightlife or shopping in this district is an excellent choice.



3rd Arondissement - Marais

To understand a bit why this is such a cult restaurant, especially with our English brethren, it is essential to note that the 15th c. alchemist, Nicolas Flamel, is said to have once lived in this very building. If you haven't read the Harry Potter books, that might not resonate with you. But if you are a Potter fan, then you'll understand how significant this legendary alchemist, the one who, according to myth and legend was able to turn iron into gold, is to the history of Western Europe. Pop culture aside, this tucked away little auberge is a short walk from the Centre Pompidou and when you find it, you feel like you're the only one who possibly has. But no, on any given evening you will be surrounded by fellow diners who have come to enjoy the solid French fare served here in this historical setting.

Le Louchébem
Photo courtesy of Le Louchebem

If the smell of roasting meats and plump chickens cooking on a slow rotisserie whets your appetite, this is the place to come when you're hankering for a hearty meal. There is a reason that this restaurant is featured in all the guidebooks: It is a Les Halles classic. It's a no-frills restaurant more akin to what we might call a diner in the U.S. The cuts of meats here are superior and this is where you come for that good steak-frites (steak and French fries) dripping in gravy and au jus that only the French know how to really do well. Desserts are classics as well and you'll find here the French favorites on the menu cr?me brulée, molten chocolate cake and a variety of icecreams.

Baltard au Louvre
Photo courtesy of Baltard au Louvre

It's stunning that there could even be a restaurant on this storied site. Equidistant between Les Halles and Le Louvre Museum, you are perfectly positioned here to transition from shopping to museum visiting when lunching at this restaurant. The terrace is practically an embarrassment of riches, so large is it, with views directly onto the new Les Halles canopy as well as the Eglise St.- Eustache. Inside, the glass walls keep this experience of spaciousness. The young chef, Ewout Vranckx, is adept at picking one product, making it central, and having all the other flavors help to fully express that central one. For instance, chestnut infused scallops, eggplant fired with rack of lamb. The wine list here is expertly chosen, from Sancerre to Syrah, to offset these complex flavor pairings.

1er Arrondissement

The interior of Chez Vong combines Chinese pottery, lanterns and bamboo screens and Parisian exposed stone walls to make a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere. Although your check can grow quickly if you choose too many of the great offerings, the food is delicious. Rock lobster with ginger is worth a try, as is Peking-style lacquered duck. Not far from Les Halles are a wide assortment of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants, many of which are frequented by the wholesalers/importers from the nearby wholesale district. This restaurant, however, is one that is frequented by not just the Asian community but also many French and foreigners looking for a genuine Vietnamese and Cantonese meal. Night time dining offers a bit of a different crowd, more families and less office workers. The soups can tend a bit towards the spicy but you can always ask for them to make it less "piquante."

1er Arrondissement

Established first in 1832 in the Les Halles quarter, this restaurant has stood at the very same location since 1879 where it is still today. It has witnessed the Belle Epoque, the Roaring 20s, two wars and all the decades since while dishing up its famous Normandy-origin cuisine to its loyal customers. Ornate painted mirrors, aged wood and molten glass add to the historical ambiance of this traditional restaurant. Dining rooms are both upstairs and downstairs with 5 smaller rooms you can privatize for small parties and receptions. The menu includes favorite dishes served in the Normandy countryside such as housemade andouillette and boudin (blood sausage) but there's also lighter fare on offer such as scallops for seafood lovers and tender chicken breast prepared with apple cider.

3éme Arrondissement

This is one of those places where your French friends take you when they want to share a warm, traditional meal with you. Everything served here is a specialty of the Auvergne and Aveyron regions, two areas that the French tend to romantice for the purity of its country way of life. Whether that's just a tale or not, the aligot that they serve here is not to be missed. That's the specialty dish from this region that is mashed potatoes slow blended with melted-gooey cheese and garlic. If you have never had this you will think you have died and gone to heaven. Especially when it's cold outside and you're feeling like a stick-to-your-ribs meal is the thing that will set the world right again. Everything else on the menu, steaks, sausages, pork belly, are perfect accompaniments to those cheesy, melty mashed potatoes.

You can't say you've really been to Paris until you've dined here at Au Pied de Cochon. The name of the restaurant means "pig's foot" literally translated, or pig's trotters for the culinary translation. And that is what the restaurant became famous for. Opened in 1947 by a former butcher. It has kept its authenticity, even if it has added a touch of elegance and refinement, over the years. The restaurant is known, and loved, for still making all their dishes by hand on premise. This is the place to order that plate of pork paté since it was made right there in the kitchens, and not bought from outside. And though they do sell hundreds of thousands of plates of pig's trotters here annually, the dish not to miss is their onion soup. It is one of the best in the city.

One of the freshest of Les Halles' newer restaurants, this open-kitchen restaurant infuses the atmosphere with welcoming hospitality. Fish dishes are the house specialty, namely flaky pastry crust enveloped white fish morsels. It's a French specialty that harkens back to 'grandma's cuisine' a food trend these days that has people yearning for shared meals around family tables they remember from childhood. On this note, you'll find dishes on the menu that are meant to be shared among the table, even mains. Starters can feature a wild mushroom delicate pastry, paired with an artisanal wine served alongside a bowl of fresh-made gnocchi bathed in a creamy fish sauce. The Executive Chef here is Michel Rostang, who is the patriarch of a French culinary dynasty. He has brought in Chef Remi Henaux to head up these kitchens having done stints at Ledoyen and La Grande Cascade.

4éme Arrondissement

Considered one of Paris' most romantic restaurants by locals and visitors alike, Georges offers sweeping views of the city's skyline. In fact, from up so high, on the top of the Centre Pompidou,you get the sense that the whole city is at your feet. Décor is modern in keeping with the museum's thematic of modern art. In the warmer months, the outside terrace seating is one of the best in the city. For the cooler months, the glass walls that surround you when seated inside still afford that breathtaking 180° view of Paris. Dishes here are classics like Scottish salmon and filet mignon, tender and juicy. There are slight Asian-fusion elements throughout so your sea bass will be served in a miso lacquer sauce for example and you can opt for rice as a side in place of the creamy mashed potatoes that come with your choice of meal.

Besides serving hot, tempting, overflowing plates of food until 5 a.m., Chez Denise is most well known for its hot, tempting, overflowing plates of French traditional food. The proper name is what you see written here above but everyone just refers to this red-checked tablecloth mainstay as Chez Denise. The fare here appeals to those who like to chomp into true classics, such as grilled marrow bones. All the while rubbing shoulders â€" and elbows and knees â€" with your fellow diners invariably sitting altogether much too closely to you. But since this is a favorite of the late night after club and post-dancing crowds, by that time of day (er, night) people tend to be much friendlier anyway.


Meet Paige Donner

Paige's latest book, The Romantic Couple's Guide To The City of Love, Sexy Paris follows her earlier guidebook Paris On 4 Paws, A Dog Lover's Guide To The City of Light and her acclaimed...  More About Paige