Where to eat steak frites in Paris | Ann Mah

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Where to eat in Paris

By Ann | September 12, 2013

la seine

When you close your eyes and think of the quintessential Paris meal, what comes to mind? For me, it’s always been steak frites, a juicy hunk of meat accompanied by a pile of fries so hot they sting your fingers.

Steak is simple to prepare — season it, slap it in a hot pan, don’t overcook — and most cafés and bistros offer a version that doesn’t gild the lily. But, as I learned when I set out to investigate the dish for my new book, not all steak is created equal.

The secret is aged meat, well-marbled cuts that have been hung in a dry, chilled space for weeks or months. The process concentrates the meat’s flavor and breaks down its connective tissues so that it becomes buttery and tender.

steak frites

Where to eat steak frites in Paris?

Le Severo (8 rue des Plantes, 14e, tel: 01 45 40 40 91) is a cozy bistro with dark wooden tables, chalkboard menus along the walls, and a classic zinc bar. The owner — William Bernet, a former butcher — ages his own beef and serves it rare, with a heap of house-cut fries. On the menu: meat, potatoes, red wine. Vegetarians beware.

Au Boeuf Couronné (188 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 19e, tel: 01 42 39 44 44), which opened in 1865, is a relic of the days when the neighborhood housed the city’s abattoir, La Villette, aka the Cité du Sang. Today, white tablecloths cover the tables, Art Deco lamps cast a golden glow, and the old-fashioned bistro menu features marrow bones with grey salt, steak frites, or the occasional piece of salmon. Old fashioned and nostalgic — if slaughterhouses make you nostalgic.

Le Mistral (401 rue des Pyrénées, 20e, tel: 01 46 36 98 20) is an institution in the 20e arrondissement, perched right above the métro Pyrénées. My husband has been eating here since he was a college student and the two brothers who own the café, Didier and Alain, are like our French family. (You can read the backstory here.) They hail from Aveyron, so while you can certainly order frites with your steak, I instead recommend accompanying it with aligot, a deliciously oozy dish of pureed potatoes beaten with molten cheese.

Other favorite Paris cafés — and a boucher:

Le Tourne Bouchon (71 bd Raspail, 6e, tel: 01 45 44 15 50) is down the street from our old apartment, a neighborhood café that does a brisk lunch business. Of course you can get a steak here — the French bureaucrat’s “fast lunch” — but the owner, Amar, is Tunisian and I love his buttery, fine-grained couscous, accompanied by delicious vegetable bouillon and fiery harissa, served piping hot Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Le Procope (13 rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, 6e, tel: 01 40 46 79 00) is the self-proclaimed “oldest café in the world,” opened by an Italian, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, in 1686. Alas, in recent centuries, it has become a tourist trap and I would not recommend eating here. But for a taste of French history, visit the scarlet-walled dining room in the hush of late afternoon. Sip a coffee, and you can almost imagine former patrons like Voltaire, Rousseau, or Napoléon launching into debate. In fact, Napoléan’s three-cornered hat hangs in the entry.

Le Select (99 boulevard du Montparnasse, 6e, tel: 01 45 48 38 24) is a former Hemingway watering hole (though, admittedly, he drank everywhere) that still boasts a light-filled glass-enclosed terrasse and grumpy waiters. This is one of my favorite places to sip hot chocolate after the movies, or tuck into a gooey, crusty, lunchtime croque monsieur. As they say in French, “c’est correct.” (See my blog post here.)

Hugo Desnoyer (25 rue Mouton-Duvernet, 14e, tel: 01 45 40 76 67) is not a restaurant, but an artisanal butcher, famous for fine cuts of meat raised by farmers he knows personally. William Bernet of Le Severo buys his meat here (and ages it himself). So do the chefs of several Michelin-starred restaurants. If you shop here, be prepared to pay top Euro — and to wait in a line that stretches around the block.

le severo

le procope

steak 2


Hungry for more? Today’s post is a companion to my new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, a food memoir that Kirkus calls “A bighearted multi-sensory tour of France.”

Curious? Order your copy here:
*Barnes and Noble

And more from the series, Where to Eat in France.

Topics: Mastering the Art of French Eating, Paris, Where to eat in France | 22 Comments »

22 Responses to “Where to eat in Paris”

  1. Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.) Says:
    September 12th, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Ok all of these have gone on my list immediately with Le Severo at the top!

  2. Edna Says:
    September 12th, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    One of my biggest regrets was not getting to Le Severo before I left Paris (after a year and a half there!) — it’s definitely at the top of my list of things to do on my first return trip!

  3. Meg Says:
    September 12th, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Great post. Thanks! I haven’t been to half of these places in all my nearly 40 years in Paris. Now I can try them…

  4. Lynn Says:
    September 12th, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    My French husband gets exasperated with me always trying to get him to try new restaurants (new to him anyway), especially when they’re across town, but almost a year later he still talks about the côte de boeuf at Le Severo, if that says anything…

  5. Lisa Says:
    September 12th, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Best line ever: “Old fashioned and nostalgic — if slaughterhouses make you nostalgic.” Love it! And looking forward to a visit to Le Mistral. My Uruguayan (read: ‘uber-carnivorous’) husband can wax rhapsodic about the steak, but I’ll take the gooey goodness of the aligot every time!

  6. Betty Gleason Says:
    September 12th, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Thank you Ann. We’ll be staying right around the corner from the Batignolles market on Rue de Clichy. Any suggestions in that area?

  7. Betty Gleason Says:
    September 12th, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Any good restaurants that you can do less expensively for lunch?

  8. Parisbreakfast Says:
    September 12th, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Love your back story on Le Mistral, which i’ve passe too many times. Now I will find a way to drop in and try these traditional dishes.
    Big Merci!

  9. Teresa Says:
    September 13th, 2013 at 1:28 am

    Oooohhhh! Thanks for the suggestions! I have always wanted to go to Procope. I love the steak-frites at Le Café Commerce, too. Merci, Ann!

  10. CK Says:
    September 13th, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Vive Le Mistral!

  11. Ann Says:
    September 13th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Mardi — You will love Le Severo! The wine list is superb, too.

    Edna — I’m not a big meat eater, but just thinking about Le Severo has me craving steak!

    Meg — And I’ve learned about so many great places from you!

    Lynn — You know, I’ve always wanted to order the côte de boeuf there. One day…!

    Lisa — I’m having a romance with aligot myself. Le Mistral also serves truffade, a potato cake studded with bacon and melted cheese. I can never decide between the two!

    Betty — I’m not too familiar with the 17e/18e, alas. But take a look at the website, Paris by Mouth — it’s an invaluable restaurant resource! Great lunch tips, there, too. http://parisbymouth.com/

    Paris Breakfast — If you stop by Le Mistral, please say hi to Alain or Didier de ma part!

    Teresa — Le Procope is good for coffee and atmosphere (but I wouldn’t eat there). I love the neighborhood around Commerce — will check out Café Commerce next time I’m there!

  12. Lynde Says:
    September 13th, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    The timing of this post could not be better. I leave for Paris on October 3 for 3 weeks. I was going to write to you for your suggestions so this is perfect. Thank you.

    I do not eat meat so I am hoping that some of your recommendations are for non meat eaters… although I could always just skip the meat and eat the fries :).

  13. Anne Says:
    September 13th, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Betty: Try L’Entredgeu in the 17th near Porte de Champerret

  14. katy Says:
    September 13th, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    I think my urge to hop on a plane and go and sample some of these places means that your book is a huge success!

  15. stacy Says:
    September 14th, 2013 at 2:39 am

    I want a picture of aligot please

  16. stacy Says:
    September 14th, 2013 at 2:40 am

    Found it! Merci…and yummy

  17. Voie de Vie Says:
    September 14th, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    OhMyBob, now I’m longing for this dish. So yummy.

  18. Ann Says:
    September 15th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Lynde, Bon voyage! I suggest Paris by Mouth for restaurant recommendations — here’s a link to their favorite vegetarian picks: http://parisbymouth.com/five-great-for-vegetarians/

    Anne — Thanks for the suggestion. I’m going to check it out, too!

    Katy — Aw, thanks! Blushing.

    Stacy — Yum, aligot. Here are my favorite pics: http://annmah.net/2010/10/12/aligot/

    Voie de Vie — And the pictures hardly do it justice :)

  19. adeline Says:
    September 16th, 2013 at 2:24 am

    Think we will take a stroll and eat a Le Procope when we are in Paris next year. And take a peak at Napoleon’s cap.

  20. Shut Up and Cook Says:
    September 22nd, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    As though I didn’t love your blog already, I have recently found out that I’ll be in Paris for two months this winter for work, so I’m going to be reading this religiously to get all sorts of tips on where to eat.

    I am so excited!

  21. Bill Says:
    September 25th, 2013 at 12:56 am

    I had lunch at Le Procope two weeks ago. I agree with Ann, it is a tourist trap but worth a look. The food was very mediocre and the service not much better.

  22. stacy Says:
    September 25th, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    love it! cant wait to go back to paris!

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