PARIS FOOD HISTORY WALKS
Old restaurants and cafes
download a PDF of this walk, click here.
will take you to most of Paris’ oldest surviving
restaurants and to the sites of some which have disappeared.
It has the advantage of taking you through busy and colorful
areas with a lot to see along the way. It should take about
two hours, unless you decide to stop along the way.
Note that in
general this tour is of the outside of these
businesses; please bear in mind these are not museums, but
working restaurants. Some are more casual than others, but
most will not welcome visitors stopping in for a look around.
(Several are also very expensive and require reservations.)
Only the most general directions are
provided here. Most strollers today will find it easiest to
use a map application to find the best route from one place
to the next. Otherwise, using a good physical map should be
easy enough; every metro stop displays one of these, and
often a detailed map of the neighborhood as well.
Start at metro
Grands Boulevards. Go
west to the rue de Faubourg Montmartre and a short way north to
rue de Faubourg Montmartre
is at the rear of a small courtyard. Even from the outside,
it is quite lovely.
The Chartier brothers did not
invent the Bouillons, which were created and developed into a
chain by Duval in the nineteenth century. But Duval’s
have all closed, while some of theirs survive, including
this, the original. Despite its elegant air, this and other
bouillons were once popular options for budget dining.
is about a ten minute walk south to the next restaurant. Return
south to the boulevard Poissonnière, cross it and turn
right. Continue until the rue Vivienne. Turn left and walk
several blocks until you pass the rue Colbert. A bit further down
on the left you will find the Grand Colbert.
Le Grand Colbert
was a fancy dry goods shop in the nineteenth century. By
1867, a Colbert restaurant was listed at this address. The
space has had a mixed history since, but currently has (more
or less restored) period décor.
A short walk south and a right
on the Rue de Beaujolais will bring you to the sign for Véfour.
Le Grand Véfour
rue de Beaujolais
can see part of the restaurant (and its high-priced menu)
from the Rue de Beaujolais, but you will want to go into the
Palais Royal to see more of it. This restaurant is descended
from the Cafe de Chartres, which was one of the first
businesses to open in the Palais Royal; it has a good claim
to being Paris’ oldest restaurant, even if it has shut
down at times. Though the sumptuous décor has been
restored, it gives a good idea of what an elegant restaurant
looked like in the nineteenth century.
If you have never seen the
Palais Royal, you might want to walk around it once before going
on. Try to imagine it lined with restaurants as elegant as
today’s Véfour. This was the heart of fine dining in
Paris at the start of the nineteenth century; later in the areacheaper formula
restaurants began to take it over. It was also the center of all
manner of colorful and questionable behavior for decades.
you are done, return to where you came in and head back to the
rue des Petits Champs before continuing on for several minutes
past the place des Victoires to the rue de Montorgueil. (If the
market is on, this will be lively.) Turn
left and go north until you are by the rue Mandar. This was the
original site of the Rocher de Cancale, which is now across the
street, at the corner of the rue Greneta.
Au Rocher de Cancale
oyster market for the Halles market was once on the rue
Montorgueil and the Rocher de Cancale was named for a place
that provided some of the best oysters. It went from selling
oysters to being one of the top restaurants in Paris for much
of the nineteenth century.
it is far more casual, though the exterior has a period feel.
you return south, note Stohrer’s famous pastry shop at
number 51. Continue past the rue Étienne Marcel to the
Escargot. It’s easy to recognize – it has a big
golden snail on it.
restaurant, founded in the nineteenth century, was cited in
the Nineteen-Twenties as one of the top ones in Paris. In
1971, a critic called it “dusty”, but it is again
well-regarded (and pricey) today.
The Escargot is one of several restaurants
which survived their original reason for opening: the Halles
market, which dominated this area for eight hundred years, before
closing in 1969. Others ring the ghost of the old market. In the
late nineteenth century, most were open all night and hosted a
mixed crowd of workers from the market and upscale party-goers,
many of whom had begun their nights in Montmartre before
finishing them by the Halles. Women – soupeuses –
laid in wait for likely-looking men who would buy them meals or
drinks. Just as the “swells” were arriving, workers
and market-gardeners would come in for breakfast. It was a lively
if often sordid scene which has been replaced by a somewhat tamer
if still fun night life.
Au Pied de Cochon
“Pig’s Foot” is a latecomer to the Halles
restaurants, having opened in the Nineteen Forties. But like
many of its predecessors it is open all-night. An earlier
(and now defunct) restaurant in the area was called “The Sheep’s
The short walk to the next restaurant is a
little complicated, heading east for about a block, then
backtracking north to the rue de la Grande Truanderie and
Pharamond. Go east until the rue Mondetour, then turn left, go
north until the rue de la Grande Truanderie and turn right. The
restaurant is a few steps ahead on the north side.
rue de la Grande Truanderie
La Petite Normande. In 1884, it only listed four
items on its menu: tripe, kidneys sautéed in white
wine, beefsteaks, and cutlets. Though it has an elegant look
today, the décor was once very simple, as befit the
workers who came in early morning while fancier sorts
partied (and got hustled) upstairs. Known then and now for
its tripes à la mode de Caen.
Continue on to the rue Pierrre Lescot and turn
right. Head south until you come to the Père
Tranquille at left.
Au Père Tranquille
rue Pierre Lescot
Père Tranquille, already noted in 1857, may be
the oldest of the neighborhood restaurants. While workers
stopped in at the bistro on the ground floor, partiers could
see everything from jazz bands to nude dancers upstairs.
Today it is more restrained and the only one of these places
where you can simply order a coffee and sit on the terrace
to people watch (or take a break from this tour, for
Walk south from the Père
Tranquille to the corner of the main complex. (The square
fountain at left stands on the site of the cemetery where the
original market began modestly before becoming the huge Halles.)
Turn right. Walk until you reach the rue Pont Neuf.
OPTIONAL: Here you can take a detour if you want to see the
(approximate) site of the first restaurant. If you’re happy
to use your imagination, head west to the rue de Louvre and south
below the rue St. Honoré.
SITE of the first restaurant
du Louvre south of Rue St. Honoré
this part of the rue du Louvre was called the “rue des
Poulies”, Mathurin Roze de Chantoiseau opened the first
“restorer” somewhere on it, selling “restorants”
Soon after the new establishment moved to the Hotel d’Aligre,
on the western corner of the street, along the rue St. St.
The whole street has been rebuilt since
and so there is no sign of either location. But every
Western-style restaurant in the world ultimately descends
from one steps away from where you stand.
Return east to the rue Pont Neuf.
Turn right on to the rue
Pont Neuf and walk south. If
the Chien Qui Fume is still
open, you will come to it in a few steps.
Au Chien Qui Fume
rue du Pont Neuf
1899, a “Guide to the Pleasures of Paris”
advised having oysters or onion soup at the “Smoking
Dog”, but also warned that at three in the morning the
place was lined with soupeuses
waiting for a mark. The
restaurant closes earlier now and has calmed down overall
(if in fact it is still open – recent reports are
Continue south until the Pont
Neuf bridge. Cross it, going past the island all the way over to
the opposite (Left) bank. Then turn left and go east until the
next cross street. You will now be across from Lapérouse.
quai des Grands Augustins
restaurant is one of the few to preserve its cabinets
particuliers (private rooms). In the nineteenth century,
the poultry market (the “Valley of Misery”) was
on this quai. In the morning, some dealers would use the
restaurant’s private rooms to conduct business. But
these rooms served a very different purpose when couples
used them in the evening. (This was not unusual – all
the best restaurants then offered cabinets particuliers.)
Go back to the end of the Pont Neuf and turn left, heading south
down the rue Dauphine. When you come to a crossroads (the
Carrefour de Buci), head south on the second street at left (the
rue de l'Ancienne Comédie). A few steps further south will
bring you to the site of the first really famous cafe in Paris.
SITE of the
first famous cafe in Paris
13 rue de l'Ancienne Comédie
others had opened cafes in Paris in the seventeenth century,
Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli’s was the first to be
immensely successful. After he bought it in 1686 he
decorated it elegantly, establishing a standard for the best
cafes going forward. As Procope’s it became a major
literary hang-out and endured into the nineteenth century,
becoming Zoppi’s and then again Procope’s. After
the cafe closed in 1890, the space hosted various
businesses, including, in 1928, a vegetarian
Today a restaurant occupies the space
and uses the original name. But don’t even think
about just stopping by for a coffee.
Continue south to the boulevard St. Germain and turn right.
Continue for about a block to number 142 and the Vagenende.
boulevard St Germain
Vagenende was once another Chartier bouillon and has
retained a great deal of its early twentieth century décor.
Continue several blocks west, just past the
Saint-Germain-des-Prés church. You will now be facing the
Deux-Magots cafe; just beyond it is the Cafe de Flore.
Les Deux Magots
place Saint-Germain des Prés
cafe which opened here at the end of the nineteenth century
began as a fancy goods shop which had moved from another
location and was named for the statues of two Chinese
mandarins which can still be seen today. Its strongest claim
to fame dates to the Fifties and Sixties, when it became a
literary hangout (the neighborhood once hosted a number of
boulevard St Germain
Flore too opened at the end of the nineteenth century,
shortly before the Deux Magots. Like its neighbor, it became
a literary fixture later in the twentieth century.
Look across the Boulevard St. Germain and you will see the
Brasserie Lipp. Cross over to take a better look.
number of brasseries (literally, “breweries”),
mainly Alsatian, had opened in Paris by 1880, when Leonard
Lipp opened the Brasserie des Bords du Rhin, which soon
became known simply as the Brasserie Lipp. After Marcelin
Cazes bought it in 1920, he made a conscious effort to
develop its cultural role, establishing an important
literary prize there in 1934. The brasserie has attracted
not only literary but political and other important figures
From here, it is a slightly longer walk (15-20 minutes) to the
last two sites. Luckily, you are in one of Paris’ most
lively and walkable areas.
Walk west on the boulevard St. Germain until the rue de Condé
(if you come to the Odéon metro stop, you’ve gone
too far). Cross to the opposite side, then turn right and walk a
short way down, sticking to your left, until the first sharp turn
left. You should now be on the rue Monsieur Le Prince. Continue
several blocks until you cross the rue Racine. Just after that,
you will find Polidor on your left.
rue Monsieur le Prince
the nineteenth century, creameries and dairies began to
serve light food to go with their milk and cream. Some,
including Polidor, became full-on restaurants. In the
Twenties, Polidor also became a major literary hangout (as
seen in “Midnight in Paris”).
Now return to the rue Racine and turn right. Walk about
three-quarters of the way to the end of the street. You will now
undoubtedly notice the Bouillon Racine.
in 1906, this is yet another Chartier Bouillon. If this one
looks particularly magnificent, it is because it was once
the pride of the chain, known as the “Grand Bouillon”.
It has had a mixed history since its heyday, but now, much
restored, is a glorious sight.
And so this walk ends, having taken you from
one Bouillon to another. Other older restaurants are scattered
through Paris, but here at its heart you have seen the bulk of
them; enough to envision yourself dining in the Paris of another