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Word of Mouth Paris: Bars and Restaurants

From hidden gems to the classically French, our top picks for eating and drinking in La Ville-Lumière

by CH Editors in Travel on 21 November 2013

by David Graver and Katie Olsen

Everybody has a recommendation to offer regarding a trip to Paris; those who have visited "La Ville-Lumière" claim a favorite spot and are ever-eager to share it. Generally, however, they're all quite personal or, on the contrary, quite touristy. It's a city known for the best in food and culture—and rightfully so—with countless remarkable offerings, but it's a place that often requires local tips and lots of exploring. From cocktails concealed by a Mexican diner to homemade, ingredient-obsessed dishes prepared by respected chefs to a classic French outpost with welcome views of the Louvre, the following list delivers CH's top picks for food and drinks in Paris.

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Candelaria

If you tire of eating French food in Paris, look no further than Candelaria—but don't forget to look behind it, either. While the façade is a taqueria—with superb food served in a super-tiny seated area, right beside the grill—a secret door on the back wall gives way to one of the best cocktail bars in the city (visible from the street but seemingly impossible to enter). The margaritas up front are strong and the specialty tacos and tostadas delight. And the speakeasy vibes, along with the friendly and informed staff and the the back room's experimental drink combinations, make it something truly special.

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Bones

Located in the 11th, right by the Voltaire Metro, Bones is a must for steadfast carnivores. The restaurant's bare interior (all raw bricks, unfinished walls and timber) is still ultimately welcoming thanks to the warm lighting and always bustling atmosphere. Australian head chef James Henry focuses on seasonal, nose-to-tail eating and all the bread, butter, fresh cheese and charcuterie are house made—so while it's a little bit fancy, there's an authenticity that permeates the place. Be prepared to wait to be seated, or eat at the bar (or even standing up) if a table isn't essential. While there isn't a set menu, we suggest the pork sandwich; comprised of homemade bread, whole slow-roasted suckling pig, pickled cabbage and mayo. Sip on craft beers and natural wines and take in the lively bar-meets-restaurant ambience.

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Le Fumoir

While Le Fumoir is an excellent restaurant, with a delightful lunch, it's their cocktails we're drawn to most. The scene is forever lively, invoking a more thoughtful vision of the 1920s. Outside, their year-round seating offers an incredible view of the Musee de Louvre. The locale is generally busy and worth booking in advance, but every visit lends itself to an elegant Parisian experience. Delight over a gin fizz in their spacious, well-ornamented but not overdone interior—complete with a library—or pull from their lengthy cocktail menu and sit outdoors to watch the city settle from day into night.

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Le Jardin d'en Face

You can easily lose track of the cultural importance of Montmartre when weaving through hordes of international tourists. And in the same vein, it can be hard to find a decent, well-priced restaurant. That's only one reason why Le Jardin d'en Face is a pure gem. A magical corner restaurant that caters primarily to those living in the neighborhood or those in-the-know, it's delightfully cozy, seating just over 20, and the food is nothing shy of extraordinary. The oeufs cocotte au foie gras is a speciality, but the Tartiflette reigns supreme. Although traditionally a winter dish, it's good any time of year for food explorers. If you still have room after the rich dishes and great wine list, their white chocolate mousse is also a must-have favorite.

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Au Passage

Down a sparse, seemingly sketchy street, Au Passage is a beacon and has fast become a classic. While the interior is far from glamorous with its lovely, casual, almost retro aesthetic with bistro chairs and red walls, the food and the service are superb. The wait staff and bar tenders are friendly and knowledgable, adding to the bustling but charming ambience. The kitchen is run by rising Australian chef Shaun Kelly, and the food is centered around the highest quality, freshest, seasonal ingredients. No two menus are ever the same here, making each meal memorable and very special.

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Le Piano Vache

Frequented by locals, students and low-key creatives Le Piano Vache is a music haven in the 5th's Latin Quarter that is dive-like in a way only Paris could pull off. Saturated in red light, the bar smells richly of beer and years of drinking. Small tables dot the floor, amid larger wooden tables, accommodating parties of all sizes. Every wall is covered in posters and flyers added over the years, with a medley of found objects placed within. Le Piano Vache manages to strike the balance between relaxed and electric, and you can almost feel the bohemian history right before you. The bar also offers themed nights, with live jazz on Mondays, an '80s night on Tuesday, "after work" celebrations on Thursday and a rocking weekend.

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Glass

Among all the mayhem in South Pigalle, right next to a sex shop is Glass—a place so unassuming, only a neon sign and a security guard let you know you've arrived. The double door entry isn't ideal for those anxious about confined spaces (clientele must wait in an elevator-sized room before entering the bar proper) but it certainly adds to the mystique of this dive-meets-disco. Inside, Glass is usually dark, pretty crowded and just the right amount of rowdy. Customers sip beers and cocktails like the Tattoo You (mezcal, ginger, grapefruit, lime and beer), snack on hotdogs and housemade pickles and bounce around under a discoball on the kitschy light-up dance floor. If you're feeling particularly game, visit Dirty Dick—a bar directly opposite Glass—for the tropical theme and ridiculous tiki drinks.

Images of Au Passage courtesy of Hotels Paris Rive Gauche, image of Le Fumoir courtesy of Deadly Happy Photos, all others courtesy of respective venues

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