Before arriving in Paris to study abroad a couple years ago, I was told that being a vegetarian in France “would be impossible” and “thank goodness I eat fish because otherwise I would starve.” Aside from my very Parisian host mother who never quite understood that I didn’t eat chicken or that I would like more than a fried egg and apple for dinner, I was pleasantly surprised that everyone had been wrong and it was, and is, easy to be a vegetarian in Paris.
It certainly helped that I ate fish. Most bistros and restaurants offer some sort of plat with fish for lunch and dinner, and since most places have their menus posted outside, it was easy to eliminate places that did not have veggie-friendly options.
When I got sick of eating fish (which, I have to admit, was pretty quickly), I started checking out the ethnic food options. Some of my favorite places ended up being little Indian restaurants around the La Chapelle metro stop and the Gare du Nord and the Japanese and Chinese places in the 13th arrondissement. I also discovered that waiters at many restaurants, especially smaller ones, were very accommodating when it came to making a removing meat from a pasta or salad dish. A staple at my favorite little bistro in the 1st arrondissement, Bistrot Victoires, was the “Pâtes aux jambons et à la sauce tomate, sans le jambon” (pasta with tomato sauce and ham, without the ham). Lunch was also pretty easy to come by. Most boulangeries offer sandwiches without meat, such as a sandwich oeuf crudité or the sandwich fromage crudité. Crudité means raw vegetables, which for a sandwich are usually lettuce and tomatoes.
I also had no trouble finding food to make for myself. I was very surprised that I was able to buy tofu at the Monoprix supermarket by my apartment as well as pre-prepared dishes with tofu and other vegetarian ingredients. There are also a couple of organic food stores, Naturalia and Biocoop, that sell many staples for vegetarians. Of course, the outdoor markets too were wonderful for finding great fresh fruits and vegetables to make for lunches and dinners.
Visiting and living in Paris as a vegetarian can be done and it is a lot easier than most people expect it to be. The ever-expanding variety of resources and restaurants for vegetarians, which didn’t exist even only a few years ago, mean that non-meat eaters don’t have to sacrifice taste or quantity of food when they eat in Paris.
Here are some tips on how to be veggie while in Paris:
1) Call Ahead
When planning to go out, call ahead or look at the menu to see what kinds of options there are for vegetarians. If you are going to a place with a no-choice menu, when you make a reservation you can request a vegetarian-friendly option. Restaurants such as Verjus and Rino are usually more than happy to prepare something for you if you call before you arrive. Also consider going to a restaurant that specializes in crêpes, most of which offer options without meat (although most crêpes do include cheese). Restaurants with Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian or Moroccan cuisine are also good options.
2) Be ready to explain what you do and do not eat
Being vegetarian is not nearly as common here as it is in other countries and frequently French people will think that it just means you don’t eat beef. Chicken and fish are often not considered “meat” because they are not sold at the boucherie like beef is.
3) Eat fish or other seafood
If you eat fish, you will have an easier time dining out, as most restaurants offer a plat composed of fish or some other type of seafood.
) Eat lunch at a Boulangerie
For lunch, get a sandwich at a boulangerie. Most will have a couple of options for sandwiches without meat. Sometimes smaller cafés and bistros will have sandwich options available as well.
5) Don’t be afraid to ask for a dish to be modified
Many restaurants will be willing to remove meat from a dish like salad or pasta to make it vegetarian. If you see a salad that has jambon de pays on it, for example, ask the waiter if it would be possible to order it without the meat. Though not all restaurants will do this for you, especially the more upscale restaurants, it is usually worth asking.
6) Shop for meals at the market
Check out the outdoor markets of Paris for delicious and fresh fruits and vegetables. Make a meal out of what you find for sale there!
7) Check out grocery and organic stores for vegetarian options.
Organic food stores such as Naturalia and Biocoop are great for getting many vegetarian staples such as tofu and grains rich in protein. However, like the organic food stores in the US, be aware that these places will be a little bit more expensive. Try checking out your local Monoprix or Carrefour for tofu. Many of the larger ones will usually keep it in stock. Look for the Bio (organic) section of the grocery store for other vegetarian products.
List of Vegetarian or Vegetarian-friendly restaurants
- Soya: A restaurant who’s menu is vegetarian and 95% organic, specializing in “fusion” cuisine.
- Rose Bakery: A homey British bakery that specializes in hearty, market-fresh salads.
- Bob’s Juice Bar / Bob’s Kitchen : Both vegetarian restaurants are run by chef Marc Grossman. Bob’s Juice Bar is an American-style juice bar that also serves light breakfast and lunch food, while Bob’s Kitchen is a casual lunch destination.
- SuperNature: An organic restaurant that prides itself on using fresh, seasonal ingredients.
- Coutume Café: A coffee shop that is part of a new wave of cafés, offering serious coffee drinks, plus lunch, brunch, and a selection of pastries from Pâtisserie de Rêves.
- Fish – La Boissonnerie:As the name suggests, this restaurant features a fish-heavy menu with many options for vegetarians.
- Semilla: Owned by the same minds behind Fish, Semilla is a chic, contemporary bistro offering traditional French cuisine with a modern twist.
- Verjus: A wine bar & restaurant in Paris serving fresh, seasonal fare with an excellent wine list & tasting cave.
- Le Grenier de Notre Dame: A small, completely vegetarian restaurant, located somewhat ironically on a street devoted to butchers, was the first of its kind to open in Paris in the 1970s.
- Nanashi: A Japanese-style cantine specializing in bento boxes, one of which is always vegetarian.
- Green Pizz: Known for their organic and environmentally-friendly pizza, which you can eat at the restaurant or have delivered to your house by skateboard or electric scooter.
- Pousse Pousse: An organic restaurant and juice bar, offering a wide variety of juices and vegetarian meals. The owner of the restaurant also host vegetarian cooking classes.
- L’as du fallafel: Probably the most famous fallafel restaurant in Paris, be prepared to wait in line for delicious fallafel sandwiches with many different toppings.
- Voy Alimento: A vegan cantine with a South American twist.
- Breizh Café: An authentic Breton crêperie, offering simple, no-fuss crêpes.
- Macéo Restaurant: A restaurant which prides itself on paying particular attention to the nutritional value of their preparation.
- Arpège : Chef Alain Passard specializes in what he calls “la cuisine légumière”, offering fresh vegetables in extremely creative ways, all for a high price tag.
- http://www.cuisine-vegetarienne.com/ : Click on “Bonnes Adresses” for lists of restaurants throughout France.
- http://www.annuaire-parisien.com/restaurant-vegetarien-paris,40.html: Lists of vegetarian restaurants across the city by arrondissement.
- http://www.happycow.net/europe/france/paris/: Many reviews of vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants across the city.
- http://www.parisvegetarian.com: More personal reviews of restaurants around Paris.
Let us know in the comments if we missed your favorite restaurants or resources for vegetarians in Paris!