Vegetarian? Planning on going to Paris soon ? Oh, là, là ! Be prepared, vegetarians are not that common in France. As a matter of fact, only about 3 percent of the population of France is vegetarian, and vegans are even rarer. This may sound barbaric to some but, in France, only a few restaurants announce that they offer a vegetarian menu. And beware, there are horror stories about vegetarian menus being a mix of vegetables fresh out of a tin with a few leaves of lettuce!
However, you don’t have to starve in Paris . You can still go to most restaurants. Here are a few suggestions:
If you are brave enough to try your French over the phone, why not call the restaurants you are interested in and ask what they suggest for vegetarians? For example, at the trendy trattoria ‘Daroco’ (6 Rue Vivienne), only a few minutes away from the Louvre museum, you could have fresh pasta with gorgonzola cheese or linguini with truffle.
For those who don’t dare try the phone-calling experience, be aware that many restaurants have a website, and you can often examine their menu before even stepping outside. Let’s try the very French ‘Bistrot des Vosges’ (31 Boulevard Beaumarchais), close to the beautiful Place des Vosges. One of the first items on their menu (‘la carte’) is a vegetarian or vegan salad. You could also try their Galette au Chèvre, a buckwheat pancake with goat cheese, or their Omelette des Burons, an omelette with Buron cheese and potatoes. But sorry, they do use beef broth to make their tempting Soupe à l’Oignon.
Speaking of buckwheat pancakes, galettes de sarrasin are the main courses of Crêperie restaurants, where you can also have all sort of crêpes for dessert. You must take a look at the amazing décor of ‘Crêperie Josselin‘ ( 67 Rue du Montparnasse), near the Gare Montparnasse. Some of their buckwheat pancakes are served with vegetables only. Should you want to try any other pancake on the menu, just ask the waiter to make a meatless version of it – that will not be a problem.
But you may be craving a more wholesome vegetarian or vegan meal. In this case, here are some places you should try:
You might want to know what ‘shrimp kebab (soy protein) with pineapple & lemon grass’ or ‘mushroom loaf with a blackberry-ginger sauce’ tastes like. If so, try ‘VegetHalles‘ (41 Rue des Bourdonnais), a restaurant dedicated to vegetarians and vegans. You can start by exploring their surprising menu online. It is advised to make a reservation as the restaurant is quite popular as well as being situated in the busy area of Les Halles.
‘Tien Hiang‘(14 Rue Bichat) is a fairly original restaurant close to Canal Saint Martin. It specialises in Asian food that is also vegetarian and vegan. Whenever a dish traditionally requires meat, the meat is replaced with soya protein. Look at the pictures on their online menu, the result is truly amazing. Vegans, the only dish that is not for you is Marmite Tien Hiang, which uses cheese.
‘Le Grenier de Notre Dame‘(18 Rue de la Bûcherie), as you may have guessed, is only a few minutes away from Notre Dame Cathedral. It was the first vegetarian restaurant to open in Paris, in 1978. For decades, it has successfully persuaded Parisians to try vegetarian food. Unfortunately, they are currently closed for renovation. Good news is they are expected to re-open anytime around mid-March.
Now, as the French would say, ‘Bon Appétit’!