The pillars of French cuisine were definitely not built on vegetables. If there’s some greenery on the menus of traditional French bistros, it’s usually in the form of rather simple side dishes. In my little series on vegetarian friendly restaurants in Paris, I’m organizing my top picks into different categories, like the previous post on Casual & Cool restaurants and Classy & Chic options. In this article, I took on over a hundred years of tradition and managed to find five great restaurants where a vegetarian won’t be stuck with a plate of steamed vegetables. Pick up your green fork and dig in.
This beautiful, historic restaurant dazzles the eyes while remaining easy on the pocket book. Located on the corner of the Chatêlet Theatre, the elegant café was opened in 1896 by one of the Alsatian brasserie barons who’d embarked on the capital to make their fortune in the the city’s burgeoning restaurant business. The spacious yet intimate dining room exudes Belle Epoque class with its wood paneling, painted ceilings, velour curtains and low lighting. The formule at 22 euros is a steal and it always includes at least one vegetarian starter and one main dish. These are even somewhat creative with the likes of bulgur salad with small vegetables and a poached egg or vegetables stuffed with homemade tapenade.
Address: 1 place du Chatêlet 75001 Paris
Hours: daily 7:30am-2am
When some visiting friends suggested having dinner at the Bistrot Vivienne last summer, I secretly sighed. Such an historic place surely wouldn’t have anything interesting for me to eat. So before committing to go, I quickly checked their menu online and was astonished to find at two decent sounding vegetarian main courses. Perhaps some of the veggie vibes of Maceo, located across the street are rubbing off or maybe they’ve cleverly adapted to the taste of foreign customers? Whatever the reason, I was very pleased to be able to dine at this beautiful bistrot. Located at the beginning of the Galerie Vivienne and built in 1823, the twinned dining room has deep burgundy drapes, vast windows, and leafy plants. The seasonally changing menu features dishes like risotto with wild mushrooms, sprinkled with fresh herbs and Grana Padano, plus the salad is usually vegetarian or close to it. The night I was there, the friendly English speaking staff were also extremely adaptable (a rarity at French restaurants) and made some changes for me without a fuss, making the experience of dining here more than merely visually appealing.
Address: 4 rue des Petits Champs. 75002 Paris
Hours: daily 8:00am-12am
Photo Credit: Le Grand Colbert
Le Grand Colbert
This grand brasserie, found around the corner from the Bistrot Vivienne, has also wised up to modern-day palates. Named after Louis XIV’s famous finance minister who once had a private mansion here, the Galerie Colbert opened in 1828 and connects to their rivalling neighboring Vivienne. In 1900 some previously existing boutiques were converted into this spacious restaurant. Redone in 1985, the original characteristics which allowed it to be classified as a national monument like its mosaic floors, sculpted pilaster columns and soaring ceilings, were retained. Guests might recognize it from its cameo appearance in the 2003 movie Something’s Gotta Give starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. This isn’t the most original option of the list since their menu is very traditional, however, it’s a special place and there is always an assiette vegetarienne or another veggie friendly dish like pasta with crunchy vegetables.
Address: 2 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris
Hours: daily 12:00pm-12am
Walk through the doors of this Auberge and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a medieval dining hall (albeit a very clean one). The walls feature family crests and paintings of hunting scenes, but the rest is all class—professional waiters in white and black gliding through the room with full trays, a long wine list and the prices to match. While it hasn’t been opened as long as some of the others, it has 6o years under its belt. This is a great option to please hearty meat-eaters and vegetarians who won’t go hungry with their several veggie options. Their starters could include creamy chestnut soup, green bean salad or sautéed wild mushrooms while one of their main course specialties is naturally vegetarian, a fluffy comté cheese soufflé. In addition, they often have other seasonal vegetarian dishes like pasta with chanterelle mushrooms. Be sure to save room for their divine Grand Marnier soufflé. The restaurant is a bit pricey, however, you can save with their weekly changing lunch menu for 24.50 euros, though it doesn’t always have a vegetarian option.
Address: 16 Avenue de la Motte-Picquet 75007 Paris
Hours: Sun-Fri 12pm-2pm then 7:30pm-10:45pm, Sat 7:30am-10:45pm
Photo Credit: Bouillon Racine
One of the most beautiful art nouveau restaurants in the city, the Bouillon Racine was built in 1906 by the brasserie tycon Chartier brothers and today it’s been listed as a national classified monument. The bright dining room features vast mirrors held in by delicately carved wooden frames exemplifying the organic forms of the art nouveau movement. For 15 years Alexandre Belthoise has been at the kitchen’s helm preparing French classics with a twist, among these dishes is usually at least one vegetarian main course as well as several starters such as Jerusalem artichoke soup drizzled in truffle oil and porcini mushrooms risotto. If you’re not completely wowed by the food, you’ll definitely be enchanted by its magical ambiance.
Address: 3 rue Racine 75006 Paris
Hours: daily 12pm-11pm
Have any other suggestions? They need to have à la carte vegetarian options, not sur demande. Please add any to the comments!