Street food used to be known for speed rather than quality, but that is no longer the case. Nowadays, eating street food is a gourmet experience, with dishes made by chefs from organic produce and sold from trendy food trucks.
Sandwiches: the first-ever street food
Sandwiches are the most common element of a meal on the go, and they come with any number of fillings. You can buy a traditional French ‘jambon-beurre’ (ham and butter sandwich) in any Paris boulangerie, but some specialize in making flavour-packed sandwiches with more unusual fillings. Pointe du grouin has Brittany-style sandwiches made by a Michelin-starred chef: the ‘bara touseg’ uses homebaked ficelle (a thin baguette), while the ‘bara bihan’ is made using soft bread rolls. Frenchie to go draws inspiration from American pulled pork and pastrami sandwiches, while the Boulangerie de Thierry Marx, the famous chef who is a judge on the French version of the TV show ‘Top Chef’, sells ‘breadmakis’: sandwiches shaped like maki sushi with fillings such as salade niçoise, pastrami, or prawns, avocado and grapefruit. Bagnard specializes in ‘pan bagnat’ (salade niçoise in a bun), and Ari’s Bagels, of course, makes bagels.
A variety of crêpes and pancakes
Crêpes are another street food staple in France, and you can find them throughout Paris. Like sandwiches, crêpes are being given a modern twist, and are now made with fresh, organic ingredients. For example, Blün makes crêpes using organic, gluten-free flour and serves them in the form of wraps. At the Mardi Crêpe Club, gluten-free crêpes are made with a patented utensil, and customers can choose from up to 50 fillings sourced from the finest producers. Krügen offers the full gamut of Brittany-style crêpes: whole-wheat, kouign (a kind of pancake), buckwheat and galette saucisse (a crêpe wrapped around a sausage). At Framboise (five branches in Paris), the crêpes are 100% organic, with fillings made from fresh ingredients. They have sweet crêpes and pancakes as well as platters of tapas-style, bite-size stuffed pancakes and dosas (Indian rice and lentil pancakes).
The bagel craze
Originating in Poland, bagels have become popular with foodies around the world, and Paris is no exception. The ‘round bread’ with a hole in the middle can be garnished with all kinds of sweet or savoury toppings. To enjoy a tasty bagel in Paris, head to any of the six branches of Ari’s Bagels (Canal St-Martin, Châtelet, St-Philippe du Roule, Gare d’Austerlitz, Bastille and Rue Beaurepaire). Other good bagel places: Atelier du Bagel (Rue Saint Lazare), First Avenue (Boulevard Pereire) and Factory & Co (Avenue Pierre Mendes, Cour Saint-Emilion or the Parvis – main square – of La Défense district).
Finger foods from around the world: kebabs, falafel, dim sum…
The kebab – grilled meat wrapped in flatbread, a Middle Eastern snack eaten with the hands – is a very popular takeaway food in France. Parisians’ favourite kebab places include Bodrum in Rue des Batignolles, Les Délices d’Amour on Avenue Jean Jaurès, Ladess on Avenue de Clichy, Zarma in Rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, Grillé in Rue Saint Augustin and Urfa Dürüm in Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis. To enjoy falafel, another Middle Eastern speciality, make a beeline for Rue des Rosiers, in the Marais. There are several competing falafel stands along this street, but L'As du falafel is still the best. Don’t be put off by the long queues in front of the stand: when you bite into your falafel sandwich on a bench in nearby Place des Vosges, you’ll find it was well worth the wait.
Food trucks: the new street food trend
Street food has always been around, but the food truck trend is relatively new. The first official food truck in Paris, Le camion qui fume, started operating in 2011. Several others have since made their appearance. These travelling canteens parked along Paris streets serve up high-quality, homemade eats; some even focus on gourmet food. Burgers are a mainstay at most food trucks (Le Réfectoire, So Food Toit, Chez Dody, etc.), but some vendors dish up country-specific foods, like La Cabane de Cape Cod (specialities from the East Coast of America) or Papelón (Venezuelan food). You’ll find all the details on their Facebook pages.
Street food meccas in Paris
The Food Market, with 20-odd street food stands serving food from around the world – couscous, Quebec speciality poutine, bo-bun, Savoy speciality tartiflette etc. – is held two Thursdays a month along Boulevard de Belleville, between the Couronnes and Ménilmontant metro stations. The Marché des Enfants Rouges, a trendy spot in the Haut Marais, is a traditional covered market selling fruit and vegetables, but there is plenty of international food available too: sandwiches at Alain Miam Miam, an Italian deli, a Lebanese caterer’s, burgers and chips, a Japanese food stand, etc.