100% Gluten-free Helmut Newcake wins best pick: Delicious, vegetarian-friendly, affordable, comfortable.
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"Bonjour Monsieur or Madame. Je suis desole. Je suis allergic* au gluten. Qu’est que vous me
recomende?” (Hello, I am sorry. I have an allergy* to gluten. What do you recommend?)
I don't have to tell you that Paris is an amazing vacation destination. I will tell you that as a non-French speaking person with celiac disease, I was a bit apprehensive about how I was going to be able to eat out, and for good reason! The French do not seem to be as aware of celiac and gluten-contamination issues we are in the United States. Or maybe they are, but the ones that have good awareness and food handling practices aren't telling anyone.
At any rate, I listed my top 10 tips for travel to Paris here. Check that out, and add to it my list of restaurants where I either had satisfaction, or where I hoped to have satisfaction but for some reason or other wasn't able to eat there. I've listed them in order of my personal enjoyment of the gluten-free experience. Also note that I am a vegetarian, so that was at play in our restaurant selections. If you are an omnivore, you can definitely eat at all of these places too!
*I know that celiac is an autoimmune disorder and not an allergy. :-)
1. Helmut Newcake. MANY people have sung the praises of Helmut Newcake on line. The accolades are well deserved! It is closed on Monday and Tuesday (we arrived on a Monday), so we were not able to check them out until the third day of our vacation. It was a rainy, cool day, and the trip there was pretty long and ended up feeling like a pilgrimage. The vegetarian entree that day was a tomato and goat cheese tart, which came with a salad. I popped into the restroom upon arrival, so my partner Jenn ordered for us. Because she is incredibly supportive and ever vigilant, she started to ask them to hold the salad dressing because she wasn't sure of the the ingredients. And then she remembered! EVERYTHING in the place is sans gluten. Love that. The tart and salad were very good and Jenn confirmed that even her non-celiac palette found it to be delicious. Since it's a bakery, we of course had to buy pastries. I had a thing I think is called la religieuse, sort of a doubledecker filled pastry with hazelnut custard within and a hazelnut icing outside. Jenn, of course, had la religieuse avec chocolate. It was, no doubt, THE BEST dessert I've ever had. In true Paris fashion, we occupied a window seat (It was raining pretty hard, so we didn't sit outside), ate our food leisurely, I enjoyed a cappucino, and we spent the better part of a rainy afternoon just soaking it up. There were clearly regulars that frequent the place -- people were on laptops, reading papers, and friends were hanging out. We saw more than one foreign tourist stop in, just as relieved as we were to be able to eat anything in the place.
Price-wise it was great. Our entrees were around $10 each, and the pastries ranged in price from ~$1.50 - $7, depending on the size, etc.
We picked up a few additional items (eclairs, cream puffs, etc) to take back to the apartment to enjoy that evening with our traveling companions. We actually planned to visit there a second time, but sadly, it didn't work out. It will definitely be on our list of places to go for our next Paris vacation!
Helmut Newcake, 36 Rue Bichat, Paris, 75010. They are closed Monday and Tuesday. They FINALLY have a website (as opposed to just their Facbook page): http://www.helmutnewcake.com. I do recommend following them on Facebook though -- they list their specials and when you see their posts in your fb newsfeed you will either get excited about your trip or fondly remember it.
Having mid-day dessert and coffee 100% Gluten-free NoGlu was amazing
2. NoGlu. One of our traveling companions (I'll call her Geri) took a French cooking class one day on our vacation. In addition to learning how to make some most excellent dishes (which she later prepared for us), she struck up a conversation with the instructor about the French perspective on gluten-free dining. The instructor confirmed that France is far behind on accommodating special needs diets, but told Geri about a new completely gluten-free restaurant in town, NoGlu. Of course we had to go!
We had originally planned for the four of us to meet there for lunch, but a quick review of the website gave me the distinct impression that a) they were pretty expensive, and b) they were fairly meat-centric. We modified the plan and decided to meet for afternoon dessert and coffee instead. (Not that I wouldn't go there for a meal, because I totally would, but I'd want to keep an eye on the daily menu that sounded good AND vegetarian, especially if I'm going to drop upwards of $50 FOR LUNCH.) Of course I loved that every dessert option was gluten-free. I got the blueberry cheesecake -- absolutely fabulous. We had great service, we got to meet Jenni the chef, the location is in a super cute little covered street (called a passageway) and we had a wonderful and very memorable time.
16 passage des Panoramas, Paris 75002. www.noglu.fr. Reservations recommended. They do lunch M-F, brunch on Saturday, and dinner on Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Parisian diners enjoying authentic crepes
3. Aux Ducs de Bourgogne. I learned that savory crepes are not really crepes because they should be made with buckwheat flour and called galettes. We found this place because other gluten-free peeps who have traveled to Paris mentioned it on their websites. Apparently it's listed in a gluten-free Paris dining guide as well. We met our friends here for a late-ish dinner (for us anyway) on a Thursday night.
I loved it because the gluten-free nature of the galettes is spelled out right on the menu. The owner, a nice Lebanese man named Charles, was chatty and the kind of guy who would say, "You don't want that. You want this!" (though he would go ahead and sell you what you ordered, albeit grudgingly. He sort of scolded me for ordering and expecting my espresso to come with dessert -- I guess the French don't do that...)
I had a spinach and egg galette for dinner. It was very good and I loved that I could get authentic French food in Paris without having to ask for a bunch of substitutions or omissions. For dessert I asked Charles to make me a sweet crepe with his homemade caramel sauce with buckwheat instead of regular flour. Knowing I needed gluten-free, he said of course. Also delicious. My dining companions also enjoyed their meals and we had a delightful evening and stayed well past 10 pm.
One thing I'm not sure about is what measures Charles took to avoid cross-contamination. I suffered no ill-effects (in fact, I had no signs of having gotten glutened the whole trip), so I'll take Charles' word that he takes care to keep the buckwheat prep surfaces clear of wheat flour and batter.
Price wise, it was amazing. Entrees were mostly under $10. Dessert crepes were maybe a little less.
Aux Ducs de Bourgogne, 30 Rue Bourgogne, Paris 75007. Thus far Charles has no website or facebook page. He apparently has a nephew who was supposed to be working on building an on-line presence for him, but it's going slowly. Call in advance to make sure they are open -- not sure if reservations are required (It was not busy when we were there.) 01 45 51 32 48
Jenn, Jeannie, Geri (and me!) dining al fresco. Tres Parisienne!
4. Le Pain Quotidien. It was our first night in Paris. We had powered through and not succombed to the desire to take naps when we first arrived. Tired. Hungry. No great plan for where to have our first meal out. We'd already been walking for awhile, looking for a likely crepe place (we were nowhere near Aux Ducs de Bourgogne.) We happened upon Le Pain Quotidien, a chain that Jenn and I ate at in New York earlier this year. In the United States Le Pain Quotidien has a fairly extensive awareness and offerings for gluten-free diners, though no specific gluten-free menu. I encouraged our weary-yet-merry band of travelers to stop looking and just go sit down at a nice outdoor table and jump into the world of gluten-free dining in Paris. Thank goodness for our friend Jeannie, who speaks passable French!
The Le Pain Quotidiens of Paris do not call out their gluten-free offerings as they do in the US, but the menu is loaded with veggies and legumes and it wasn't too hard to put together an entree that would work. With the help of our server who checked on the gluten status of a number of items, ultimately I ordered the Vegetarian Platter of goat cheese, beet caviar, grilled vegetables, hummus, lemon lentils and arugula (approx $20). It was excellent. The other gals all had plenty of options to amuse them too! And while it was a little disappointing to be eating in a chain restaurant, if didn't feel too chain-like, so that was okay. Plus we were all just feeling so blessed to be in Paris, sitting outside on a beautiful evening, excited about the trip and what we would be doing and seeing in the coming days. If we'd found ourselves in that neighborhood at mealtime again, Jenn and I would have chosen to eat there. There is also a second Paris location in the 7th.
Le Pain Quotidien, 18 place Marché St Honoré, 75001 Paris. Le Pain Quotidien's system-wide website (www.lepainquotidienne.com) is a little tough to drill down through to get to a specific restaurant, and super slow to navigate effectively on a smart phone. Here's the link to this specific location: http://www.lepainquotidien.fr/#/fr_FR/nos_adresses/paris/st_honoré. Good luck with that!
5. Exki. This is a place that we happened upon while looking for a good takeout lunch for Jenn for our picnic one day. I hadn't seen it in any of the reviews or recommendations for gluten-free friendly dining in Paris, so it was quite a surprise when we found item after item clearly marked gluten-free. It's a "pick up your already prepared food" type of place that notes its commitment to organic food and local sourcing, recycling and minimization of the use of natural resources. My kind of place! Plus, it was light and airy and would have been a fine place to eat in if we hadn't already planned to dine in a nearby park.
Since I had packed my lunch, I have to note that I didn't eat any of the food from here (the picture is of a quiche that isn't vegetarian.) Jenn took one for the team and got a gluten-free (flourless) brownie which looked and smelled delicious, and which Jenn reported to taste as good as it looked and smelled.
It was quite affordable. Entrees were under $10, and desserts were around $5. Jenn was thrilled about the least expensive Diet Coke in town. I'm hoping that Exki catches on and starts opening restaurants in the United States!
Exki, 82, Blvd Montparnasse 75014 Paris (other locations available too.) http://www.exki.com/fr-fr/home.
Le Bistrot, 92 Rue de Turenne, Paris 75003. We ended up at Le Bistrot when our attempt to go to Fée Nature failed. [Note to self: Check when restaurants are open so that you don't walk and walk and walk only to peer through a locked door.] Le Bistrot was clearly a favorite with the locals. It was the only place I pulled out my laminated card to explain my dietary restriction. Our server was very nice, studied the card thoroughly, then assured me that my salad pick would be safe. I ordered the Fermiere sans lardons, a salad with potatoes, tomatoes, poached egg, lettuce and a balsamic vinegrette without the ham. It was definitely weird to have a warm poached egg on top of my salad, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.
The place was moderately priced -- entrees were in the $12 - $17 price range. It was a little cooler on the night we were there, so we opted to eat indoors, but unfortunately the smoke from the sidewalk denizens leaked into the place. Regardless, the atmosphere was enjoyable, the food was good and the service was accommodating and efficient. I wouldn't particularly put this place on anyone's gluten-free Must Visit list, but eating there was a nice confirmation that one can find safe dining in an unlikely place.
Other places I'd hoped to visit but which didn't work out for some reason
Fée Nature, 69 rue d'Argout, Paris, 75002. There are no less than a half a dozen web references to this vegetarian place, some of which claim it is 100% sans gluten, some which claim it offers daily gluten-free options. There is at least one first hand review on Yelp that it has daily GF options. I also saw this menu on their facebook page as translated by Bing: "Today, to warm up, the velvety detox 7 vegetables and carrot tops, then risotto of spelt or complete pasta mozza, Arugula & tomatoes. And our delicious chocolate ricotta cake!" Spelt = gluten, so be careful! We arrived on an evening when they were not open, but it looked very cute inside.
Vegan Folie’s, 53 Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 75005. We actually DID make it into this place, but it was close to closing time and they had sold out of the gluten-free cupcake of the day. I really like their politics -- one day when we were there they were donating proceeds from the sales of one of their cupcakes to a cause that fights foie gras, which as you can imagine is a pretty popular dish in Paris. I still follow their facebook page just for fun.
Rose Bakery, 3 locations: 46 Rue des Martyrs, 75009; 30 Rue Debelleyme, 75003;10 Boulevard de la Bastille, 75012. We tried valliantly to visit one of these locations, but it was closed for renovation (scheduled to reopen a couple of days after our departure). I would love to have checked it out for real! They have no real website I can find, which is frustrating. I found the most info on Yelp.com, which noted that they are vegetarian and offer real food in addition to pastries. Their open days and times are not consistent across locations, so go to www.yelp.com, put Rose Bakery in the "Search for" box and Paris, France in the "Near" box and you'll get all three locations. Call ahead. Your feet may thank you.
Ladurée, multiple locations (check Yelp or their website.) Another valiant effort! We were on the Champs Elysées and attempted to visit the one on that grand stretch. Sadly, it was either closed for renovation or not yet open for business. Their website is quite fancy, but totally baffling to me, since I don't speak French. A number of gluten-free folks had mentioned them on blog posts and what not, so I look forward to a firsthand report on how/whether they do safe gf fare.
Places we didn't try to visit but we would have if we'd been in Paris longer
Bob's Kitchen, 74 Rue des Gravilliers, Paris, 75003. Looks very hip and as if it would be a good candidate for gluten awareness, though they don't specifically call it out on their webpage (quite minimalist, btw) or facebook page.
Breizh Café, 109, rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, 75003. This is another crepe place. We didn't make it there, but it did get a couple of mentions from other gf peeps on the interwebs, so it may be worth a look.
Tugalik: I discovered this place after our return. It sounds pretty promising. Two locations. From their website as translated by Google Translate: All our dishes, desserts, our starters and our tapas are made "home", and prepared on site using fresh ingredients, without preparation industry. Our fruits and vegetables, as well as our grains are from organic agriculture. We prefer gentle cooking methods and maximum use of the plant milks, unrefined sugars and flours of cereals varied to meet the needs of people intolerant to gluten and lactose.
Places that got a couple of mentions on the web for gluten-free but which didn't appeal for one reason or another
The Reminet, 3 rue des Grands-degrees, Paris, 75005. Another place we didn't visit but which got a couple of mentions on the web. It looked a bit more expensive and possibly quite meat-centric, making it not a great fit for us anyway.
Pierre Herme, multiple locations. This place got a couple of shout outs for their macaroons (which typically don't have gluten) and other confections. Jenn hates coconut and I don't eat chocolate, so I we gave this place a pass, but may be of interest to other gf travelers to Paris.
There you have it! If you got all the way to the end of this post, you are probably really seriously going to Paris soon. Cool! Let me know if this post was helpful. I'd be happy to give you other thoughts on getting ready for your trip. Have fun, and bon voyage!