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When I first moved to Paris 20 years ago, rue Cler was a nice little pedestrian market street, great for our weekly shopping trip to a few favorite stores for meat, fish, greens and cheese. We rented a Paris apartment nearby and it was our mainstay for shopping. Over the years, it has flourished! There are more food shops, better specialties and the pedestrian area devoted to food has grown larger. From a local neighborhood market street, it has been transformed to a destination for great food shopping in Paris. Stay in a beautiful Paris apartment, have a great night’s sleep and step outside each morning to see the sites and shop in the best Paris markets.
One of the pleasures of staying in an apartment in Paris is to be able to walk to rue Cler and buy your food to enjoy as Parisians do.
Rue Cler is especially convenient for the neighborhood because it is open on Sunday mornings. Many families attend mass at 11am at St. Pierre du Gros Caillou on rue de Grenelle, then head immediately to rue Cler for their baguettes, cheese, bottle of wine, cuts of meat and desserts. Get there early as it becomes extremely crowded after 11 am on Sundays. Being near rue Cler is one of the great pleasures of living in Paris, whether for a week or a lifetime.
Start at the top of the street, near the Ecole Militaire Metro stop, on the corner of La Motte Piquet and rue Cler. There is a large post office with yellow signs on the corner; good rates if you want to change money.
Don't forget to stop at Lenôtre, the takeaway gourmet food and pastry shop located next to the métro on Ave. de la Motte Piquet. This leading Pâtisserie is one of the top caterers in France. A great place to buy pâtisseries, hors-d'œuvre, side dishes and even main dishes for your meal. Lenôtre caters for the best functions in Paris and you will find their selection to be mouth watering. When the founder died at a ripe old age a few years ago, the country went into mourning. Happily, the great pastry making tradition is carried on by his family.
There is a funny article about Lenôtre in the Paris Blog: The author‘s hobby is sampling and rating Pâtisseries in Paris. She tried to take a picture of their display and was told it was forbidden for fear of industrial espionage. How French! Get the inside scoop on living and renting in Paris from an American’s eyes, from ideas on buying Paris apartments to where to shop and eat in the blog.
Let’s take a stroll down rue Cler. The shops below might change slightly, but the spirit of the street as the heart of this lively neighborhood is what makes it so special. This Paris blog is written by a local who lives in the neighborhood. The funny stories and recommendations will keep you updated on new shops and restaurants in the neighborhood.
- Halles Bosquet: Fruit and vegetable stand. One of 4 or 5 greengrocers on rue Cler. The competition among the fruit and vegetable merchants means prices are competitive. Always shop for their specials out front.
- Flower stand: This is my favorite flower stand; they put together the most beautiful bouquets, even on a budget. Their prices seem lower than the other flower stands on rue Cler.
- Olivier and Cie.: This high quality group of stores is becoming known in the US, as their products are now distributed by Williams Sonoma. At prices significantly lower than in the US, it is worth stopping in and sampling their oils and specialties. We love their lemon flavored olive oil especially on salads; their basil flavored olive oil on grilled fish.
- New Asia: Chinese restaurants and takeaways are springing up all over Paris. This is one of them.
- Café Central: Chic and popular outdoor café. Stop here for a coffee and watch the world go by.
- Café du Maché: You are now on the corner of Rue du champ du Mars and Rue Cler. The Café du Marché is one of the most popular cafés in the neighborhood, with a covered area outside where you can eat winter and summer. Get there early, as you cannot reserve; it becomes very crowded especially with the chic people of the quartier. There are a number of daily specials on blackboards, at reasonable prices. It's a fun place to sit and people watch.
- Crêperie: If you feel like having a snack or light lunch go to the small crêperie next on your left. I love the Crêpes au Grand Marnier; our children ask for the Nutella ones. If you haven't tried it, Nutella is a paste made out of milk chocolate and hazelnuts and is delicious. When we were growing up in Italy, my sisters and I would finish a large jar in a day and not have any appetite for dinner. Now, as an over conscientious and hypocritical mother, I forbid it in the house. They beg the crêpe maker for the biggest possible dollops on their crêpes, who gives it to them. There are two kinds of crêpes, sucrée and salée, one for dessert and one for snacks or a meal. The crêpes sucrées are made with white flour and the crêpes salées are made with buckwheat flour. Order the crêpes salées with ham and cheese, like a Croque Monsieur.
- La Fermette: Popular, family-owned cheese shop. We always approach rue Cler from rue St. Dominique, so tend to go to the other two fromageries, but they have an excellent selection.
- Boucherie Coucaud: One of the 4 butcher shops on rue Cler. We find they all offer good quality and reasonable prices.
- Davoli - La Maison du Jambon: Indisputably one of the best delicatessens in Paris! The lines leading onto the street indicate how popular it is with loca.s This Italian delicatessen sells homemade specialties ranging from Italian sausages and meats to pasta, Italian cheeses, side dishes such as roasted peppers, desserts and finally, the best Choucroute in Paris. This is an excellent dish for a cold day. Tell the vendor how many people you plan to serve and he will make the selection. Heat over a low fire and serve. The portions tend to be large, so keep that in mind for leftovers, or give a lower number to the vendor. As the lines will tell you, go there early!
- Darius Rôtisserie: Chickens: The smells from this shop will make your mouth water and you may not get any further. This is a chicken brasserie; they cook flame roasted chickens, sold in bags which remain hot for an hour. You can buy whole chickens, breasts or legs so everyone can have their favorite meat.
- Les Floralies: Nice flower vendor with a good selection of green plants.
- The Droguerie is not a drug store; it sells household goods from cleaning products, knives, mops and knives to shopping carts. They have a good selection of panniers or carts on wheels which everyone uses for their food shopping. There are new ones with special wheels to push it in front of you, like a pram and even one with 2 extra wheels, which allow you to roll up flights of stairs! This is a brilliant idea, since many apartments still have no elevators and lugging the shopping up the stairs every day is exhausting. Our apartments all have elevators.
- Asian Traiteur: Asian fast food shops are springing up everywhere in Paris! I confess to eating there from time to time, especially because their tables always have room on warm days outside. The food is fine, but it just isn't the Hunan in San Francisco. They do a roaring trade for lunch, as even the French are taking shorter lunch breaks. The wife of our favorite butcher (on the corner of rue St. Dominique and Ave. Rapp) claims many Chinese employees sleep in the damp cave's (underground storage rooms) of apartment buildings.
- La Sablaise Poissonnerie: This is one of the finest fish merchants in Paris, with an enormous selection of everything from sea snails, to crab, to fresh fish from the Channel every day. Their displays alone make your mother water with an enormous selection of seafood on 3 large counters. My inlaws feel that I prepare too many of our meals from Picard, the frozen food store on rue de Grenelle. I feel that if I managed to grow up healthy in the 1950's on canned food and spam, then frozen food can't be too bad. When our children were born and my in-laws visit, my father in law goes there every day to buy a fresh sole for them. He chooses two whole fish and insists the poissonier skin and filet it in front of him so he is assured of its freshness. My son won his grandmothers heart when he told her at age 6 that she made best sole in the world, breaded with egg and quickly fried in butter.
- Boucherie: One of the best butchers in the neighborhood. High quality meat, excellent selection and good advice on how to cook a cut of meat. At Christmas and New Years, they sell boar's heads and other specialties for this gourmet season! The French celebrate both holidays, but New Years is the most important for them, especially from a perspective of food. That's when you order your oysters and meats far in advance and prepare your best dishes for family and friends, for the Réveillon dinner!
- Top Halles: A large greengrocer which I've beenshopping at for almost 20 years. It is across the street from another greengrocer so there is good quality and prices stay competitive. As anywhere, try to buy their 'specials' - whatever is displayed in quantity outside and you are guaranteed the best flavors and prices. The country of origin must be posted; smell the differences between the small French melons and the ones from Spain.
Now cross the street and head up on the other side.
- Franprix: There are two 'supermarkets' on the street, Franprix and Leader Price. Good for the basics, from toothpaste to cereal.
- Bacchus: This wine shop is a good one and they do a good job recommending wine for a particular meal. Our favorite wine shop is at 145 rue St. Dominique where Julien does an excellent job. He knows his wines and offers good value for money. When we walk by, he signals Philippe if he has a good deal on red wine or Champagne. He is a character who roller blades to work and always wears sunglasses on his head; kind of a heartthrob in the quartier. When I first introduced my French husband to California wines in Napa Valley, he couldn't understand the American obsession with brand and price. Now I understand his point: in France, a good wine often means it is delicious and not too expensive. It does not have to be a famous brand with a high price tag.
- Fromagerie: We have been going to this cheese store for decades and love it. The lines outside on Sunday mornings can stretch down the block, so get there early! The less expensive cheeses and basics such as eggs and better are usually sold at the counter outside. Go inside for most of the selection, for yogurts, for superb taste and quality. My favorite cheeses are their goats cheeses and St. Marcellin's, but everything is excellent. Important note: when you buy a soft cheese, such as Camembert, Brie or St. Felicien, Neuchatel, be sure to tell the clerk when you are planning to eat it: that evening, tomorrow or at the end of the week. That way, they can choose just the right freshness for the moment you plan to eat it. It's really a treat! If you haven't had St. Felicien or Marcelin (same cheese), do try it and make sure it's 'fait' or ready to eat. It's so creamy you almost need a spoon and you will be back the next day for more.
- Les visiteurs: When I first moved to Paris, I found some small worms on the piece of goat's cheese that I hadn't just eaten! Being a pasteurized American, I panicked wondering if I was going to contract serious medical problems. Philippe, my doctor husband laughed at me: 'Don't worry if you've eaten any, they won't exit as flies!' I was away on business for the following week, so threw it in the freezer until following Sunday. They laughed at my frozen worms and were quick to exchange it for me with apologies for 'les petits visteurs'.
- Frozen cheese: Our lifestyle was more hectic when we both were working fulltime. Being a thrifty person, I froze some camembert for a few weeks until we had friends over to dinner. I took it out that afternoon to eat after dinner but it was still frozen when I set the table. I quickly threw it in the microwave to thaw it out, thinking it would be just right for dessert. Philippe was mortified when we passed it around as it was rubbery and hard. He asked what had happened and I explained. Typically French, he couldn't believe I would freeze and microwave the cheese! I have had to live with that story ever since: 'Les Américaines, elles congellent leurs fromages.' Since then, a number of our friends have started to freeze their soft cheeses and they recommend it now. But never microwave them as it kills the living parts!
- Charcuterie: They offer a wide selection of meats and prepared dishes. Their specials on the table in front are delicious; they have won several awards for their sausages.
- Chocolatier: Belgian chocolates which are excellent and reasonably priced. Much better than Godiva which I find taste too waxy. There are some wonderful chocolate stores in the quartier, but this is a staple.
- Leader Price: This is the other supermarket on rue cler and sells more bulk foods. Again, fine for all of your staples.
- Boulangerie Pâtisserie: This boulangerie on the corner is a local favorite; note the lines outside as locals stand in line to buy their baguettes. Love the beautiful windows and original features from the early 1900’s. Excellent bread.
Rue de Grenelle
Rue de Grenelle from rue Cler is a true neighborhood in Paris, with all of the shops you need. There are a lot of darling children's shops, especially around rue Cler and some good women's shops closer to Ave de la Bourdonnais, but it's food we are interested in.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Marie Cantin: Last year, a French friend told us about Marie Cantin, a cheese shop just around the corner on rue de grenelle. They were shocked we had never been there, as it is one of the most renowned cheese shops in Paris. We tried it and fell in love with their Beaufort, roqueforts, goats cheeses, everthing! It's a wonderful, difficult choice and our advice is to go to both.
- Coffee Store: This store sells good coffee beans, teas and even Berthillon ice cream! After they begin to know you, you can order your favorite blend in advance to pick up later. It's terrific to buy the world's best ice cream there. We no longer have to trek to the Ile St. Louis with our Styrofoam boxes.
- Pâtisserie at 187 rue de Grenelle: This is my other favorite pâtisserie for desserts and croissants. It's on rue de Grenelle, between Bourdonnais and Bosquet, across from rue du Gros Caillou. Try a banette or the traditional baguette à l'ancienne for a change. Also good whole grain breads; quiches with light crusts, wonderful pastries.
Other interesting non-food stores:
- Toile de Mayenne: a relatively new and popular shop in the neighborhood. They make their own fabrics and sell decorative accessories, sofas, lamps etc. Beautiful style.
- Atelier Besis: OK, not food but cool picture frames. They do traditional framing but are known for their unusual frames for movie posters, which match the themes of the poster. Mr. Bessis told us that a number of years ago, someone organized a sale of his frames at Drouot.
- Liola: chic knits, very channel-like. My mother in law told me that the daughter of the Countess of Paris owns this store. The Countess of Paris lived in Normandy and is well-loved in the region for her graciousness. Her family are the descendants of Louis Philippe 1er.
- Picard: This is one of my favorite shops in Paris and a staple to our lives. Picard is to frozen food in the US as the best champagne is to homemade beer. There is no comparison with American TV dinners! It is gourmet frozen food store and everyone shops there for something, even my mother in law. You will find everything from frozen peas to ice cream treats, to hors d'oeuvres, to salmon en croute and quails stuffed with fois gras! Many of these dishes have been created by famous French chefs and they are delicious.
My advice is to put the dish in a nice casserole before baking and modestly accept all of the compliments after a dinner party. Don't miss stopping in and strolling through the aisles. Even if you are a purist, it's so handy to have some of their ingredients on hand, even if it's their freeze dried spices which you can shake out of their box for seasoning. For soups, we buy their combinations of pureed vegetables, which are frozen in cubes without seasoning. You can use it as the base to make soup with your own choice of seasonings. Their pizzas and crêpe selections are good for a quick meal if you are too tired to go out; their pasta and casseroles are handy as well. They sell miniature ice cream cones which the kids enjoy. They have reasonably priced hors-d'œuvre as well for that glass of wine at the end of your day at the markets. Their desserts are mixed: a few of them are excellent, but I prefer fresh desserts from the pâtisseries in the neighborhood.
Picnics: If you are thinking of a picnic we recommend the gardens of the Champ de Mars Park, where you can walk, run, bicycle, rollerskate or just sit and enjoy. There are 4 playgrounds, a puppet theatre (les Guignols), a hand-cranked carousel, pony rides and old pedal cars. Something to keep in mind is that the Champ de Mars is not Disneyland. It's a nice neighborhood park with simple amusements where families have going for years. It's special to watch grandparents taking the grandchildren there and spoil them with the little pony rides or peddle carts; it's a sweet memory if you have children. We know you will have a wonderful stay in Paris and hope you take advantage of Parisian life!