10 Things to Eat in Pigalle
In our humble opinion… you haven’t truly experienced Paris until you’ve gone and snacked in the streets of Pigalle.
The neighborhood is a time warp, to put it mildly. Formerly the nation’s red-light district, the streets still linger with the sticky scent of sex and sleaze.
Pigalle exists on the southern door-step of Montmartre. It was once the playground for the artists and musicians who sought to escape the mundane realities of their everyday existence.
Today, Pigalle is where locals and tourists collide. The streets are dotted with temptation; from peep shows to cabaret, bars to global cuisine. On a free walking tour you’ll pass the hub around which everything centered: the infamous Moulin Rouge on the Boulevard de Clichy. As you stroll deeper, it becomes abundantly clear that Pigalle was the place many foreigners visited — and never left.
The variation of foods is most indicative of this. In Pigalle it is not uncommon to find a Punjabi sharing kitchen space with an immigrant family from Turkey. You’ll gorge on Thai food and macarons all on the same street corner. Unlike the rest of Pairs, Pigalle seems to have abandoned all social constructs that govern sensory experience.
It is a revolutionary feast for the eyes, for the stomach, for the mind.
While I could personally dissect the streets of Pigalle for hours, today is dedicated to your taste buds. What follows is my pick of 10 must-eat experiences to be had while exploring Pigalle.
1. Vietnamese Street Food
It goes without saying that the first thing you do when exploring any new neighborhood is sample the street food. In Pigalle this can be difficult considering every corner of the globe appears to be cooking up a street-style feast in one way or another. How oh how will you pick? You’ll simply have to take my word for it.
In central Pigalle on Rue la Fayette there lives a tiny hideaway known as Bêp. Fresh, hot Vietnamese food is prepared and served daily. I particularly recommend paying Bêp a visit in the summer months. French cuisine can be notoriously on the rich, heavier side. Switching things up with the lightness of Vietnamese cooking is surely a welcome change of pace.
For the full experience, visit Bêp for lunch and come hungry! I’d start off with the roulo’ rolls in your choice of either beef or chicken. These are spring roll type starters and make a great introduction to the cuisine. There are avocado based roulo’ for all the non-meat eaters. So fresh, so light and so flavorful.
Follow your roulo’ with a delicious bo bun bowl. I’m not going to break it down for you… just take my word for it!
2. Greek Tapas
In an attempt to keep things simple and fresh I like to stroll down to Passage Choiseul where Greek tapas meets west Pigalle.
Agapi is not much to look at from the outside. In comparison to the charming nature of the rest of the street, this little restaurant can easily go unnoticed. However, once inside it is hard not to become totally immersed in the culture.
If tapas style dining is not of familiarity to you then I can’t really think of a better place to have your first experience. Tapas dining involves multiple, small dishes of different foods and is usually paired with bread in place of cutlery. In Greek cuisine, the bread is known as pita and is served in abundance.
When you visit Agapi I’d suggest ordering an array of pita, dips, veggies and salads. Take your time compiling different combinations of each in attempt to isolate your favorite. Agapi serves devious veggie patties for anyone looking for a slightly heavier meal. Especially for newbies, the concept of tapas dining can appear too light to constitute a full meal. On the contrary, you will leave this restaurant feeling the exact opposite of light.
3. Cheesy Fries!
A short walk north from Agapi and you’ll find yourself on Boulevard des Italiens. As the name suggests, this area is bustling with competitive Italian kitchens and pizzerias. This is not, however, what brings me to this neck of the woods.
As the saying goes, a neighborhood is only as good as its cheesy fries. Those being served up at 231 East Street are worth the price of a ticket to Pigalle alone. The great thing about this dining experience is that it need not be one of a sit down nature. The fries are just as good for a grab-and-go treat to pick at while you roam the surrounding streets.
If fresh potatoes drenched in melted cheese isn’t enough to get you out of the house, then the ambiance of this restaurant might do the trick. 231 East Street is a nook that only plays 90s music throughout the day. It is the perfect spot to perch and people watch while snacking on tasty diner-style foods. While the fries are a must, their burgers make a decent second choice.
There should be a special fine for anyone who visits Pigalle and does not indulge in one of the many street-side falafel canteens.
Specifically around the bar and cabaret saturated areas, falafel stalls can be found built between each establishment & feature trading hours to match. There’s nothing quite like stumbling out of a Parisian night club at 2am only to be greeted by the smell of fresh, fried falafel ready and waiting for you.
These little diners are the heart and soul of Middle Eastern culture around Paris. They are evidence of the migration of the Arabic and Persian people in search of life in the west. There is no single falafel joint that I would recommend above another. Each are unique and worth supporting in their own way. The staff are usually characters in themselves and will chat about almost anything no matter what time of day you wander on in.
Need I say this is the lowest key of low-key dining. There is little to no ambiance and you’ll be lucky to be offered a napkin. But the food is unmatched and your qualms will fall away at first bite.
I personally love my falafel plated and accompanied by homemade hummus & salad. That being said, the falafel wraps should not be ignored — a great snack to stroll home from the bar with.
5. Fancy French
Our favorite French hidden gem is a restaurant called Le Piano Perché. If you’re not going for the food then you’re there for the ambiance. The restaurant itself is light, bright and quirky while still holding on to an undeniably classic Parisian flair. What really brought us here, however, was the chocolate ganache.
Image sourced from Unsplash
Enjoying a full three course meal here is recommended, but not essential. Spending your evening roaming around Paris with a plan to land up here just for dessert is good enough. The kitchen is open late and it’s the perfect place to wander in after a show or gallery in search of something sweet.
If you’ll be visiting Paris during the winter it is likely soup will become your best friend.
Soup is available in abundance around Pigalle as across the rest of Paris. Smaller cafes and lunch spots are the go to for hot soup at any time of day. Our favorite, however, can be found at a well known spot called Bouillon Pigalle.
Bouillon Pigalle is located directly opposite the Pigalle metro stop on Boulevard de Clichy. In colder months you’ll be able to jump off the train and have a bowl of soup in front of you within minutes. They make the best French onion soup in the whole of France! There, I said it!
For this reason it is also not surprising there is often a waiting interval between seating and service. The popularity of Bouillon Pigalle has only gained over the years but patrons report the experience absolutely worth the wait. The trick is to arrive early, or late. The lunch and dinner rush is best avoided. Thankfully a bowl of hot soup is not defined by a specific time of day and can be enjoyed when the crowds are at bay.
Make Bouillon Pigalle your first stop when entering this eclectic suburb. You will not be disappointed!
7. Fresh Produce
Paris wouldn’t be Paris without the copious amounts of glorious fresh produce that line the corner store fronts. In Pigalle things are no different, but for some reason the fruit just tastes a little sweeter this side of town.
The best produce can be found in the alley-ways that carry you north from Pigalle as though you were heading up to Montmartre. As you pass the Moulin Rouge on your right, take the first road right and just keep going. Before you know it you’ll be in the middle of bustling street cafes and corner stores with incredible produce for your choosing. If navigating back alleys is not your forte you might benefit greatly from a free guided walking tour.
There are many sites to see on this walking route so you’ll want to pick up your fresh snacks before properly leaving Pigalle. As you make your various stops you’ll be able gorge on fresh strawberries, juicy apples and sweet melon.
Nothing brings people together while traveling like the concept of a big bowl of guac to share. This South American snack is not easy to find around Paris. Lucky for us, in Pigalle, the avocado flows free.
My favorite spot to enjoy a bowl of guac and chips is at a little place on Rue Henry Monnier called Luz Verde. This is a restaurant that is notorious amongst even the locals. Parisians travel from other Arrondissements just to enjoy a meal here on the regular.
I go for the guac… and stay for everything else. Luz Verde also serves up delicious margaritas and tacos for a full dining experience. There are few places in Europe that are getting Mexican cuisine as right as this place. Service is also quick and friendly however the place fills up fast & does not take reservations. If you needed one good reason to visit Pigalle for a day then guacamole it is.
Choosing a brunch spot in Paris can be an overwhelming endeavor. On every corner a patisserie, and a cafe next door to each of those — one can only rely on word of mouth when deciding where to head. And this is exactly how I was introduced to Le Pain Quotidien.
You’ll find this hidden gem in the far west of Pigalle on Rue Lepic. They offer impressive 12 hour service starting promptly at 8am. So if it is a hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner you are looking for you’re in luck. I personally go for the brunch!
Drop in around 11am and enjoy a sweet starter followed by a full plated meal. The almond croissants are not to be missed.
The great thing about Le Pain Quotidien is that they use organic produce as much as possible. They also cater carefully for vegans, vegetarians and anyone who is eating gluten free. Their gluten free bread is arguably tastier than their regular bread — but what do I know? This restaurant is an asset to Pigalle, be sure to mark it as a stop while strolling the neighborhood.
10. Ice Cream
Did you think I forgot about you — you with the sweet teeth? Absolutely not.
I’ve saved the best for last.
Walking Pigalle would not be complete if one cannot enjoy something sweet every now and again. In fact, Paris would not be Paris if this wasn’t a given. Pigalle is laden with ice cream vendors. You don’t have to walk too far before one stops you in your tracks. Resist the urge to purchase the first soft serve you see and try make your way through to Rue des Martyrs. It will be well worth it — promise!
Glaces Glazed is an artisanal ice cream shop in the heart of Pigalle. This flavors are virtually unimaginable and are all named after famous rock ’n roll hits throughout history. On colder days you can enjoy a warm waffle alongside your scoop in attempt to heat things up a bit.
When explored right, Pigalle is not only centered around the sex and the sleaze of years gone by. Yes, it is a sensory overload in more ways than one, but this should be embraced — not avoided.
As you roam the streets look out for these 10 things that will have your taste buds swooning day in and day out. If you plan your journey strategically you can cover all of the above during your meal times over the course of a few days. No need to pick and choose your favorites — have them all. Pigalle is not a place where anyone is expected to hold back. Join us!