It’s no secret that Paris is a gourmet paradise, but let’s be honest: With more than 70 Michelin-starred restaurants boasting foie gras, veal, caviar and lobster, it’s not the first place that comes to mind when thinking about vegan paradise. But that’s beginning to change. From veggie burger joints to plant-based bakeries to haute cuisine, the vegan food movement is exploding in the political and cultural capital of France.
Anywhere from 2-5% of French people are vegetarian, and as in the United States, there’s a growing interest in France for plant-based fare. According to The Telegraph, “Vegetarian food is gaining acceptance in France as health and environmental concerns turn the French away from red meat. Meat consumption fell by 15% between 2003 and 2010, according to Crédoc, an organization that monitors consumer and lifestyle trends.”
The mayor of the 2e arrondissement implemented a meat-free “Veggie Thursday” at schools in his district to help reduce their environmental impact and offer healthier options. Chef Alain Ducasse, hailed “the godfather of French gastronomy” by the New York Daily News, grabbed headlines around the world when he announced in 2014 that he was reopening the acclaimed Plaza Athénée restaurant as mostly vegetarian. Paris, the City of Light, is now taking the spotlight for its plant-based fare.
Braisserie Lola via Kristie Middleton
1. Braisserie Lola
Location: Brasserie Lola, 99 rue du Théâtre, 75015 Paris
I first visited Paris in the ninth grade on an extended field trip. We saw The Eiffel Tour, Champs Elysees and Monet’s Giverny. We packed in so many sites and dined at restaurants selected by our teacher, including traditional French braisseries — cafés that serve the same menu every day, offering fare like steak and fries and aren’t usually the most vegetarian-friendly. Well, except the fries.
Braisserie Lola, one of the best vegan restaurants in Paris, flips that idea on its head. At this braisserie, you can find exclusively animal-free equivalents of French dishes like croque monsier—a grilled ham and cheese sandwich—tarts, risottos and soups. Not to be missed are the unique desserts, which change daily. You might find a chocolate gâteau (cake), assorted sorbets or even a banana split. What’s most remarkable is that nowhere is the word “vegan” mentioned. A 10-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower, Lola serves delicious food that just happens to be better for the planet and animals.
Tien Hang via Kristie Middleton
2. Tien Hang
Location: Tien Hang, 14 rue Bichat, 75010 Paris
Some international foods are delicious no matter where you are and that’s certainly true of Vietnamese food. At Tien Hang, you can find black pepper beef clay pots, Phnom Penh soup with shredded pork, or my favorite, crispy ginger chicken – all without the animal ingredients. For those who prefer to eat their veggies, you can choose from basil stir fries, sweet and sour vegetables with tofu, vermicelli noodles with vegetables and lemongrass and much more. You can enjoy a cold beer or pot of hot tea to wash down the delectable flavors. The staff is friendly and the food is great, which means it’s often busy so you may have to wait for a table. I can assure you — it’s worth the wait!
Photo: Le Potager de Charlotte
3. Le Potager de Charlotte
Location: Le Potager de Charlotte, 12, rue de la Tour d’Auvergne, 75009 Paris
Le Potager de Charlotte, or “Charlotte’s Garden” is a perfect spot for a romantic meal. Operated by brothers Adrien and David, Le Potager de Charlotte is a labor of love. I was fortunate to visit the restaurant soon after its opening and they were proud to show photos of the space they had built—gutting and rebuilding the building by hand themselves. Now a cozy, intimate space, Le Potager offers organic, vegan meals with menus that change seasonally.
The dishes are creative and the ingredients fresh. I enjoyed a unique roasted stuffed squash, but the star of the meal was the avocado with almond mayonnaise. Topped with black salt, the combination was reminiscent of a deviled egg, yet with the smoothness and freshness of an avocado.
Hank via Kristie Middleton
Location: Hank Vegan Burgers, 55 Rue des Archives, 75003 Paris, France
Let’s face it, sometimes when we’re traveling abroad we long for a little piece of home. Set just two blocks from the National Picasso Museum in the hip Marais district, Hank is a small yet lively burger joint offering a variety of burgers to enjoy on site or to take away. Guests can choose from meaty yet beef-free burgers topped with mustard sauce, smoked barbecue, coriander and tortilla chips (yes, on the burger), or an Italian-flavored tomato-basil sauce with black olives. The portions are generous, but what’s a burger without a side of fries? The Belgian fries are organic and tasty, especially dipped in Hank’s homemade mayonnaise.
Reasonably priced, Hank is a popular spot. On two separate visits, the joint was busy, crowded and vibrant. Clearly, Parisians have a hankering for a good veggie burger.
Vegan Follies via Kristie Middleton
5. Vegan Folies
Location: Vegan Folies, 53 Rue Mouffetard, 75005 Paris, France
“Let them eat cake,” Marie Antoinette is rumored to have once said. Whether or not she actually uttered this statement, vegans and those wanting to eat animal-free cakes in Paris can now do so, thanks to Vegan Folies. A small bakery, Vegan Folies offers delectable treats with fun names. You can choose from James Brownie(s), Berry White and Toffee Lee Jones cheesecakes; Choc Norris, John Lemon, and Sid Delicious cupcakes, and many more. The unique desserts are as good as their names and will satisfy any sweet tooth. Get there early as the offerings thin by the end of the day.
Photo: Un Monde Vegan Paris
If you’d prefer to do your own cooking, fresh fruits and vegetables abound at fresh markets all over the city. Pick up staples at Un Monde Vegan, Paris’ all-vegan grocery store, which sells varieties of every kind of meat under the sun—from faux gras to tuna—as well as desserts, cheeses, milks, yogurts, cereals, cruelty-free household items, books and much more.
With meatless food in abundance, Paris even has its own Insiders’ Guide to the Best Veggie Food. Conscious consumers can make the world a better place by following the Three Rs of eating: “reducing” or “replacing” consumption of animal products, and “refining” our diets by choosing products from sources that adhere to higher animal welfare standards. It’s never been easier for Parisians and visitors to have their egg-free cake and eat it too!
Contributed by Kristie Middleton, senior food policy director for The Humane Society of the United States.