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The Ultimate Guide To Eating Like A Local In France


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Randi Grigsby



Welcome to the ultimate guide to eating like a local in France! France is known all over the world for its rich culinary traditions and delectable cuisine. From mouthwatering pastries to exquisite wines and cheeses, the country offers a gastronomic experience like no other.


French cuisine is a true reflection of the country’s history, culture, and geography. Each region has its own unique specialties, influenced by local ingredients and traditions. Whether you’re exploring the bustling streets of Paris, enjoying the coastal vibes of Nice, or discovering the quaint countryside villages, there are endless culinary delights to indulge in.


In this guide, we’ll take you on a savory journey through the diverse and delicious flavors of France. From traditional dishes to street food and delectable desserts, you’ll get a taste of the authentic local cuisine. We’ll also delve into the fascinating world of French wine and cheese, as well as share some insights on dining etiquette and customs.


So, whether you’re a food enthusiast planning your next trip to France or simply want to explore the flavors of this remarkable country from the comfort of your home, get ready to tantalize your taste buds and embark on a culinary adventure like no other. Let’s dive into the delightful world of French food!


Traditional French Cuisine

When it comes to traditional French cuisine, three words immediately come to mind: rich, flavorful, and indulgent. French classics are known for their meticulous preparation, quality ingredients, and bold flavors that have stood the test of time.


One iconic dish that represents traditional French cuisine is Coq au Vin. This hearty stew features tender chicken braised in red wine with mushrooms, onions, and herbs. It’s a perfect example of the French art of slow-cooking and showcases the country’s love for bold flavors and robust wines.


Another must-try dish is the infamous Bouillabaisse, a fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille. Packed with an array of fresh seafood such as fish, shrimp, and mussels, simmered in a fragrant broth of tomatoes, fennel, saffron, and spices, it’s a seafood lover’s dream come true.


Beef lovers will certainly appreciate the tender and succulent Boeuf Bourguignon. This classic French stew features braised beef cooked in red wine, typically from the Burgundy region, along with aromatic vegetables and herbs. The slow cooking process ensures the meat is incredibly tender and flavorful.


No discussion of traditional French cuisine would be complete without mentioning Escargots de Bourgogne. While they might seem adventurous to some, snails are a delicacy in France. Cooked in a rich garlic and parsley butter, they offer a unique and decadent culinary experience that shouldn’t be missed.


Lastly, we can’t forget about the iconic Ratatouille. This vegetable medley is a celebration of the bountiful produce found in the south of France. Made with tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, and herbs, Ratatouille is a colorful and delicious dish that showcases the simplicity and beauty of French countryside cooking.


These are just a few examples of the traditional French dishes that have become symbols of the country’s culinary heritage. Each region of France has its own unique specialties, so be sure to explore and discover the local flavors wherever your travels take you.


Regional Specialties

One of the most fascinating aspects of French cuisine is the incredible diversity of regional specialties. Each region showcases its own unique flavors and ingredients, highlighting the country’s rich culinary heritage.


Let’s start our culinary journey in the north of France, where the region of Normandy is famous for its creamy and indulgent dishes. Try the classic French dish known as Coquilles Saint-Jacques, which features plump scallops cooked with butter, cream, and white wine. Pair it with a glass of local cider for the perfect combination.


Heading east, the Alsace region combines French and German influences to create a delightful fusion of flavors. Don’t miss out on trying Choucroute Garnie, a hearty dish of sauerkraut cooked with various meats such as sausages, pork, and ham. It’s best enjoyed with a glass of Alsatian Riesling wine.


If you find yourself in Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France, be sure to savor a plate of Lyonnaise Salad. Made with frisée lettuce, lardons (bacon), poached egg, and tossed in a tangy mustard vinaigrette, this salad is a delicious combination of flavors and textures.


Traveling to the southwest, the region of Provence is known for its Mediterranean flavors and vibrant ingredients. Try the famous Ratatouille Provençale, a vegetable stew bursting with the flavors of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and aromatic herbs like basil and thyme. Accompanied by a glass of local rosé wine, it’s a true taste of the sun-soaked region.


Venturing further south, the region of Corsica offers unique and aromatic dishes that reflect the island’s rugged landscape. Don’t miss the chance to sample Fiadone, a traditional Corsican cheesecake made with ricotta, lemon zest, and a hint of local liqueur. It’s a delightful dessert that captures the essence of the island.


These are just a few examples of the diverse regional specialties you can explore in France. Each region has its own culinary treasures waiting to be discovered, so be sure to indulge in the local flavors wherever you go.


Parisian Delicacies

Paris, the City of Love, is also a paradise for food lovers. With its abundance of patisseries, cafes, and upscale restaurants, Paris offers a wide array of culinary delights that will leave you craving for more.


One of the most iconic Parisian delicacies is the Croissant. These flaky, buttery pastries are a staple of French breakfast culture. Whether enjoyed plain or filled with chocolate or almond cream, a fresh croissant is a must-try treat when in Paris.


Another classic Parisian favorite is the French Onion Soup, known locally as Soupe à l’Oignon. This comforting dish features caramelized onions simmered in a rich beef broth, topped with crusty bread and melted Gruyère cheese. It’s the perfect dish to warm you up on a chilly Parisian evening.


When it comes to cheese, Paris has you covered. Pay a visit to Fromagerie Laurent Dubois, one of the city’s most renowned cheese shops. Indulge in a variety of artisanal cheeses, from creamy Camembert to tangy Roquefort, and let your taste buds savor the incredible flavors of France.


No visit to Paris is complete without treating yourself to a decadent dessert. Head to a patisserie and discover the world of French pastries. Indulge in a colorful array of macarons, delicate éclairs filled with rich creams, or the famous Tarte Tatin, a caramelized apple tart that’s sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.


For those who appreciate fine dining, a visit to a Michelin-starred restaurant is a must-do experience in Paris. From Le Jules Verne, located on the Eiffel Tower, offering breathtaking views along with exquisite cuisine, to legendary establishments like Le Meurice and Guy Savoy, Paris boasts an array of world-class dining destinations that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you with unforgettable memories.


Paris is truly a food lover’s paradise. Its culinary offerings range from humble street food to high-end gastronomic experiences, ensuring that there’s something to please every palate. So, be sure to immerse yourself in the Parisian culinary scene and let the flavors of the city seduce you.


Coastal Cuisine

France’s stunning coastline is a treasure trove of culinary delights, offering a bounty of fresh seafood and flavors inspired by the sea. From the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean, coastal cuisine in France is a testament to the country’s maritime heritage.


If you find yourself along the Brittany coast, don’t miss the chance to sample the beloved Breton Galettes. These savory buckwheat crepes are typically filled with a variety of ingredients, such as smoked salmon, creamy cheese, or sautéed mushrooms. Pair it with a glass of cider for a delicious and satisfying meal.


The south of France is renowned for its vibrant and sun-kissed flavors. In the region of Provence, Bouillabaisse, a traditional Marseille fish stew, reigns supreme. This flavorful dish features an assortment of fish and shellfish cooked in a fragrant broth of tomatoes, saffron, and herbs. It’s a true taste of the Mediterranean.


If you venture further east to the glamorous French Riviera, treat yourself to a plate of Salade Niçoise. Made with fresh vegetables, tuna, anchovies, olives, and hard-boiled eggs, it’s a refreshing and colorful salad that perfectly captures the flavors of the coast.


As you explore the Atlantic coast, be sure to indulge in the famous oysters of Cancale in Brittany. These plump and briny mollusks are best enjoyed fresh, straight from the sea. Grab a dozen and savor the taste of the ocean while enjoying the stunning coastal views.


When visiting Normandy, indulge in the delicate and creamy delights of Moules Marinières. These mussels are cooked in a savory broth of white wine, garlic, and herbs, and served with a side of crispy French fries. It’s a simple yet satisfying dish that showcases the flavors of the sea.


Coastal cuisine in France not only offers an abundance of seafood but also highlights the importance of fresh and locally sourced ingredients. So, whether you’re a seafood lover or simply appreciate the flavors of the coast, be sure to sample the coastal delicacies that France has to offer.


Countryside Classics

The French countryside is a treasure trove of rustic flavors and traditional dishes that have been passed down through generations. From hearty stews to farm-fresh produce, the countryside is where you’ll find some of the most satisfying and comforting meals in France.


One classic dish that embodies the essence of the French countryside is Coq au Vin. This hearty chicken stew features tender chicken cooked in red wine, along with mushrooms, onions, and aromatic herbs. The slow cooking process ensures the meat is tender and infused with rich flavors.


Another countryside favorite is Pot-au-Feu, a comforting beef stew. This dish comprises various cuts of beef, such as brisket, along with vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and cabbage, simmered in a flavorful broth. It’s a meal that warms both the body and the soul.


If you find yourself in the region of Burgundy, don’t miss the opportunity to try Boeuf Bourguignon. This timeless dish features beef braised in red wine, lardons, mushrooms, and aromatic herbs. The slow cooking process infuses the meat with deep flavors, resulting in a melt-in-your-mouth experience.


For cheese lovers, a trip to the countryside will introduce you to the delights of the French cheese plate. From creamy Camembert to tangy Goat cheese, a variety of artisanal cheeses await your taste buds. Pair them with a crusty baguette and some local wine for an authentic countryside experience.


The countryside is also known for its bountiful produce, and this is evident in dishes like Ratatouille. Made with fresh seasonal vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers, along with aromatic herbs, Ratatouille is a celebration of the countryside’s vibrant flavors.


Whether it’s indulging in slow-cooked stews or savoring the simplicity of fresh produce, the countryside classics of France offer a taste of tradition and culinary heritage. So, take a step off the beaten path and discover the charm and flavors of the French countryside.


Street Food

When it comes to experiencing the vibrant and diverse culinary scene in France, street food is not to be missed. From bustling city streets to charming markets, the country offers an array of tasty and convenient street food options that cater to every palate.


One street food staple that you’ll find across France is the mouthwatering Crêpe. These thin, pancake-like treats can be filled with a variety of savory or sweet fillings. From classic combinations like ham and cheese or Nutella and banana, to more adventurous options like goat cheese and caramelized onions, there’s a crêpe to satisfy every craving.


If you’re exploring the streets of Nice, be sure to try Socca. This popular street food is a thin chickpea flour pancake that’s cooked in a wood-fired oven until it’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. It’s a delightful snack that pairs perfectly with a glass of chilled rosé.


In the capital city of Paris, you’ll find the iconic French sandwich known as the Croque-Monsieur. This grilled ham and cheese sandwich, topped with creamy béchamel sauce and melted cheese, is a hearty and satisfying option for a quick bite on the go.


Don’t miss the chance to sample the delectable French sausage known as Saucisson. This cured meat is available in various flavors and is often enjoyed simply sliced and served with crusty bread and Dijon mustard. It’s the perfect portable snack for exploring the streets of France.


If you’re in the mood for something sweet, keep an eye out for the classic French pastry, the Beignet. These deep-fried doughnuts are dusted with powdered sugar and can be filled with a variety of fillings, such as custard, chocolate, or fruit jams. They’re a delightful treat that satisfies any sweet tooth.


Street food in France not only offers a delicious culinary experience but also provides a glimpse into the vibrant local culture and traditions. Whether you’re a food enthusiast or simply looking for a quick and tasty meal, exploring the street food scene in France is an adventure in itself.


French Pastries and Desserts

French pastries and desserts are renowned worldwide for their elegance, artistry, and mouthwatering flavors. From buttery croissants to delicate macarons, the country has a rich tradition of pastry making that will satisfy even the most discerning sweet tooth.


Let’s start with the iconic croissant. This flaky and buttery pastry is a staple of French breakfast culture. Whether enjoyed plain, filled with chocolate, or almond cream, a fresh croissant is a true delight that pairs perfectly with a cup of rich café au lait.


Another beloved French pastry is the éclair. These long, cream-filled pastries are typically topped with a glossy layer of icing and come in a variety of flavors, such as vanilla, chocolate, coffee, or caramel. They are a true indulgence that will transport your taste buds to Parisian patisseries with each bite.


Macarons, with their delicate meringue shells and luscious fillings, are another highlight of French pastry making. These colorful and dainty treats come in a variety of flavors, from classic favorites like pistachio and raspberry to more adventurous options like lavender and salted caramel. Every bite is a perfect balance of sweetness and texture.


Tarte Tatin, a classic French upside-down caramelized apple tart, is a dessert that shouldn’t be missed. The golden caramel-coated apples atop a buttery puff pastry create a heavenly combination of flavors and textures. It’s best enjoyed warm with a dollop of crème fraîche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


For chocolate lovers, France has an array of delectable options. Indulge in a rich and decadent slice of Chocolate Mousse Cake or savor the smooth and velvety texture of a classic Chocolate Soufflé. These desserts showcase the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into French pastry making.


Crème Brûlée, with its creamy custard base and caramelized sugar crust, is a dessert that has become synonymous with French cuisine. Breaking through the caramelized top to reveal the silky-smooth custard beneath is a moment of pure bliss.


French pastry-making is an art form that combines precision, technique, and a deep appreciation for quality ingredients. Each bite of a French pastry or dessert is a sensory experience that will transport you to the charming cafes and patisseries of France.


Wine and Cheese Pairings

France is famous for its exceptional wines and exquisite cheeses, and there’s no better way to experience the harmonious combination of flavors than by indulging in wine and cheese pairings. With a myriad of both regional wines and artisanal cheeses to choose from, the possibilities for delightful combinations are endless.


A classic and beloved pairing is Champagne and Brie. The crisp acidity and effervescence of Champagne beautifully complement the creamy and buttery flavors of Brie. Together, they create a luxurious and indulgent pairing that is perfect for celebrations or special occasions.


For those who enjoy red wine, a robust Bordeaux pairs beautifully with a flavorful and firm cheese like Comté. The bold tannins and dark fruit notes of Bordeaux are a wonderful contrast to the nutty and slightly sweet flavors of Comté. It’s a combination that showcases the art of balance in the world of wine and cheese.


On a warm summer day, a refreshing glass of Sancerre, a crisp white wine, pairs wonderfully with a tangy and creamy goat cheese such as Chèvre. The citrusy notes of the wine complement the bright acidity of the goat cheese, creating a zesty and refreshing pairing that is perfect for al fresco dining.


If you’re a fan of full-bodied red wines, a robust and earthy red Burgundy pairs beautifully with a pungent and flavorful cheese like Époisses. The complex flavors of the wine blend harmoniously with the intense and buttery characteristics of Époisses, creating a robust and indulgent pairing.


No discussion of wine and cheese pairings would be complete without mentioning the classic combination of Sauternes and Roquefort. Sauternes, a lusciously sweet dessert wine, pairs exquisitely with the rich and tangy flavors of Roquefort, creating a contrast that is simply divine. The sweetness of the wine balances out the saltiness of the cheese, resulting in a harmonious and unforgettable experience.


These are just a few examples of the countless wine and cheese pairings that can be enjoyed in France. The key is to experiment and explore the diverse flavors and varieties available. Whether you’re hosting a gathering or simply indulging in a quiet evening at home, the combination of wine and cheese is a true celebration of French culinary craftsmanship.


Etiquette and Dining Customs in France

In France, dining is not just about satisfying hunger, but a cherished social affair that follows a set of customs and etiquette. Understanding and respecting French dining traditions will enhance your culinary experience and allow you to fully immerse yourself in the local culture.


One common custom is to greet your fellow diners with a polite “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir” before starting a meal. It’s a sign of good manners and sets a friendly and welcoming tone for the gathering.


When dining in a restaurant, it’s customary to wait to be seated by the host or the maître d’. Unlike some other cultures, it’s uncommon to choose your own table, especially in more formal settings. The host is responsible for making seating arrangements and ensuring a balanced and harmonious atmosphere.


French meals are often served in multiple courses, starting with the “Entrée,” which typically consists of a light dish like a salad or a soup. This is followed by the “Plat Principal” (main course), which is often meat or fish with a selection of sidedishes.


One important aspect of French dining etiquette is to keep your hands on the table at all times. Resting your hands on your lap is considered impolite. However, it’s important to note that keeping your elbows off the table is also a common practice.


Unlike some cultures where it is acceptable to cut food using only a fork, in France it is customary to use both a fork and a knife. The knife is held in the right hand while cutting, and then the fork is switched to the right hand for eating.


When it comes to beverages, wine is an integral part of French dining. If you are invited to someone’s home for dinner, it is customary to bring a bottle of wine as a gesture of appreciation. The host typically decides when and how much wine should be poured, and it’s polite to wait for the host to initiate the toast.


At the end of the meal, it is customary to say “Merci” to the host or the restaurant staff as a way of expressing gratitude for the dining experience. It’s also common to wait until everyone has finished eating before leaving the table, as a sign of respect for the communal enjoyment of the meal.


By embracing the dining customs and etiquette in France, you’ll not only show respect for the local culture but also enhance your overall dining experience. Immerse yourself in the traditions, savor the flavors, and enjoy the conviviality that is at the heart of French dining. Bon appétit!


Tips for Finding Local Restaurants

When exploring a new city or country, one of the best ways to truly experience the local culture is through its food. Finding local restaurants can be a great way to immerse yourself in the authentic flavors and traditions of a place. Here are some tips to help you discover the hidden gems and dine like a local.


1. Research and ask locals: Before your trip, do some research on local food blogs, travel websites, or guidebooks to get an idea of the best local restaurants in the area. Additionally, don’t hesitate to reach out to locals or ask for recommendations from hotel staff or people you meet along your journey.


2. Avoid tourist hotspots: While popular tourist areas may have a variety of restaurants, they often cater to tourists and may offer more generic or tourist-focused menus. Venture off the beaten path and explore neighborhoods where locals frequent. This is where you’ll find restaurants that truly showcase the authentic local cuisine.


3. Look for crowded places: A busy restaurant is usually a good sign that the food is tasty and worth trying. Locals know where to find the best meals, and if a restaurant is bustling with locals, it’s a good indication that the food is delicious and the atmosphere is lively.


4. Embrace street food: Some of the best local cuisine can be found in street stalls and market vendors. Sampling street food not only allows you to taste a variety of dishes but also provides an opportunity to interact with locals and experience the vibrant food culture of the destination.


5. Seek out local specialties: Every region in a country has its own culinary specialties. Whether it’s a specific type of cheese, a traditional dish, or a local delicacy, be sure to seek out these unique flavors. Ask locals about their favorite regional specialties or look for restaurants that specialize in the local cuisine.


6. Read reviews and ratings: Utilize online review platforms or restaurant rating websites to get an idea of the quality and reputation of a local restaurant. However, take the reviews with a grain of salt and consider the overall consensus rather than relying on a single opinion.


7. Be adventurous: Don’t be afraid to try something new or unfamiliar. Local restaurants often offer dishes and flavors that may be different from what you’re used to. Embrace the opportunity to expand your palate and discover new taste sensations.


Remember, the best local restaurants may not always have flashy exteriors or be located in touristy areas. By doing your research, seeking local recommendations, and embracing the spirit of adventure, you’ll have a greater chance of finding authentic and delicious local restaurants that will enhance your food travel experience.