Although restaurants are all very fine and good, there's a lot to be said for a quick and easy outdoor meal when you are a.) tired, b.) on a budget, or c.) a fan of Paris' many lovely parks and squares. What could be nicer (and more relaxing) than a sandwich in the Jardin du Luxembourg? If you're staying in a hotel and have no kitchen access, don't worry: picking up picnic ingredients is a pretty easy affair, though there's a bit of essential terminology you should be familiar with. For good take out food, look for the nearest charcuterie (these specialize in smoked meat, pâtés, and other yummy pork products) or traiteur (a store that sells prepared takeout dishes and salads). Though traiteurs are getting harder to find, most charcuteries do double-duty as traiteurs, as do some boucheries (butchers).
The easiest option, though, is on offer at almost any boulangerie (bakery), where you can find what may well be the best lunch bargain in the city: their lunch "formule," or set menu. For around €6 you can get a long sandwich (usually a half a baguette), amply filled with chicken, ham, or tuna and crudités, (i.e., tomato, lettuce, and other salad-like items), a drink, and a yummy freshly-made pastry (this is a bakery after all). Often you can substitute a slice of quiche for a sandwich. The food is generally fresh and tasty, and a heckuva lot better than what you'd get at Macdonald's. Formules and sandwiches are usually only available from 11am-2pm.
Here are my picks for boulangeries that offer particularly fine lunches, breads and pastries:
Moisan (2 rue de Bazeilles, 5th arrond.; tel. 01 47 07 35 40; open 7am-8pm, closed Thurs; Métro: Censier-Daubenton; MC, V; also at 7 rue Bourdaloue, 9th arrond; 6 blvd. Denain, 10th arrond.; 5 place d'Aligre, 12th arrond; 4 av. du Général Leclerc, 14th arrond; 59 rue Fondary, 15th arrond.; 74 rue de Lévis, 17th arrond.). Proof that organic bread doesn't have to taste excessively virtuous (i.e., heavy and bland). Some of the best bread in town (and the pastries aren't bad either).
Eric Kayser (www.maison-kayser.com). This incredibly successful young baker now has shops all over the city (11 and counting), all as good as the two originals on rue Monge (8 Monge, 5th arrond; tel. 01 44 07 01 42; 14 rue Monge, 5th arrond., tel. 01 44 07 17 81; open 7am-8:30pm, closed Tues; Métro: Maubert-Mutualité; MC, V). Though the main draw is the bread (in all shapes, forms, and grains), the pastries are also excellent. Some locations also serve light lunches.
Poilâne (8 rue du Cherche-Midi, 6th arrond.; tel. 01 45 48 12 59; www.poilane.fr; open 7:15am-8:15pm, closed Sun; Métro: St-Sulpice; tel. 01 45 79 11 49; Métro: La Motte Picquet; AE, DC, MC, V; also at 49 blvd. de Grenelle, 15th arrond.). This legendary bread gets shipped all over the world. Chewy, firm, and dark, it's best when fresh. You can buy it by the slice or by quarters if you don't want to take an entire wheel-like loaf.
Le Boulanger de Monge (123 rue Monge, 5th arrond.; tel. 01 43 37 54 20; www.leboulangerdemonge.com; open 7am-8:30pm, closed Mon; Métro: Gobelins; MC, V). The permanent line out the door is the first tip off-the breads and pastries here are to die for. Featuring both organic and non-organic goodies, as well as sandwiches, this bakery has a wide selection of nontraditional breads, like the excellent multi-grain fig bread, and the twisted spelt tourte.
Aux Désirs de Manon (129 rue St-Antoine, 4th arrond.; tel. 01 42 72 32 91; open 6am-8pm, closed Sun; Métro: St-Paul; MC, V). Not in the least bit famous, just a personal favorite that has a wonderful selection of breads and terrific sandwiches. A great place to get a picnic for the place des Vosges.
Jean Millet (103 rue Saint Dominique, 7th arrond.; tel. 01 45 51 49 80; open 9am-7pm Mon-Sat, 8am-1pm Sun; Métro: La Tour Maubourg; AE, MC, V). The exquisite pastries and chocolates have garnered such a reputation that they now have an outpost in Tokyo. The small shop has a few tables where you can indulge in comfort; soups and salads are on offer at lunchtime.
Gérard Mulot (76 rue de Seine, 6th arrond; tel. 01 43 26 85 77; www.gerard-mulot.fr; 7am-8pm, closed Wed; Métro: Odéon; MC, V). Watch the impeccably-dressed clientele try not to drool over the intoxicating pastries (say, Le Mabillon: caramel mousse with candied apricots and almond biscuits) and macarons (light, frothy cookies filled with cream). They have fabulous, if expensive, salads as well. They recently opened a second shop at 93 rue Glacière, 13th arrond.
Pierre Hermé (72 rue Bonaparte, 6th arrond.; tel. 01 43 54 47 77; www.pierre herme.com; open 10am-7pm; Métro: St-Germain-des-Prés; AE, DC, MC, V). The current superstar of pastry chefs thrills the crowds with his sublime pastries and tarts like the Mogador (chocolate cream, passion-fruit, pineapple and caramel) and his exotic chocolates like the Instant (filled with chocolate ganache and white Earl Grey tea jelly). They too have recently opened an impossibly hip second boutique at 185 rue de Vaugirard in the 15th arrond. (Read more about Hermé in 500 Place for Food & Wine Lovers.)
This article is an excerpt from Pauline Frommer's Paris, 2nd Edition, available in our online bookstore now.
Find out more about the Pauline Frommer Travel Guide series, read articles by Pauline, and listen to Podcasts at Pauline's page on Frommers.com.