The elegant, historic Parisian district of Saint-Germain is well-noted for its sidewalk cafés, regal department stores, and grand avenues, and it's also an excellent place to taste some of the best cooking the city has to offer. Here are six of the best restaurants in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, from classic brasseries to gourmet tables, and one option that's great for both kids and vegetarians.
Best for Seafood: L'Avant Comptoir de la Mer
This creative seafood restaurant situated right next to the Odéon metro stop is ideal for anyone with a love for good fish and fruits de mer (shellfish). At this wonderfully bustling, occasionally bustling restaurant from Yves Camdeborde, patrons order at the bar from items scrawled on boards. Typical dishes include fresh oysters from Normandy accompanied by crusty bread and salted butter, ceviche with green apple and fresh cucumber, tuna carpaccio, clams in coconut milk or smoked fish platters.
Accompany your tapas with a crisp glass of white wine, from Pouilly-Fumé to Gaillac and Chardonnay.
Creative Cuisine: Clover Green
This much-raved about spot from chef Jean-Francois Piège is simply one of the best places in the neighborhood to sample innovative French cooking with a firm footing in tradition. The intimate, modern Saint-Germain dining room offers diners striking views of the bustling kitchen, where a constantly refreshed menu of fish, poultry, meats, and locally sourced seasonal produce is conceived. Dishes are beautifully presented, bursting with flavor and made with ingredients that taste invariably fresh. The wine list is thoughtful and excellent, and the service is friendly. Some vegetarian options are available, and the homemade desserts are both surprising and delicious.
Recent menu items include roasted chicken from Landes, vegetable tajine with lemon and coriander, fresh-caught yellow pollock, and heritage tomatoes with capers and parmesan.
Classic Brasserie: Aux Prés Cyril Lignac
This legendary St-Germain brasserie now helmed by celebrated chef Cyril Lignac has won accolades for its impeccable market produce sourced from local suppliers and creative cooking. The brasserie, which first opened in the 1960s and has been a reference in the area ever since, was taken over by Lignac in 2011, and he's certainly succeeded in revamping it for the present-day.
He's preserved the borderline-kitschy flowered wallpaper and warm lighting, and created a menu that respects tradition while looking firmly to the future. Current main dishes include Sea bream carpaccio with ponzu and grilled sesame, beef fillet with satay spices and lemon marmalade, and eggplant caramelized with miso, sesame, and lime. Vegetarians will find several options here, and the desserts are simply divine.
Best for Vegetarians and Families: Breizh Café Odéon
This beloved gourmet creperie has several locations in Paris (as well as in Cancale, Brittany, and Tokyo), and is an ideal spot for an affordable, delicious meal that can appeal to all diners, including kids and vegetarians. Hearty, filling Breton-style "galettes" (savory crepes made from buckwheat) are filled with cheese, eggs, smoked salmon, or a more creative variety of ingredients. Enjoy a sweet crepe for dessert smothered with salted butter caramel, fresh fruit, or dark chocolate and almonds. Breizh also has a wonderful list of authentic French ciders and a menu of inventive buckwheat "maki" rolls that fuse Breton and Japanese cuisine. We recommend the lunch menu or "formule midi," which includes a savory galette, sweet crepe, and drink.
Authentic French Charm: Chez Marcel
While this Lyonnais-style bistrot established in 1919 is located at the edge of Saint-Germain in close reach of Montparnasse, it's well worth the trek southward. You'll find no sleek modern decor, faddish menu items, or Instagram influencers occupying the tables at this old-school French table—just simple (but painstakingly prepared) and delicious classics made with superb ingredients.
Classic French menu items include "quenelles de brochet," a Lyonnais specialty made by combining fish (generally pike) with flour, eggs, butter, mustard, cream, and other ingredients, escargot from Burgundy, and coq au vin (chicken cooked in wine). Reserve ahead during weekends and peak season as this family-owned restaurant has become quite popular.
French-Asian Fusion Dining: La Table d'Aki
This tiny restaurant (it only seats 16 people) has earned local adoration for its thoughtful, intensely flavorful dishes that bring together French savoir-faire with a distinctively Japanese aesthetic. Helmed by chef Akihiro Horikoshi—affectionately known as Aki—the restaurant offers diners with discerning palates a chance to taste dishes that are at once beautifully simple and original.
Ravioli with langoustines, crisp St-Pierre fish fillet with a veal sauce, and quenelles with a two-olive tapenade are among the delicate, innovative dishes to be sampled here recently. The homemade desserts, including fruit tarts, are also reputed to be wonderful.
Be aware that the restaurant is closed on Sunday and Monday.