The Latin Quarter encompasses much of the 5th arrondissment (district) of Paris, with the Sorbonne University as its center. Back in medieval times, the slope on which the Sorbonne stands was covered with schools to which students from all over Europe came to study. The common language that they spoke was Latin, hence the name Latin Quarter. Today, the hill is still covered with schools, ranging from elementary to university. But one doesn’t have to be a student to enjoy the vibrant night life that spills out onto narrow streets on weekends. There are a number of fine neighborhood restaurants in the quarter whose mid-range (€€) and higher (€€€) prices are probably too steep for students to frequent, but travelers to Paris who have an adequate budget will find any of the five that I list a great place to begin their French dining experience.
1. Le Resto
Le Resto has been one of my favorites for many years. It stands on a side street around the corner from the lively rue du Pot de Fer. A handsome façade with curtainless windows trimmed in grey and a grey awning trimmed in burgundy welcome diners. The interior boasts bare-stone walls, exposed ceiling beams, a hardwood floor, and table tops made out of riddling boards covered with clear glass. The overall effect is rustic and reposing—as if one were dining at a country inn. I recently went there for lunch and ordered Pasta sotto de cavatappi au poulet et tomate ancienne. Three generous portions of tender, sliced chicken breast were served in on a bed of pasta that had been tossed in melted Parmesan. Slices of green, orange, and red tomatoes added color and flavor to the dish. It was a delicious, satisfying meal.
8, rue de Tournefort, Paris
2. Le Pré Verre
I have dined at Le Pré Verre many times over the years. I especially like the two-course, 14.50€ lunchtime menu that includes a glass of wine and an espresso. In the evening, a three-course menu (without beverages) runs 30€. The specialty of the house is Cochon de lait fondant aux épices douces et choux croquants. You get a wide-brimmed, shallow bowl containing a bed of lightly cooked cabbage upon which rest two slices of tender, milk-fed pork, all in a broth of light cream, white wine, and juices from the piglet. Flavored with cinnamon and star anise, this dish is exquisite.
8, rue Thénard, Paris
Aux Verres de Contact stands at the corner of boulevard Saint-Germain and rue de Bièvre. Its curtainless, sparkling-clean, tall and wide windows offer a view of its smart interior to passersby. Step inside to see a handsome zinc bar as you pass though to the main dining room. There, grey wallboards and room dividers trimmed in cherry; wallpaper displaying stylized glasses of wine; reddish-orange and bare-stone walls; and polished dark tables provide reposing atmosphere. The night that I dined there, popular music played over the sound system, including a song by the Temptations. For the main course, I chose Joue de bœuf façon pot au feu. The waitress asked me if I liked os à moelle, and I responded positively. When she returned, she presented me with a generous portion of stewed beef cheek, a cut of beef bone containing marrow (the os à moelle), and chunks of cabbage, carrot, small potatoes, leek, and turnips. This was a wonderful dish perfect for a chilly winter’s evening. I enjoyed it immensely and you will, too!
52, boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris
A cheery red façade makes this bistrot stand out among the commercial establishments along the south side of rue Jussieu. Inside, the walls display painted murals on a forest-green background. The cherry-red and burgundy benches lining the periphery of the front dining room are comfortable, and the lacquered wooden tables lend elegance to the place. This restaurant was once a coaching inn. Its 1925 décor has been preserved. My choice for the main course was Noix de gigot d’agneau rôti à basse température, crème de pois chiches au cumin et polenta aux raisins secs. The boneless cut of tender leg of lamb was served rosé (pink), just as I had ordered, and was accompanied by a lovely cream of chick pea sauce. Alongside rested a large dollop of fluffy polenta (which was surprisingly light) studded with yellow raisins. The combination was simply delicious.
25, rue Jussieu, Paris
5. Le Reminet
A royal purple façade sets the tone for the fine dining experience that you will enjoy when you enter this small restaurant. Tables are set with tall candles and roses; gilt-framed mirrors hang on the walls; and spotless glassware stands on white tablecloths—diners will appreciate all of this and good service and great food, too! My main-course choice was called Filet de canette en croûte de lard et noisette, choux rouge croquant au vinaigre de Xérès et patate douce rôtie aux épices. I received a filet of duckling breast covered by a crust of breadcrumbs and bacon bits resting on a bed of cooked, crunchy, shredded red cabbage. The duck breast was tender, but nonetheless somewhat chewy (I had ordered it “rosé”). The red cabbage added color and texture to the dish and was quite flavorful on its own. Alongside lay a delicious wedge of roasted sweet potato cut lengthwise. Superb!
3, rue des Grands Degrés, Paris
About Tom Reeves
Confirmed Francophile Tom Reeves is the co-founder of Discover Paris! and the author of two books: Paris Insights – An Anthology and Dining Out in Paris: What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light.