While visiting Paris, you can’t miss an enormous number of street vendors offering a large and thin type of pancake – a crêpe. You’ll see these stands everywhere you go – in front of the most famous monuments, in the gardens and parks as well as on the tiniest streets. Actually, you can’t visit Paris without trying crêpes. But what, exactly, are crêpes? And where can we find the most delicious?
Sweet delicacy from the west
As mentioned, French crêpes are much thinner and also a lot larger than an American pancake. Their taste can also differ greatly from their American counterpart. The origins of this delicacy come from the Celtic region of Bretagne, located on the west coast of France. Traditionally, they are prepared on a circular cooking plate. The cook pours the liquid dough on the hot plate and spreads it evenly with a special wooden trowel, making it as thin as possible. The crêpe bakes for about one minute, after which it is usually rolled with some sweet filling before being served.
Parisians have found an enormous number of fillings for crêpes, beginning from the simplest jam spread through to most sugary of concoctions – from butter to such a caloric bomb like Nutella, bananas, and almonds. It’s up to you which one you’ll try, but I advise you to try something more special than the most popular (and less traditional) Nutella-filled crêpe. Try the one with sugar and Grand Marnier liquor, or perhaps the one with chestnut spread. You won’t be disappointed.
In addition to the sweet options, these stands also offer salty or savory crêpes. These pancakes are unusually called “galettes”, but sometimes you’ll find it simply called “crêpe salée”. But pay attention to this difference – contrary to crêpe, the true galette is made from buckwheat flour, which gives the pancake its distinct grey color. Galettes are ideal for a quick lunch or dinner that you can easily grab to go. As with crêpes, galettes can also be filled with an enormous variety of savory ingredients; however, the most traditional filling (called in French “galette complete”) consists of cheese, egg, and ham.
Now that you are hungry, where should you go to get the best balance between the quality, quantity, and price?
Rue Mouffetard = pancake heaven
Forget the tourist sites of Saint-Michel square, the Eiffel Tower, or Montmartre, unless you are really hungry. Even if the crêpes at such places can be (and often are) tasty, most of the vendors don’t use the highest quality ingredients in order to charge more money for less food. So, if you want a quality product that you can really enjoy, you should definitely aim to visit the small street called “rue Mouffetard”, that has preserved the authentic Parisian atmosphere. Just a fifteen minute walk from Saint-Michel square, the mood of Mouffetard is completely different from the former’s overcrowded sidewalks with its souvenir shops and “tourist-menu” restaurants. The lower part of the street may remind you of an old street market, the upper part is dotted by an exceptional number of street crêpe stands. You should head straight here when longing to taste this traditional delicacy.
Le Petit Léon and Chez Nicos: the best stands ever
It is true, that all the vendors on rue Mouffetard offer bigger portions than the ones at more touristic places (and for the same price); however, the quality and the originality on offer are not the same everywhere. If you’re craving a sweet crêpe, I suggest you visit a nice, little stand called Le petit Léon, which is located near the crossroad of rue Mouffetard and rue Épée de Bois (90 rue Mouffetard). Their dark chocolate crêpe is truly irresistible. If you’d rather have yourself a savory galette, skip the well-known boutique, Au Petit Grec, where there is always a big queue, and go directly to the lesser known stand called Chez Nicos located at 44 rue Mouffetard. You’ll meet a very nice staff that is lead by an old Greek cook named Nicos. This hidden gem definitely has the richest offer and the biggest galettes on the entire street.
In addition to traditional fillings like ham, egg, and cheese, Chez Nicos offers more unusual ones that are worth a try. The mozzarella-tomato or the goat cheese fillings are really delicious. Nicos has also created a set of even more special galettes, filled with homemade minced meat and completed with grilled vegetables. I highly recommend any of these specialty options. As a bonus, lettuce, tomatoes and grilled onions can be added to most galettes, free of charge. Chez Nicos is simply the best, but be warned, the portions are really huge!
Eating crêpes in Mouffetard is what you definitely should not miss while coming to Paris; otherwise you’ll never experience the true Parisian atmosphere!
Where to try the best crêpe?
While visiting Paris, the traditional French pancake, a “crêpe”, is a must-try. This article will explain to you what a crêpe is as well as give you a few tips for where to try the best.
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