To some, Paris is the city of love, but to others, it’s unquestionably the city of pastries. And that’s a fact that’s certainly undeniable: The city is strewn so numerously with boulangeries and pâtisseries that it’s hard to walk down a Parisian street without smelling the faint scent of butter and baking bread.
But with the many, many bakeries populating the city, how do you avoid the duds and choose the good ones to visit, and, most importantly, what to eat? Luckily, Jackie Kai Ellis, a Canadian expat and former pastry chef living in Paris with a fine nose for teasing out sweets, holds the answers. Ahead, Jackie’s current favorite pastry shops—and her recommendations for what to eat—during a visit to Paris.
Stop by Du Pain et Des Idées and you’ll be invariably greeted by a line spilling out the door. The bakery, centered in the bobo (a shortening of bohemian bourgeois) neighborhood of the Canal Saint-Martin, is a haven for flaky tarts, warm chocolatines, and the beloved escargot, a rather curious pastry that’s been named after a snail’s swirling curves, painted with pistachio paste and chocolate. And while most people exit the shop clutching one (or two or three) warm escargots, Jackie finds that the unsung hero of Christophe Vasseur’s shop is the mini-pavé.
These squat slabs of dough—similar to the shape and size of ciabatta—are stuffed with an assortment of fillings, brimming with the likes of spinach and goat cheese. Order a couple, like the pavé overflowing with lardons and mimolette (a sharp French cheese that’s been melted), or one jammed with lardons and prunes, boasting a salty-sweet flavor.
Although Boulangerie Utopie doesn’t look like much from the outside—its exterior is more reminiscent of a neighborhood bakery—the lines snaking around the block and the pastries compared to modern works of art would say otherwise. The bakery churns out an array of breads—Jackie is a big fan of the telltale black carbon bread and genmaicha bread—along with glorious renditions of a Paris-Brest and tarte noisette.
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Slice into the Paris-Brest, a flaky concoction of choux pastry and swirls of praline cream, or split a tarte noisette: A crumbly tart base is piled with hazelnut pastry cream and milk chocolate ganache, then crowned with a caramel-covered smattering of crushed hazelnuts.
This chocolate and caramel shop has a collection of locations sprinkled through Paris, but they all boast the same assortment of delicate chocolates, luscious caramels, and juicy fruit jellies. The caramels are always the move here, but these aren’t your ordinary sweets. The nubs of honey-colored butter and sugar are individually wrapped and twirled in plastic, arriving in flavors not often found and boasting a wonderfully chewy texture. You’d be remiss not to snag Jackie’s favorites—mango-passionfruit and chestnut-honey—along with a handful of others (think chocolate and vanilla salted caramel).
This quiet coffee shop, tucked away in Paris’s chic 11th arrondissement, is so small that it can only house a few tables. In the winter months, the teeny space gets so steamy that the windows instantly fog up. But small space aside, Dreamin Man, founded by a former barista of the beloved Boot Cafe not too far away, is known for intense mugs of coffee and divine sweets. Snag an elusive table (if you can), then get cozy with a flat white, a plate wiggly with Japanese-style flan or pudding, and any of the rotating selection of cakes.
Header image by Hana Asbrink.