Small victories for early risers.
It’s no secret that Parisians (still) aren’t big on breakfast.
“I don’t know, maybe try Google,” was the response from my hairdresser when I asked her for breakfast recommendations in the area. We were in the heart of Oberkampf, a dining destination of late due to its many cultish neo-bistros. Young and seemingly hip, I figured she’d have some clue about where to score a decent avocat toast before noon.
But for her, like many Parisians, the day started with coffee (espresso, black) and a cigarette. End of story.
I live in Paris, but I’m not French. I’m not a flapjacks-and-sausage-links American, but I need something in my belly to start the day. Usually I’m happy with my same-ol’ homemade oatmeal or the occasional bakery croissant. From my apartment, walk any direction and within 5 minutes, you’ll stumble on a boulangerie pumping out its buttery, sweet calling card.
But some days, I want more—a perfectly folded omelet, a not-so-average granola bowl, or (gasp) a cold-pressed green juice.
On those days, here are my favorite places to find a little extra for breakfast in Paris.
Mood: breakfast at a friend’s place (that always smells like fresh-baked cookies)
It might be impossible to get a dinner reservation at Mokonuts (they close every day at 5 p.m.), but you might stand a chance at snagging a table for breakfast if you come early—like, very early. I arrived at 8:50 a.m. on a Friday morning, just five minutes after doors opened, and already the small 11th arrondissement café was nearly full. And as chef and co-owner Omar told the table to my left, they hadn’t even started making the filter coffee yet. We were all there, just waking up.
The coffee would arrive soon, as would pastry chef and co-owner Moko. “Sorry I’m late,” she announced to the room minutes later, all smiles, then made her way to the tiny open kitchen, where she took her position next to her husband.
Since 2016, Moko and Omar have been dazzling the Parisian food scene with their unfussy, very tasty food. She, a lawyer-turned–pastry chef, prefers rustic sweets to fine desserts, choosing bold ingredients like loquats, rhubarb, black olives, miso, and sesame. And he chefs it up on the savory side, mixing his Lebanese and Parisian roots with experience at culinary temples like NYC’s Daniel.
Lucky for us, they do breakfast every weekday, with options like housemade sourdough toast smothered in labné and sprinkled with za’atar; sourdough waffles, served sweet (maple syrup and butter) or salty (chorizo and eggs); and even a dainty granola bowl, with Moko’s ever-changing homemade granola mix and perfectly ripe citrus fruits, aka les agrumes.
Breakfast at Mokonuts is a small victory for early risers.
Mood: sunny diner with elevated eats
On a recent rainy Saturday, 20- and 30-somethings clustered outside Echo, a newish cafe in the 2nd arrondissement, patiently awaiting tables to free up. I joined the ranks and am happy to report: It’s worth the wait.
Inside, the bright, California vibes are matched by a menu of fresh-meets-delicious Los Angelino cuisine. Think sandwiches stuffed with scrambled eggs and Mexican chorizo; colorful, herbed-up grain bowls; and for the sweet-leaning (like me) yogurt with the works: caramelized bananas, smooth tahini, and few slabs of homemade granola—as tasty as it is fun to smash with your spoon, crème brûlée–style.
While the miniature kitchen is serious—Chef Mailea Weger, who cooked at L.A.’s Gjusta and Gjelina, runs a tight ship—the atmosphere is casual-chill. A faint soundtrack competes with the diner-style bustle of people chatting and plates shuttling between the kitchen and tables.
And to make sure no box goes un-ticked, the coffee comes from the local favorite roaster, Belleville. It’s the kind of place where you truly want to try every item on the menu. (I’m tryin’.)
Mood: a lil’ bit a this, a lil’ bit a that
“It’s tapas-style breakfast,” the waitress explains as she hands us the breakfast menu at Holybelly 19. They recommend ordering two to three dishes per person, and that’s a good thing—there are so many dishes I want to try.
A block from the Canal Saint-Martin, Holybelly 19 is the original location of the popular cafe (19 rue Lucien Sampaix), which closed to move to a larger location down the street, then recently reopened to offer a new, slightly buttoned-up breakfast menu. As their motto goes, “It’s good because we care,” and you can tell they truly do: Every dish has that extra touch to make it memorable.
Take their oeuf a la coque: one sublimely dippy egg alongside tiny, toasted soldiers with beurre noisette, creating a delicious sweet and salty situation. Both the ham and the grainy Dijon mustard in the Jambon Prince de Paris & moutarde a l’ancienne are exceptional quality. Their smoked pork croquettes are fried to crispy perfection, and the filling is tender and light, without the usual bechamel. The sweet-toothed among us (cough cough) will love their fresh-made doughnut holes with warm dulce de leche, or the kasha porridge with poached pear.
You can expect a wait, especially on weekends, but you can also expect fast service and a very satisfying breakfast.
Mood: manic, pixie, plant-based
Paris invites overdoing it. The more butter/wine/cheese/carbs, the better. If you’re being moderate in Paris, take a second to ask whether you’re doing it wrong. For the rest of us, when our bodies start pleading for something virtuous, there’s Wild & the Moon.
Wild has several locations and a pretty big menu of nutritious foods and potions: nut milk–based smoothies, super food–spiked bowls, and the royal straight of lattes (golden, matcha, rose, charcoal, and chai). They’ve got regular lattes, too.
Dishes are on the pricier side, and service is less-than-speedy, but everything is quality. On a Thursday morning, I order the blue magic bowl, or as I like to call it: smurf breakfast. It’s laced with spirulina (which is apparently packed with antioxidants) and comes topped with a kiwi, blueberries, shaved coconut, and a housemade granola that’s so earthy, I swear I found a wood chip. It’s sweet, though, so I chew on.
Wild has a morning rush, but many patrons take their smoothies and immune-boosting shots to-go, so you can usually find a table. Enjoy your pixie-dream, plant-based breakfast, then spend the rest of the day redoing all the damage.
Mood: all the beautiful tchotchkes fall into place
The Parisian outpost of New York’s favorite French bistro is just as good as the original. But I was happy to discover that at Buvette Paris, in the buzzy Pigalle neighborhood, early birds will score a table, pas de probleme.
Recently, I arrived at 10:15 a.m. on a Sunday—a time when New Yorkers would have already hit a spin class, knocked back a macrobiotic juice shot, and started queuing for brunch—and was delighted to be the second table seated.
The short menu covers the breakfast staples, and does them very well. Take their smoked salmon toast: a basic brunch order, but all of the details nailed (thick, homemade brown bread, buttery smoked salmon, a generous schmear of cream cheese speckled with more chopped salmon, and a perfectly poached egg, yolk so bright you’ll wonder where they keep the chickens onsite).
Here’s where you go to dig into creamy scrambled eggs with exceptional quality ham; pain perdu spiked with cognac and fresh crème; or a classic melted gruyère–filled croque, with jambon (monsieur), mushrooms (forestier), or a fried egg (madame). Wash it down with some fresh-squeezed blood orange juice, and consider yourself ready to climb the slopes of nearby Montmartre.
Mood: serious food, hip-hop soundtrack
An offshoot of the popular Frenchie restaurant, F.T.G. (Frenchie To Go) is the chill younger sibling, with a menu that Chef Greg Marchand describes as the street foods of London and New York, revisited “à la sauce Frenchie.”
Street food might be a stretch for some of the breakfast items (show me a city where they eat buttermilk pancakes with fruit compote on the street). But they do offer delicious, elevated spins on basic breakfast foods, plus housemade pastries like their crumbly, bacon-and-maple scones.
I pop into F.T.G. on a recent Friday morning. With The Roots humming in the background, I tear into their BEC (that’s New York speak for bacon, egg, and cheese) on an English muffin. “They get it,” I think to myself. They get what makes a proper BEC: the greasiness, the drippy egg, the hit of sriracha. But they chef it up a notch with thick-cut bacon, aged, slightly funky cheddar, and a fluffy, sturdy house-made muffin. They also, to my amusement, serve it with a fork and knife. Though I leave the flatware untouched, I’m instantly a fan of the F.T.G. style.
Mood: old-school Paris with a side of oeufs
In his timeless collection of essays, Paris to the Moon, O.G. expat-writer Adam Gopnik tells the story of two Saint Germain cafés: Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore. They’re a block apart—you could literally throw a baguette from one and hit the other. Frequented by Sartre and de Beauvoir, Les Deux Magots used to be the fashionable of the two. But soon enough, the tourists infiltrated, hungry to sit in the presence of genius. The literati sought higher, tourist-free ground in Café de Flore, and it’s reigned le plus chic ever since.
Chicness aside, I go to Café de Flore for the eggs; they have a special menu dedicated to les oeufs. Any time of day, you can order one of their overpriced—and textbook perfect—egg dishes, like a bright yellow omelet; jammy, soft-boiled eggs with soldiers and sweet butter; or gently scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.
Especially on a sunny day, it’s hard to score a table on the terrace, where you can watch the fabulous tote shopping bags from nearby Sonia Rykel. But, as Gopnik tips us off, those in-the-know opt for the indoor, upstairs dining room, which resembles “the cocktail lounge of a Howard Johnson.”
Why choose inside? Who can tell. It’s arbitrary, just like the dethroning of Les Deux Magots. Restaurants fall victim to the same whims as fashion. But I’ll happily sit inside or outside at Café de Flore. I’m just there for the eggs and the old-school Paris ambiance.
Mood: consider a neck scarf
For that friend whose Instagram is full of minimalist, perfectly composed dishes, La Maison Plisson is a slam dunk. Sitting pretty on the edge of the Marais, it’s part café, part chichi market featuring a selection of carefully chosen local products. It’s not quite the place to stock up on groceries (more Dean & Deluca than Whole Foods), but who knows? A couple mimosas might inspire you to splurge on that 80-euro/kilo truffle-laced Brie.
I’d recommend grabbing a seat on the enclosed sidewalk terrace, to feel a part of the Marais scene while you graze over a picture-ready breakfast—like a fresh-baked tartine served with fancy beurre, honey and a selection of teensy jams; their regional cheese selection on a blond wooden board; or a fluffy cube of brioche perdu, dusted with powdered sugar.
Afterwards, continue your chic morning by strolling down the block to Merci, the concept-store-meets-café where you will likely be compelled to buy something, even if it’s just a pricy canvas tote—because everything is just so damn cute.
Mood: New York brunch with a kawaii filter
On a quiet corner in the 2nd arrondissement, the crowd slowly trickled in on a recent Wednesday morning. The vibe is more “sleepy Tuesday in the West Village,” but if you’re hankering for an açai bowl and don’t mind a few flower petals sprinkled on top, then Sunday in Soho is your place.
With patches of raw concrete wall, pastel pink accents, and a poster trifecta reading “good vibes served,” this airy café was no doubt designed with an eye toward Instagram—and homesick New Yorkers looking for a taste of home (or at least one inspired by home).
The menu feels like someone traveled across the Atlantic, took note of the breakfast and brunch-y dishes, then gave them a flirty, French makeover. Take their “bodega” sandwich: a thick BEC served with lightly-dressed greens. I’ve never seen a bodega serve breakfast sandwiches with side salads, but then again, they usually don’t come on toasty, buttery brioches either, and I’m not mad about it. Sundays in Soho serves other staples, like Greenback Toast (aka avo toast) and Sunday Pancakes, on top of which fresh flowers also make a cameo. Their baked goods are made in-house daily.
All around, it’s a laid-back nook, great for a little journaling and fueling up before starting your day in Paris.