It may seem odd that a culinary staple native to the Middle East is both wildly popular in the French capital, and often remarkably tasty. Yet it’s true: as many have long noted, you can find, and taste, some of the most delicious falafel on the planet in Paris. From Israeli-style pita sandwiches to Lebanese-style falafel served in warm flatbread, there’s no shortage of options when you’re craving the natively vegan, “more-ish” treat. It’s also relatively inexpensive, especially if you go for take-out. But it’s important to know how to beeline for the best. Keep reading for my picks.
Falafel on & Around Rue des Rosiers (Marais)
The sight of large crowds gathering along and around the Rue des Rosiers, a historic Jewish micro-district in the Marais neighborhood, is a predictable one. Most of the time, the clusters of locals and tourists are there to procure a warm, portable pocket of savory bliss: it’s here that some of the very best falafel restaurants in Paris furiously prepare the sandwiches from takeout windows and small kitchens indoors.
The formula at the best places in the area is deceptively simple (but hard to execute perfectly). Warm, freshly prepared falafel balls made from deep-fried garbanzo or fava beans, crunchy vegetables, deliciously greasy eggplant slices, tahini, hummus and a spicy sauce are all carefully layered in a thick pita. This is, roughly speaking, an Israeli-style version of the sandwich.
If you opt for takeout (as most people do), be forewarned that it can be quite a tricky dance to eat the sandwich without the contents threatening to spill out, or trickles of tahini dribbling down the side of your hand as you bite into the sandwich. It’s best to use the disposable fork to eat some of the contents of the sandwich, then go for the pita itself once it’s a bit less full.
L’As du Fallafel
This always-hectic and crowded little restaurant with the green, white and yellow storefront claims to make the best falafel in the city– and it may have just earned the right.
The falafel “special” sandwiches here are made with furious speed and remarkable precision, and they seem to have struck a golden formula, achieving a seemingly perfect ratio of crunchy cucumber, red cabbage and always-crisp, warm falafel balls to melting, umami eggplant slices and rich tahini sauce. The pitas are almost invariably served warm, and the fillings are always generous.
The one critique I can muster for the place? The indoor space is a touch too harried for sit-down dining, at least for my tastes. When I’ve sat inside, I’ve felt a bit rushed, and the experience wasn’t an especially relaxing one.
L’As du Fallafel is probably best for taking away and scarfing down in a nearby park or square (Place des Vosges isn’t far away, for example). Of course, on a rainy or blustery day, don’t hesitate to head indoors. Hectic or not, it’s always a treat.
The restaurant also serves Middle-Eastern favorites like chicken pita sandwiches, whole stuffed eggplant, marinated grilled peppers, and other dishes.
Do take note that the restaurant is closed from Friday late afternoon through Sunday at 11 am. Many disappointed tourists have ventured there on the weekend, only to find it closed.
- Address: 34 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 (4th arrondissement)
- Metro: St-Paul or Hotel de Ville
- Tel: +33 1 48 87 63 60
Located near the very end of Rue des Rosiers, Chez H’anna is another favorite of mine for falafel in Paris, both for takeout pita sandwiches and generous platters like the one shown above, best enjoyed seated inside.
I’ve found the food at this restaurant to be consistently delicious and fresh, with a particular focus on vegetables that’s both healthy and delicious. As a general rule, at least in the falafel pita sandwiches I’ve had from Chez H’anna, the crunchy vegetables (carrot, red cabbage and cucumbers) more generously fill the sandwich than at L’As, making for a potentially healthier choice. Yet there’s plenty of melting fried eggplant and tahini sauce to create a rich flavor– I’ve never had a dry sandwich from this place.
If you’re especially hungry or want to eat in, the pleasant dining room is more relaxed than the one at L’As, and you can tuck into an enormous falafel platter (served with pita on the side) for a more generous meal. It’s not unheard of to get two whole sandwiches out of it, though, so make sure you come hungry.
- Address: 54 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 (4th arrondissement)
- Metro: Saint-Paul or Hotel de Ville
- Tel: +33 1 42 74 74 99
Ok, I’m cheating a bit here, because this next-generation “Mediterranean street food” restaurant just around the corner from Rue des Rosiers doesn’t in fact offer a traditional falafel pita sandwich from its creative menu. But it’s just too good not to mention in this list, and if you’re craving falafel but are willing to try something a bit different, this place isn’t likely to leave you disappointed.
After opening a first branch in Tel Aviv in 2011, Miznon expanded to Vienna, New York and Paris. The recipes are drawn from the talents of star Israeli chef Eyal Shani, and this humble street food-style eatery gives you a chance to sample his culinary creations at very moderate prices.
If falafel is a must, try the falafel burger, a creative take on the classic pita sandwich with falafel patty, fresh tomatoes, pickle, tahini and green chili peppers.
My personal favorite is the “White” pita sandwich (pictured above), stuffed with marvelously chargrilled cauliflower, tahini, fresh tomatoes, and spring onions. It’s remarkably delicious, and unlike anything I’d ever tasted.
The whole roasted cauliflower is likewise delicious (who knew cauliflower could make your palate sing?), and Miznos also serves healthy, flavorful sides like grilled sweet potato with seasalt and whole artichoke with aioli. For the carnivores out there, creative pita sandwiches such as beef bourguignon and steak and eggs should hit the spot.
- Address: 22 Rue des Ecouffes, 75004 (4th arrondissement)
- Metro: St-Paul or Hotel de Ville
- Tel: +33 9 71 34 53 84
- Miznon also has two other locations in Paris, one on the Canal St-Martin. See more at the official website.
In Need of Some Improvement: Mi-Va-Mi and Chez Marianne
I don’t generally like to critique restaurants too harshly. I’m not a chef or restaurant owner, and I don’t understand the incredible stress and toil that goes into running a restaurant. All places have good and bad days, so I’m never one to claim that a single experience eating at a restaurant is a marker of its overall quality.
That said, there are two popular falafel places on Rue des Rosiers that I think need some improvement. While they operate right next to and across from the aforementioned restaurants and charge roughly the same prices, the quality of the fare is lacking a bit by comparison, and judging from my recent dining experiences.
The falafel pita sandwich at Mi-va-Mi (23 Rue des Rosiers) was decent enough, but the falafel balls didn’t taste freshly-made, as if they’d been sitting out for a bit. The pita and most of the ingredients inside were cold, and the tahini sauce tasted a little less than fresh (or even a bit “off”). Somehow, the flavors and textures just weren’t “all there” in the way I was anticipating, and the sandwich was on the dry side. I don’t take joy in saying it, but I was disappointed with my meal, at least this time. (Again, I’m always willing to try again and revise my opinion.)
Meanwhile, I sat out on the terrace recently at Chez Marianne (2 Rue des Hospitalières Saint-Gervais) and ordered a large falafel plate, accompanied by pita and decked with falafel balls, chopped vegetables, hummus, tahini, and a boiled egg. Again, I was mildly disappointed. The hummus and tahini were scant and hard to “find”, somehow buried under the vegetables and falafel balls.
The ingredients (including the pita) were all served cold, and the falafel balls didn’t taste like they had been made within the hour– something I think is necessary to achieve the crispness on the outside and warm, mealy interior that make them irresistible. I was charged about the same price as I would have been for a comparable platter at nearby Chez H’anna, but I didn’t find the one from Chez Marianne to be as fresh-tasting or as generous with certain elements (notably hummus and pita).
In short, while I’m not advising that you avoid these restaurants, they didn’t make the cut for my favorite places because, in a nutshell, I didn’t find that they uphold the same standards of quality, value and freshness.
Lebanese Style-Falafel in Paris: Two Places I Recommend
While most beeline to the Rue des Rosiers area for falafel in Paris, a very different version of the sandwich– one I find equally delicious– is made at Lebanese-style restaurants across the city.
The Lebanese version typically features garbanzo bean-based falafel balls seasoned with parsley or other herbs, chopped salad greens, hummus or garlicky tahini, tangy (and oddly addictive) pickled red turnip chunks, and chopped herbs, all wrapped in a thin flatbread (lavash) or pita. Sometimes, the sandwich is lightly grilled before serving, giving it a nice warmth and enhanced crunch.
I have two favorite spots for Lebanese-style falafel in the capital. Buy a sandwich to go, or sit in and follow with a cup of fresh mint tea and buttery baklava pastry.
This cheerful “counter” at the edge of the Latin Quarter is one of the best places in the area for an inexpensive and delicious meal. Owned and operated by Richard Sahlani, who brings a noticeable dose of charisma and warmth to the table, Comptoir Méditérranée is the more casual arm of the nearby Savannah Café restaurant.
In addition to delicious falafel sandwiches and platters, the casual eatery offers a delightful range of Lebanese-style mezze (hot and cold tapas) from its counter, all made fresh onsite. Baba ganoush, hummus, meat or spinach-filled pies, kibbe (Lebanese meatballs), fresh cheese (labne) and sweet pastries are among the menu items– and all superb.
- Address: 42 Rue de Cardinal Lemoine, 75005 (5th arrondissement)
- Metro: Cardinal Lemoine or Jussieu
- Tel: +33 1 43 25 29 08
- Visit the official website
- The restaurant is closed on Sundays
Falafel du Liban
Another place I frequent for Lebanese-style falafel near the Centre Georges Pompidou and Les Halles is Falafel du Liban, a casual restaurant serving a variety of Middle-Eastern specialties for both dining in and takeout.
The falafel here is typically delicious, with generous fillings, freshly made falafel balls, crunchy pickled turnip chunks, and warm flatbread. This makes an excellent light meal, since the Lebanese version of the falafel tends to be less caloric than counterparts served in a thick pita.
Other delicious options from the menu include a chich’taouk (marinated and grilled chicken with garlic sauce) sandwich, a variety of hot and cold mezze, and small Lebanese-style pizzas topped with zaatar seasoning (sesame, sumac and thyme). It’s inexpensive, unpretentious, and centrally located– ideal for a light lunch or dinner in between sightseeing around the Centre Pompidou.
- Address: 35 Rue Rambuteau, 75003 (3rd arrondissement)
- Metro: Rambuteau or Hotel de Ville
- Open daily from 11 am to 11 pm\