Navigating the Paris food scene with dietary restrictions

Students following vegetarian, vegan and halal diets share their experiences and recommendations for finding options at restaurants and grocery stores around Paris.

Juliana Guarracino, Staff Writer

Blue crates filled with various fruits and vegetables sit in front of a French grocery store.
Marché Central de Nancy in France. (Staff Photo by Lorraine Olaya)

From eclairs to escargots, France is known for its food. For many NYU Paris students, food is a great opportunity to experience French culture. In Parisian fashion, many students even become regulars at local cafes and boulangeries. However, navigating Paris with dietary restrictions can be an entirely different and sometimes challenging experience. 

“I was expecting some more options for vegetarians,” said NYU Abu Dhabi junior Victoria Marcano, who has been vegetarian for three years. “It’s been really hard to go to boulangeries and find just a baguette with fromage [cheese].”

Compared to Marcano’s time in Berlin, where she found many more vegetarian options, eating at restaurants in Paris has been especially difficult. Although Marcano noted that she could ask for meat to be removed from items, her friends would often worry about the lack of options for her at restaurants. Marcano often cooks and finds some options in supermarkets, like Franprix — but when she is looking to “feel French,” she goes for an onion soup at Bistrot de Vosges.

Similarly, CAS sophomore Anika Amidon, who has been vegan for four years, was also initially worried about traversing the Parisian food scene.

“I was nervous because the last time I was here, I didn’t have very many options,” Amidon said. “It was a lot of bread everywhere, a lot of fries everywhere and the vegan side salad .… But so far it’s surpassed my expectations which is really exciting.”

Amidon also has a severe dairy allergy and expressing her concerns about cross contamination has proved difficult. Still, she notes that she has been able to find vegan options in grocery stores or when she dines out, which has allowed her to immerse herself in the city.

“They’re so famous for things that have butter and animal products, but they’re also famous for baguettes,” Amidon said. “Also finding vegan restaurants that don’t carry Parisian French food but just really good vegan food has been fun, so I’m still involved in the cultural food scene here.”

Among her top finds are Boulangerie Chambelland, a gluten-free bakery that offers vegan pastries as well, and Jah Jah By Le Tricycle, a restaurant specializing in plant-based Afro-Caribbean food.

Dietary restrictions can include religious and cultural observances as well. For CAS junior Sarah Ahmad, this has meant only eating a halal diet, or food that is considered permissible under Islamic law. Though Ahmad was not too worried about finding options in Paris, she notes she was also raised to be flexible if she did not have halal meat available to her.

“Paris has been kinda awesome in terms of finding halal food because I think that Muslims are such a large population in France that it’s more widely available,” Ahmad said. “I’ll go to restaurants that are non-Muslim or not typically cuisines that are from a Muslim majority country and they’ll have a halal sign or certificate.”

Near her dorm at Bagnolet, a Parisian suburb with a large Muslim presence, she has been able to find more options than she finds in the United States. Her go-to places are Mich’ Sandwiches, a sandwich shop near the academic center, Gwadar, an Indian and Pakistani restaurant and kebab stands when she is looking for a hearty meal on a late night out.

Having celebrated Ramadan in Paris as well, Ahmad was pleasantly surprised by the awareness and accessibility of food during the holy month. “Auchan [a supermarket] has a little halal section and they put all the halal meat to the front,” Ahmad said. “I’ve never been able to get halal meat from a huge mass scale franchise. I’ve always had to go to my local butcher shop.”

Though students’ experiences navigating restaurants and grocery stores in Paris have varied, this gastronomic capital has nonetheless given students a unique perspective on the city and its food scene. For future NYU Paris students with dietary restrictions, just remember to stay open-minded and do your research in order to create a more seamless dining experience for yourself — sometimes, you just have to know where to look.

Contact Juliana Guarracino at [email protected].