The area around the Canal Saint-Martin is eclectic, hip and cosmopolitan.
It’s not the kind of place you’re going to find ultra-traditional French food, but you’ll find some fantastic Chinese, Thai, African and fusion cuisine—plus some seriously good beer and coffee.
As a bonus, many of our favorite Canal Saint-Martin restaurants let you dine right alongside the canal—always a pleasure, but particularly as the summer arrives and Paris heats up. And while these restaurants and cafes share passionate commitment to great flavors, they’re also, for the most part, relatively inexpensive (particularly for Paris).
This joint epitomizes the Canal Saint-Martin vibe like no other. It’s an old warehouse—this was an industrial neighborhood, after all—converted into a music and art venue, restaurant and a cafe-bar. In typical French style, it’s actually owned by the city hall, but run by an art and events group, and shares the site with the local fire brigade!
Point Ephémère is happening, but at the same time relaxed, particularly at the rooftop terrace, Le Top. With an array of choices from Afro-fusion catering service Selma Pastel, the menu serves up fried stuffed dumplings with a variety of different ingredients (including a couple of vegetarian choices), as well as burgers with fries and fried plantain.
This is a great place to come to hear indie music, if you want to be lazy and just hang out, or if you want to graze.
This family-run restaurant celebrates Cambodian and other southeastern Asian cuisines, and dishes up its food with a generous hand, so make sure you’re hungry.
Cambodian curries and stir-fries with perfumed rice share the menu with the ubiquitous Franco-Vietnamese bobun, a rice noodle, beef and green salad mixture that’s healthy and delicious.
There’s a decent selection for vegetarians, too, and Lao, Tsing-tao or Singha beer to wash it all down.
Le Cambodge doesn’t take reservations, so get there early if you want to be sure you get a table.
Street Bangkok, just off the Quai Valmy, is an extremely popular canteen-style Thai restaurant with a predominantly young clientele. Lots of neon and some gritty street art enliven its post-industrial décor, but what you’re really here for is the colorful, extravagantly spiced food, served in little baskets.
While it’s based on street food, the menu comes from a kitchen headed by a chef who previously worked at the Mandarin Oriental—five-star food for an unbelievably low price. Flavors like galangal, lemongrass, and cilantro are prominent, as well as some fiery pimento notes (the papaya salad will make your palate buzz for sure).
La Taverne de Zhao
This tiny, simply decorated restaurant has a short but interesting menu based on specialties from China’s Shaanxi province. After all, you won’t find dishes like bellflower and lotus salad, or five-spice tofu, in your average Chinese restaurant. A particular favorite is the cold noodles with scallop sauce, or liangpi royal.
You’ll also find more common Chinese offerings like lacquered duck and shredded pork, but the cooking is a notch above most. Desserts, too, are unusual: think mango with black rice, or black sesame ice cream.
Siseng has the typical look of restaurants in this area: exposed brick, solid wood tables and huge windows overlooking the canal. But the food is quite distinctive. Here, you’ll find Asian fusion cuisine featuring the Bao Burger: a burger marinated in five-spice mix, served in a steamed baozi bun, and with a Chinese sauce instead of mayo.
The best thing about Siseng is the fantastic freshness of its flavors. A chicken burger comes with basil and coconut milk sauce, and dark green watercress or light green arugula gives a peppery note to a beef burger. Everything comes served with fries, of course—sweet potato fries!
The French owners underwent barista training in Vancouver, Canada and then Melbourne, Australia—a country that takes it coffee seriously, to the extent that it’s now “the country Starbucks forgot“—and the cooking is modern and cosmopolitan. The breakfast menu focuses on small plates, such as halloumi turnover, buns, doughnuts, or eggs several ways.
For lunch, expect crisp, modern cuisine, which might include slow-cooked pork belly with sweet potato mash, or fish given an extra zing by horseradish and fennel.
Suffice it to say, Holybelly’s Canal Saint-Martin location is a delight. But when we want breakfast comfort food, we head down the street to the “other” Holybelly for a more American-inflected breakfast menu. Their pancakes with maple syrup are to die for.
Du Pain et Des Idées
And finally, the other great breakfast spot in the area. Du Pain et Des Idées is a thoroughly traditional French baker, as you can see from the classic Parisian shop front with its gold-painted letters and shiny glass.
In France, we are religious about our bread. A great baguette in Paris is not easy to find, and bakers are still judged on their basic bread, first and foremost.
Fortunately, this bakery has it all. Self-made baker Christophe Vasseur’s pain des amis (the name is a pun on pain de mie, or white sliced bread) is cooked in huge slabs, and is deservedly famous. There’s nutty, aromatic chestnut bread, wonderfully crunchy palmiers and escargots (pinwheels) with pistachio or praline fillings.
But forget all that. Even better are the chausson pommes with buttery, flaky pastry hiding not a stingy smear of squeezed apple sauce, but rather half of a real apple. And for later in the day, there are mini-pavés—tiny breads like pizzas, with fillings such as spinach and goat’s cheese, cheese and honey, or ham and fig with Reblochon cheese.Want our insider’s guide to eating in Paris? Just add your email address in the form below!