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Sep 9, 2010 01:42 PM

Street food in Paris (trucks, carts, etc.)?

Is there a Paris equivalent to the food cart phenomenon found in some American cities? Thinking of the halal carts throughout NYC, but also the "higher end" food trucks in Brooklyn... If so, is there anything particularly recommended?

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    1. re: PhilD

      While there is no direct comparison to the street carts of NYC, or for that matter the street food of any other city, Paris does have its own chow that is made to be sold and consumed al fresco. There are the crepe vendors, many of which, when you leave the centre, are halal (check out the turkey "jambon"), and the churros and waffle stands (particularly along the Grands Boulevards).

      Then you also have full-on street food. If you get off the metro at Chateau d'eau, particularly approaching the weekend, there are African ladies, many with babies tied onto their backs, selling sandwiches, intriguing white drinks, and other exotic fare out of shopping caddies. The same thing goes on at Chateau Rouge.

      Meanwhile, in Belleville, and I imagine in the 13th arrondissement, there are the Chinese ladies who on the weekend stand behind upturned cardboard boxes from where they sell...stuff. I'm intrigued by the dried meat that looks like beef jerky.

      During Ramadan, in areas with a big Muslim populations, approaching sundown bars, bakeries and butchers sell different sweet and savoury treats directly on the street. In my manor they have great samosas, doughnuts, and gallettes filled with harissa.

      1. re: vielleanglaise

        Today should be a good day for street food. Expect the place de la bastille to fill up with people selling merguez and brochette sandwiches, among other goodies. Should also be plenty of roasted corn. Best to get there around 11:30-12:00 and stick around to watch the start of the manif (it leaves at 13:00). The SNCF contingent is like nothing you've seen in N America.

        Not sure where to tack my addition to this thread, since so much of it is long and preachy; so, not really a reply as much as an attempt to add to the useful part of the tread.

      2. re: PhilD

        Second the no; a totally American thing (and with good reason).

        Some Passage stuff, some market (Enfants Rouge) stuff, lots of 20's on the Metro eating baguettes and paninis and McDo's fries.

        1. re: John Talbott

          street food is more in markets and little storefront stands - a classic was the merguez-frites sandwich (with frites in it like a chip butty) and les casse-croûte or Tunisian sandwiches, with tuna, a slice of egg, vegetables, hot peppers or harissa... Everywhere there is rôtisserie chicken cooking out on the street in front of butcher shops.

          1. re: lagatta

            I third the "no" except to say that it can be found at regional fairs, or sometimes open vegetable markets. At the Raspail Sunday marché bio, there are little French onion pancakes for sale at the rue du Cherche Midi end, and they perfume the corner most deliciously.

            La Foire Aveyronnaise (Aveyron fair) is another good place to find eat-on-the-go snacks -- it's a street fair that celebrates the region of Aveyron, in all its hearty "costaud" glory. Look for pancakes called farcou and barquettes of aligot, like cheesy mashed potatoes. This year it's Oct 8-10 in Bercy (metro: St Emillion).

            1. re: Cookingthebooks

              That is a great find, Cookingthebooks. Are there any others, celebrating other regions, a specific food, a host country?

              1. re: lagatta

                My faves are:

                - Marchés flottants on the wkend after next (17, 18, 19 September). Sud-ouest stuff, my fave.

                - "Papilles en fête", in the really funky old Grande Halle de la Villette, 11 to 14 November 2010

                - Marchés des Producteurs de Pays on Boulevard de Reuilly, usually on the 3rd wkend of November and 3rd wkend of May, but check.

                All French, sorriest.

            2. re: lagatta

              I want the merguez-frites and the Tunisian sandwich- they sound awesome. Recommended places to get them?

        2. There are also the falafel places on rue des Rosiers in the Marais. For me, that's the best street food in Paris.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sbourdin

            Have read about those, thanks. Any other recommendations, for anything, in the Marais (we're staying there)?

          2. The French diet is one of "repas à heures fixes". Snacking is not a big thing in modern France. During the Ancient Regime street food and carts were all over the place. There is very little left of that, actually nothing left in some places. However, though it is true that Paris does not do street food as it used to, it is excessive to answer bluntly that there is none. We could do much better but we do something at least. And the many communities living here do help us regain some of our past splendor.

            As others have said, 'Hot-dog' and crêpes stands have been here forever. The Parisian hot-dog is a length of baguette stuffed with a big knackwurst ("saucisse de Francfort"), loaded with grated cheese and toasted; very little to do with the US original but a landmark all the same.

            Of course this is not Asia. The Marché des Enfants Rouges is our only food court worthy of the name (it is much more a food court and alfresco lunching place than a proper market), but it is a food court, nevertheless.

            And all the street food and sidewalk food described by Parigi and Vieilleanglaise: the "grecs-frites" (kebabs), briks à l'œuf, falafels, the more or less clandestine upturned boxes with home specialties on them, the safou vendors at Château-Rouge... Also the left bank Chinatown (13e) with its Vietnamese sandwich shops, and the recent appearance of boba (bubble tea) bars, etc.

            18 Replies
              1. re: Ptipois

                But isn't much of this simply take-away food from shops, cheapish snacks in markets or "student" fuel of debatable quality? I understood the "street food" movement in NYC and LA was more about innovation, quality and passion. Focussed people who are determined to deliver very good food "authentic" without the expense and overheads of opening a restaurant.

                The local Parisian Crepe stand or Kebab shop may sell take-away food that people eat on the street, but me thinks that is quite different from the US street food movement.

                1. re: PhilD

                  Oh I hadn't figured out it was a movement. The titles does not make that clear.
                  Thierry Marx tried to imitate the formula with his pizzamobile but the example remains isolated. I can only see the Fooding events to answer the description but they're part of exceptional events, generally in closed places, so they're definitely not street food.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    For me street food is best defined by two articles written by Calvin Trillin and published in the New Yorker: one on the street food in SIngapour, and an earlier one on the NYC pioneers who first contributed to Chowhound and spent their time combing the streets of New York looking for ethnic street vendors.

                    While it's true that for lots of different reasons (longer lunch breaks, the notion of private sphere and public, zoning regulations) the French are less of a street food nation than others, there have always been foods here available to eat on the street.

                    With Paris becoming an increasingly global city, the amount of “non-French” people hawking stuff on the street, kebabs, bo bun, banh mi, or to eat on the street, and other people wanting to buy it, is increasing.

                    1. re: vielleanglaise

                      I think it is quite a different movement to either the vanguards of Chowhound exploring restaurants run by recent immigrants in NYC or the food courts of Singapore. Ptipois' mention of the Fooding events may be the closest Paris has in terms of philosophy and motivation i.e. the young rebelling against restaurant orthodoxy (I know they are not all young at Le Fooding!).

                      For me the street-food movement is about passionate entrepreneurs who are selling very real, high quality food from mobile trucks and carts. Often they are at different locations and usually people follow them on twitter and rendezvous with the cart/truck. In some respects a bit of a secret society/clique. Here are a few links that describe it, one from London illustrates it isn't just in the US:


                      I don't think Paris (or Singapore for that matter) has the same culture of guerilla street food because the quality of most food is pretty good. Compare average Paris food to average London or US food; especially the domination of mediocre chain restaurants. You can understand why the street food movement grew and why people tweet and blog about their latest finds and chase down taco carts and burger wagons to obscure car parks or random street corners.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        Granted, Paris doesn't have the same thing as the "SF movement" that you describe, but I didn't read the OP that way.

                        I thought he OP was after the lamachun, tripe soup, Bo bunh, Moroccan doughnuts, Algerian galettes filled with harissa, jambon beurre, crepe, waffle, cornet de frites, or moving into the provinces, pisadaliere and panisses, that he hadn't yet heard about or tried.

                        One thing that's good about the "Fooding" people is that they have given their stamp of approval to a lot of these joints.

                        1. re: vielleanglaise

                          No doubt he is, they sound good.

                          I simply picked up on the "food cart phenomenon found in some American cities" in the OP and thought it wise to draw the distinction.

                          I think you would agree that whilst there is a lot of "take-away" food in Paris, and much should be interesting, a lot unfortunately is fairly poor to average so it pays to be selective. However I don't believe there is much commentary on this sector apart from the over promotion of L'As du Falafel.

                          1. re: vielleanglaise

                            "I thought he OP was after the lamachun, tripe soup, Bo bunh, Moroccan doughnuts, Algerian galettes filled with harissa, jambon beurre, crepe, waffle, cornet de frites, or moving into the provinces, pisadaliere and panisses, that he hadn't yet heard about or tried. "

                            Well, simply - street food.
                            There may be a guerilla movement of 'high-end' food trucks in some parts of the world but 'street food' means much more than that.

                            1. re: Ptipois

                              A question within the question - have heard the "hot dogs" at the Eiffel Tower are to die for - Anyone with experience with them? Noted post re "Saucisse de Francfort"


                              going in 6 weeks

                              1. re: Ptipois

                                Me too. Must mean takeaway and not Parisian version of the Jamaican jerk chicken truck in West Philadelphia or even the Greek/felafal nazi at 20th and Market.

                                FWIW, some of the worst crepes and hot dogs ever can be purchased at street vendors in Paris, but takeaway, that's a different story. Also, I need to eat about 2-3 sandwich grecs with frites every week or I implode. I also scraf Lebanese, Reuinionais and paella takeaway from the Richard Lenoir market. In winter, I pull up at market stalls with stools elsewhere and chow on tartiflette, oysters and choucroute while drinking glasses of riesling and gewurtz'.

                      2. re: Ptipois


                        You seem to know about these things: The African shops around Chateau d'Eau Metro station sell these little plastic bags, like freezer bags, filled with a milky liquid. Would you happen to know what it is?

                        1. re: vielleanglaise

                          I have never seen these plastic bags, though there are some small plastic bags filled with manioc mush, which is milky white and rather soft. I don't remember seeing the milky liquid around Château-Rouge and I haven't noticed them near Château-d'Eau. I'll take a closer look and give them a try if I see them.
                          Just from your description they might be doses of mild fermented corn drink, some sort of homemade beer.

                          1. re: Ptipois

                            Thank you!

                            And the Evian bottles again filled with a milky looking liquid that the African ladies sell out of shopping caddies? And what's in the sandwiches (no street food in Paris?!)?

                            1. re: vielleanglaise

                              Maybe this article illustrates the difference between the "food cart phenomenon" that is taking place in other cities and the food that is available from markets and street traders in Paris.


                              I agree there is some good/interesting food available to eat on the street in Paris, but it isn't the same as the "food cart" movement seen elsewhere (which was the basis for my original answer), it would be very interesting if it was as I imagine young hot chefs in Paris could do some interesting things outside the traditions, and financial constraints of the bistro/brasserie. A Le Fooding cart would be cool.

                              1. re: PhilD

                                Fooding à la carte? Sorry. Couldn't resist it.

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  Le Fooding is already doing that. Actually, that's pretty much all it does, aside from publishing a restaurant guidebook.

                                2. re: vielleanglaise

                                  Gee, I really have to go to Château-d'Eau and Château-Rouge more often.
                                  The Evian bottles may contain just the same thing as plastic sachets do. You are definitely tickling my curiosity. An expedition is planned. Sandwiches will also be investigated.

                                  As milky liquids go, home-made 'jus de gingembre' looks pretty milky when made from African ginger, which comes in smaller knobs than Asian ginger and is much starchier. Tastes more medicinal too. Grated ginger, lime juice, sugar and water — if the liquid looks slightly tan, then it's ginger juice. If not, I have no clue.

                                  1. re: Ptipois

                                    With the hair and nail salons, Chateau d'Eau really hots up, though on different days of the weeks and with no regularity.

                                    There's a "restaurant" on the corner of Bd Strasbourg and rue du Chateau d'eau, that used to be packed until it closed recently. The ambiance was a little intense and I never got the nerve up to go in. The guys would always be drinking from big litre bottles of Guiness while eating mysterious fare from plastic barquettes.

                                    Incidentally, and it has nothing to do with this thread, but new pastry shop has opened up, or rather a patissier has taken over the old Tholoniat boutique right in the middle of hair salon central on Chateau d'eau between Bd Strasbourg and Fbg St Martin. Good pastries and breads are far and few around here so I'm trying to push it.

                          2. FYI, a new resto called "Street Food" opens Sept 21st in the 104 space in the 19th (the old mortuary) and some of their offerings do sound like street food. I'll report next week probably.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: John Talbott

                              Thanks, John. That is a lovely exhibit space. Also very Parisian to adopt street foods and eat them restaurant-style.

                              1. re: lagatta

                                yah and to stay OT, the Cafe is kinda cool too.

                                1. re: lagatta

                                  "FYI, a new resto called "Street Food" opens Sept 21st in the 104 space in the 19th (the old mortuary) and some of their offerings do sound like street food. I'll report next week probably."
                                  Well I have good news and bad news (that's a great opening); Street Food aka Les Grandes Tables du 104 opened Thursday and my OFF and I went today and the good news is that it is fabulous, creative and reasonable (not Soup's thing) but the bad news is that (1) it's not street food at all, consider it Ze Kitchen/Carte Blanche/Spring Bis at (2) Cantine de Troquet/Frenchie/Afaria prices (17 for 3 dishes at lunch, 28 E for 3 for dinner or on weekends) in (3) Eric Frechon/Yves Camdeborde(originally)/Jean Chauvel territory. No one will ever go even when ANP and Fig write it up this week; a shame because the place, the space and the pace are perfect. Tant pis. Pix as usual at

                                  1. re: John Talbott

                                    I'm definitely going next time I'm in Paris - that strikes me as very good value. Most of my friends who live in Paris proper live in the eastern arrondissements, and 104 space is well-worth a visit. (Though a day spent there and at La Villette does have a rather lugubrious undercurrent, between the former mortuary and former slaughterhouses). Thanks!

                                    1. re: lagatta

                                      "Most of my friends who live in Paris proper live in the eastern arrondissements" and on the Right Bank, moreover.

                                      It's been scientifically proven that all true Parisians live north of the river. The water's different on the Left Bank, hence the natives strange appearence and behaviour.

                              2. Not only do the French tend to not snack, but the entire culture of food entails sitting down with *real* plates and *real* silverware to eat an actual meal.

                                You don't see a lot of people walking down the street stuffing a sandwich down their pie-hole...they buy sandwiches, crepes, falafel, etc., for sure...but then they find somewhere to sit down and eat them with some semblance of civilization. Doesn't have to have a table, but eating on your feet is both uncouth and bad for the digestion. (They're big on making digestion easier, too)

                                Thus the dearth of food carts in Paris away from the main tourist sites...that's not how the French eat.

                                But there is *killer* takeaway to be had...use it as an excuse to have a picnic in a park.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  I can't abide eating on the run either.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    Sadly "You don't see a lot of people walking down the street stuffing a sandwich down their pie-hole..." is less and less the case and at least on the Metros I frequent, I'm bombarded by the smell of greasy fries from McDo's, spicy souvlaki and other unappealing meat.

                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                      It's more than it used to be, but it's still downright rare as compared to the frequency of watching someone eat while walking/driving/commuting in the States.

                                      Hope it's never really accepted....not all that fun to watch, and they end up wearing half of whatever it was down the front of them....classy.