The New Parisian Breakfast: How Petit Déjeuner Is Changing

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Mindscape Studio/Shutterstock)

Tartines with butter and jam, fluffy croissants, and other flaky-buttery rounds, paired with an orange juice and little else — this is the usual formula for French breakfast. Every French person in my life rattled off a variation of these breakfast mainstays when I asked them what they were accustomed to eating growing up — although the really decadent breakfast pastries, or viennoiseries, like chausson aux pommes or pain au chocolat, were generally reserved for weekends.

I’ve never understood how the common morning ritual — starch-heavy with little to no protein — can sustain appetites until lunchtime. As someone who loves breakfast and grew up eating everything from scrambled eggs to waffles with fresh fruit, always with a giant glass of milk, I struggled to feel satiated when I attempted to adapt my habits. When I realized that yogurt was more popular as a dessert than a versatile breakfast item, I knew I was in trouble.

But breakfast habits are showing signs of changing — at least in Paris, where I’ve lived for the last decade. It’s safe to say Parisians will never forgo their morning carb fix, but there are considerably more options for those who are looking to switch up their routines, thanks to restaurateurs and café owners (both French and foreign) who are finally giving the morning meal proper attention.

Here’s a look at a few welcome additions to the Parisian breakfast menu.

(Image credit: Nicholas Alary / Holybelly)

1. Eggs

As inconceivable as it sounds, eggs and breakfast do not traditionally go together in Paris. Omelets fall under the lunch or all-day section of brasserie menus, but the only people eating them in the morning are foreigners. You’re also likely to find soft-boiled eggs offered, which are served with thin sticks of toasted pain de campagne for dipping into the runny yolk. Et c’est tout.

But the tide is turning, thanks to the French owners of Holybelly, a breakfast-brunch-lunch institution on the right bank that stoked a mini revolution. Having spent several years in Melbourne where a good dose of protein in the morning was part of the brekkie culture, Sarah Mouchot and Nicolas Alary brought back their fondness for eggs to Paris. Their hope was to challenge existing breakfast customs and demonstrate to Parisians how good and satiating breakfast can be.

Since then, other spots in the city have gussied up eggs — green eggs (spinach, garlic, and baked egg with feta) and shakshuka (the tomato, pepper, and egg one-skillet meal) at Café Oberkampf; an eggs Benedict burger on a squid ink bun at Hardware Société (the Paris outpost of the Melbourne hot spot); poached eggs and smoked salmon at Bespoke; and bacon, egg, and cheese on a homemade English muffin at Frenchie-to-Go, to name only a few.

2. Granola

From the cereal aisle to cafes and coffee shops around town, granola has never been so eminently visible. It’s as if someone flipped a switch and, right on cue, a taste for crunchy oats (and its soaked version, Bircher) clicked into place. Even Yann Couvreur, a talented pastry chef whose namesake boutique opened in Paris in May, incorporated three types of homemade granola into his breakfast offering to attract both early risers and those, like myself, who can function only so long in the day with only a pastry for breakfast (no matter how divine they are).

Tip: If you want to eat granola the Parisian way, try serving it with a substantial helping of fromage blanc (like a slightly more tangy cottage cheese) and sliced fruits.

3. Avocado Toast

The world’s love for avocado on toast, brandished on Instagram feeds from London to Sydney, is boundless. But it only made its way onto breakfast/brunch menus in Paris in the last year. At Café Oberkampf, which is owned by Guy Griffin, a Franco-British national, the avo comes mixed with ginger and fresh ricotta and spread evenly across a hearty slice of toasted sourdough sourced a block away from Maison Landemaine.

(Image credit: Kristin Appenbrink)

4. Juice

Cold-pressed juices have become a fixture of French breakfasts and, in some cases, serves as the breakfast itself, although in France, few go all out and make it themselves from home. It’s also unlikely to see Parisians clutching their juices and drinking en route to their morning destinations (Paris is an underdeveloped to-go city), but the more outposts of genuinely good juice spots open up across town, the more likely that is to change.

Marc Grossman of Bob’s Juice Bar put juicing on the map in Paris, and I’d be remiss not to mention the vegan and sustainable canteen Wild and the Moon, a popular go-to for the eco and health-conscious set.

Is there a favorite breakfast that you’d like to see come to Paris?