7 best eat-in wine shops in Paris

7 best eat-in wine shops in Paris

The rise of the cave à manger is a thirst-quenching, palate-sating delight. Here's why

In Paris, some of the best places to buy wine are also the best places to eat. 

Going strong for several years now, the "cave à manger" (eat-in wine shops) trend in Paris shows no sign of slowing. 

Unlike traditional restaurants, which add a hefty markup to wines, these shops charge only a "droit de bouchon" (or corkage, though to be clear, this is not a BYO situation, you have to buy "their" wine).

This is a bonus not just for wine drinkers, but for serious eaters as well since a few of these addresses, especially Le Verre Volé, Les Papilles and Le Chapeau Melon, have become destinations mostly for their food.

Some stick to a wine bar formula, serving plates of saucisson, ham and cheese; others are more like proper bistros, offering full meals (and requiring reservations).

The cooking may be simple, but the products are often as carefully chosen as the wines, with an emphasis on well-sourced, regional and seasonal ingredients.

All offer a fantastic chance to sample French terroir, both in the glass and on the plate, surrounded by bottles and a convivial crowd. 

1. Le Verre Volé

There's more than wine you want to try at Le Verre Volé.
Open since 2000, this unassuming Canal Saint Martin spot is the cave à manger standard bearer.

Natural, terroir-driven wines rule, from small producers (look for cru Beaujolais from Jean Foillard and Rhone beauties from Gramenon) who favor biodynamic viticulture and so-called “natural” vinification methods.

The setting is pure eastern Paris, with T-shirted waiters sporting a de rigueur scruff and a lo-fi, mismatched dining room.

On the menu: meaty plats du jour, heart-stopping boudin noir and pâte en croute, along with light and fresh seasonal dishes for freestyle dining at moderate prices. Corkage, €7 (US$9).

67 rue de Lancry, 10th arrondissement, +33 (0)1 48 03 17 34; open daily for lunch and dinner; reservations essential; www.leverrevole.fr

2. Les Papilles

From start to finish, Les papilles is lovely.
Bertrand Bluy’s beloved Left Bank shop serves an easy, pop-in lunch during the day and a four-course, family-style feast for just €33 in the evenings.

Cusotmers can pick a bottle from the shelves and start the meal with a ladle full of velvety vélouté, followed by slow-cooked lamb shoulder, a hunk of ripe Saint Nectaire and a classic rice pudding.

A 16-seat table downstairs makes this perfect for group outings. Corkage, €7.

30 rue Guy Lussac, 5th arrondissement +33 (0)1 43 25 20 79; Tuesday-Saturday, noon-2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.-10 p.m.; reservations essential; www.lespapillesparis.fr

3. Le Garde Robe

This casual favorite near Les Halles serves boards of charcuterie, cheese and crudités that match well with the lusty, unfiltered natural wines on offer.

They now have a second location in the 17th, but the creaky-floored original has more old Paris character, and a lively crowd that spills onto the street all year round. 

41 rue de l’Arbre Sec, 1st arrondissiment +33 (0)1 49 26 90 60; Monday-Saturday, noon-3p.m. and 6 p.m.-midnight (closed Saturday lunch)

4 rue Bredaine, 17th arrondissement, +33 (0)1 44 90 05 04; Monday-Saturday, 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.-midnight

4. La Crèmerie

Hours of drinking, eating and talking reserved.
Great wines and gourmand groceries are stacked high in this sliver of a space in the sixth, a former dairy shop.

Lunch and dinner are served, but La Crèmerie is best for an apéro (aperitif) and a nibble of duck paté, saucisson or chèvre in olive oil.

The painted tiled ceiling and exquisite old façade are undeniably charming; the complicated opening hours and €9 droit de bouchon, less so.

But it’s the Saint Germain. Everything is expensive here.

9 rue des Quatre Vents, 6th arrondissement, +33 (0)1 43 54 99 30; Apéro served Monday-Saturday 5 p.m.-9 p.m., call to book lunch or dinner; www.lacremerie.fr

5. Le Chapeau Melon

Might look small, but expect the highest quality food and wine here.
By day, Olivier Camus is one of the most highly regarded cavistes of natural wine.

Evenings, his Belleville shop is transformed into a table d’hôtes, serving a serious, three-course, €32.50 menu that might include an elegant langoustine carpaccio, oysters with ginger or braised beef cheeks.

The prix fixe is obligatory Wednesday through Saturday, Sundays are à la carte, but whenever you go, leave plenty of time for relaxed service. Corkage, €8.50.

92 rue Rebeval, 19th arrondissement, +33 (0)1 42 02 68 60; open for dinner Wednesday-Sunday; reservations essential.

6. Legrand Filles et Fils

Truly golden.
The tasting bar of this legendary wine shop opens onto the Galerie Vivienne, perhaps the most elegant covered passage in Paris.

Stop for a glass or bottle accompanied by Hardouin rillettes and cheeses ripened by Marie Quatrehomme.

Legrand is more posh than the others, but amazingly, there’s no droit de bouchon. It’s a bargain, assuming you can afford what they’re selling in the first place. 

1 rue de la Banque, 2nd arrondissement, +33 (0)1 42 60 07 12; daily, noon-7 p.m.  www.caves-legrand.com 

7. Le 5ème Cru

So how many are you thinking of drinking?
This wine bar is a welcome refuge from the crêpe-kebab-croque ghetto of the Latin Quarter.

Simple plats du jour at lunch and well-sourced meat and cheese boards satisfy, but the big draw here is a droit de bouchon of only €4.

The question isn’t which of the 150 bottles you’re going to drink, but how many?

7 rue du Cardinal Lemoine, 5th arrondissement, +33 (0)1 40 46 86 34; Tuesday-Friday, 10:30 a.m-11 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m.-midnight; reservations recommended; www.5ecru.com/ 

Cleveland, Ohio-born Barbra Austin is a freelance writer who splits her time between Hong Kong and Paris, where the bread is much better. 

Read more about Barbra Austin