Americans love one-stop shopping—a large grocery emporium where one can stock up on all of the foodstuffs needed for several days, from fruits and vegetables to fish and meat to milk, eggs and cheese. And while supermarkets are becoming more popular in Paris, the City of Light’s residents tend to prefer “one-street shopping”—essentially visiting a street or small section of their neighborhood where they can find a variety of different food shops, including boulangerie for bread, a patisserie for desserts, a fromagerie for eggs and cheese, a boucherie for meat and so on.
And these trips usually are only for items needed for a day or two, as refrigerator space (and indeed space within the entire kitchen) of most Parisian apartments is tiny and because Parisians prefer to use fresh ingredients with a much more limited shelf life than mass-produced, preservative-laden groceries.
One of my favorite shopping streets in Paris is Rue Cler in the 7th Arrondissement.
This three-block long, pedestrian-only street not far from the Ecole Militaire on the Right Bank (positioned between Rue de Grenelle and Avenue La Motte-Piquet) is named after mid-19th century French brigadier general Jean Joseph Gustave Cler. But the shopping avenue was made famous by travel writer and TV host Rick Steves, who touts the street in his books, on all of his travel shows and through his on-site European tours. And as such, it draws many American visitors eagerly following Steve’s advice.
But half or more of the shoppers are local Parisians (and a much higher percentage in low tourism seasons), out stocking up on the ingredients for tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast at the two dozen or so food shops and specialty boutiques, each offering the highest-quality products and sold by knowledgeable proprietors, some even considered national experts in their fields.
Here’s what Steves writes on his website about the Rue Cler shopping experience: “Come shopping for a picnic with me on my favorite street in Paris. Rue Cler, lined with shops that spill out into the street, feels like village Paris—in the skinny shadow of the Eiffel Tower. … Produce shops are stocked with the freshest fruits and vegetables. Each morning produce is trucked in from farmers to Paris’ huge Rungis market, near Orly Airport, and then out to merchants with FedEx speed and precision. Find the herbs. Is today’s delivery in?
“The fish monger sells yesterday’s catch—brought in daily from ports on the English Channel, 100 miles away. Nearby, smell the fromagerie (cheese shop): wedges, cylinders, balls and miniature hockey pucks all powdered white, gray and burnt marshmallow—it’s a festival of mold. In the shop, browse through some of the 400 different types of French cheese. The charcuterie sells mouthwatering deli food to go. At the boucherie, you’ll sort through pigeons, quail, and rabbit.”
And the list of shops doesn’t end there. You’ll also find boulangeries for top-notch breads, patisseries for decadent desserts, wine sellers, an ice cream maker, a honey shop, a chocolate boutique, shops specializing in Asian and Italian foods, cafes, bistros, florists, pharmacies, a household goods store and even two small supermarkets (FranPrix and Leader).
There’s almost everything well-heeled Parisians need for their day-to-day lives. And there are plenty of treats and eats for travelers from around the world.
Most Rue Cler shops are open Tuesday-Saturday from morning to about 8 p.m. (restaurants are open later, some food sellers close a bit earlier) and Sunday mornings. Most of the food sellers are closed on Mondays, but most of the cafes and a handful of the shops are open. (Metro: La Tour-Maubourg/Ecole Militaire)
Among the notable shops on Rue Cler are:
- A la Mere de Famille, one of the 10 boutiques of the city-wide candy shop chain (47 Rue Cler)
- Aux Ptt, a charming bar-brasserie (54 Rue Cler)
- Boucheries Roger Billebault , one of the most popular butchers in Paris that offers many unusual, seasonal products, including boar and grouse (52 Rue Cler)
- Cafe Central, an enormously popular lunch and dinner spot (40 Rue Cler)
- Cafe du Marche, a large brasserie that is one of the most popular (and most affordable) eating spots in the neighborhood (38 Rue Cler)
- Charcuterie Jeusselin, which specializes in foie gras, but also sells a large selection of smoked and cured meats and sausages, as well as ready-to-cook casseroles (37 Rue Cler)
- Davoli-La Maison du Jambon, an Italian delicatessen (34 Rue Cler)
- Famille Mary—Miel et Nature, a honey market (35 Rue Cler)
- La Fromagerie, the most popular cheese shop on Rue Cler that also sells eggs, butter, milk and yogurt (31 Rue Cler)
- Halles Bosquet, a large greengrocery (50 Rue Cler)
- Leonidas Chocolatier, a boutique that’s part of the Belgian chocolate chain (51 Rue Cler)
- Martine Lambert, an artisanal ice cream maker (39 Rue Cler)
- Oniwa, a tiny Japanese restaurant (45 Rue Cler)
- Le Petit Cler, a café that sells Berthillon ice cream and sorbet (29 Rue Cler)
- Les Quatre Saisons, one of the largest greengroceries on Rue Cler (34 Rue Cler)
- Le Repaire du Bacchus (29 Rue Cler), Nicolas (39 Rue Cler) and NYSA (30 Rue Cler), wine boutiques that are all part of international chains
- Ronde de Pains, a fine boulangerie-patisserie located at the very heart of Rue Cler on the corner of Rue du Champ de Mars (3 Rue du Champ de Mars)
- La Sablaise Poissonerie, one of the finest fish markets in all of Paris (28 Rue Cler)
- Top Halles, a two-shop fruits and vegetable market with boutiques opposite each other on the corner of Rue Cler and Rue de Grenelle (165 Rue de Grenelle)
- Tribeca, a trendy cafe (36 Rue Cler)