It seems like there are several boulangeries, or bakeries, on every block in Paris selling baguettes and other types of breads. Sandwich shops and some cafes, many of which look just like bakeries themselves, also sell baguettes and baguette sandwiches. So how can you pick a good one? In part, it’s a crap shoot because there are just so many out there, but there are a few things to look out for to help you pick one that will be good – and, if you’re lucky, one that will be great.
When you’re walking down the street, look for boulangeries that say “Artisan Boulanger” or “Artisan Boulangerie” in the window. This generally means that the bread is baked on-site, not imported from some other shop or factory. You can usually see the ovens through an open back room in places like these.
Additionally, look for bakeries that are popular. These bakeries have lines out the door, sell out of their breads and pastries, and restock during the day. Awards or not, you’re going to get some decent baguettes here at the very least. If you cruise up and down a block for an hour or so, you’ll notice that dozens of people might frequent a single bakery while others might not have a single customer.
You can’t tell what a baguette is going to taste like before you buy it and bite into one, but a good one should have a nice crust and a moist, chewy interior. It should not be hard as a rock and it shouldn’t be soft. This baguette pictured below is from the bakery pictured above, at the intersection of the Rue Cler and the Rue Saint Dominique near the Eiffel Tower.
Finally, you might luck out and see a bakery that lists its awards prominently in the window. I saw one that won “Best Baguette in Paris” in 1995 and 1997. And this bakery pictured below (same mentioned above) was 9th in the Parisian baguette-baking Grand Prix. It was nice a chewy, and definitely flavorful, although I did have baguettes that were a bit wider (and not as long) with a bit crispier crust. It comes down to a matter of personal preference in which ones are your favorites, but hopefully this will help narrow down the field when you’re in Paris.