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Great Eats in Aix

There are few cities in the world with the density of restaurants, bars and cafes as Aix-en-Provence. The tourist office lists over 500; an incredible number for such a small city. It astounds me that so many of these businesses thrive amongst the competition, but then this is a city of food lovers. We entertain from our kitchens and  and get to know our favorite chefs in town. The sheer number of options means that great food and a fun vibe are available at every corner, but so is mediocrity. Buyer beware. Consider this list of suggestions from someone who loves sharing delicious food and fun stories with friends and family around the dining table, … especially when magic is bubbling in the kitchen. The short list is far from inclusive; I don’t have the time or budget to visit half the restaurants about which I read. My criteria for the spots making the list are simple: great food (of course), honest prices, and hosts who work hard to bring you back. Life is too short for indifferent service. If I am missing your favorite, please let me know. Click on the restaurant names to link to their websites. In no particular order:

naruto frontNaruto: The best Japanese udon and ramen soups I’ve tasted this side of the Atlantic. The broths that owner Koiche Kunibe conjures up fresh daily warm the soul. Excellent sushi platters and other Japanese standards as well. Eat here. 19 rue de la Verrerie, 04 42 21 49 07

La CitaLa Cita: This restaurant’s wide variety of savory tapas make it our go-to place when my kids are hungry and I’ve no time to cook. Dining à la carte offers everyone, from my daughter and her bird-like appetite to my 2 boys and their bottomless pits, an opportunity to eat as much or little as desired. You will be hard pressed to find a more welcoming staff, and La Cita gets jumping on Thursday nights with the maestro David at the piano banging out boogie woogie classics. Eat here. 16 rue Felibre Gaut, 04 86 3152 43

corner-bistro2Corner Bistro: A good hamburger has long been hard to find in France, strangely enough. But that all started to change in 2013, with quality burgers coming to the fore in Paris, Lyon and many of the leading food cities here. Aix is no exception, and the Corner Bistro is hands down the best burger in town. For you vegetarians in the crowd, their club sandwich is delicious as well, and meat free except for 2 slices of bacon laid seductively across the top. Two locations are now open. Eat here. 32 rue Emeric David, 04 42 39 85 84, and 3 boulevard Victor Hugo, 04 42 91 30 47

cheese & burgerCheese & Burger: No, I’m not a burger fanatic but had to mention this take-out only restaurant for its simple formula: a great burger with or without frees, cheese optional, picked up at the counter or delivered to you. And they are happy to zip by your favorite bar, should you happen to be tippling al fresco on a warm Aix evening. Now that’s service. 1 rue du puits neuf, 04 42 57 53 68

house-cookiesHouse Cookies & Co.: This small restaurant offers an American-inspired menu in a relaxed, tiny setting. The walls are covered with US license plates and other kitch; vintage vinyl LPs serve as fun placemats. It is the only place in town to get a pastrami sandwich, and the menu also includes an evolving selection of tarts, salads, burgers, and bagels depending on what’s fresh at the daily market. Desserts are a highlight The portions are enormous and the owner Laëtitia suggests a doggy-bag for leftovers. How unfrench!  Eat here. 40 rue Boulegon, 04 42 23 24 21

la familiaLa Familia: This cozy restaurant has a fully Italian menu with pastas and enormous salads, but the wood fired pizzas stand out. Is there a better pizza in town? That’s always a fun debate, but La Familia gets my vote.  You will not leave hungry. I suggest reservations. This place will be empty at 7.45, packed by 8.30. Eat here. 20 rue Boulegon, 04 42 23 51 58

fannys2Fanny’s: A tiny lunch spot that reflects the best of Provençal relaxed dining: tarts, salads, soup and sandwiches, all intensely flavorful. Fanny’s bright red door is a beacon to a fantastic meal made with ingredients from the farmers market just down the street. When you see what she can turn out within the small space she has to work, you’ll never complain about your kitchen size again. Fanny is a master with local herbs and spices, and it’s a challenge to walk past at noon and not want to enter. Eat here. 11 rue Chastel, 06 08 60 33 95

basilic2Basilic et Citronnelle: Like Fanny’s, this is another great lunch discovery. There is a bigger kitchen and more seating than at Fanny’s, and the menu leans towards plates that could easily serve as the day’s main meal: salmon fillets and duck breasts, for example, but also tarts and salads. It’s a true neighborhood spot, casual and familial. Eat here. 3 rue opéra, 04 42 27 58 77

Brulerie RichelmeLa Brûlerie:  The Brûlerie is a café and coffee roasterie in Aix, not a restaurant, but they offer the best brew in town and a great location for people watching. You can customize your coffee selection by bean variety – over a dozen rich, medium, and mild options are possible – at no extra charge. It also has the largest selection of home roasted beans for your machine, as well as teas, sirops, and other specialties. La Brûlerie faces the daily outdoor marché at Place Richelme and a convenient gathering spot for the local Aixoise. Need to get your day started on the right foot. Grab a coffee here. 1 Place Richelme, 04 42 23 55 27

 

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