How to Order Breakfast in a French Café

by sharon santoni
paris cafe

© Tatiana Ananicheva

There is a true feeling of relaxation in the mornings in France, be it the calm before the day’s hustle and bustle in a city, or in the rolling countryside, with its sunshine, fresh air and sound of chirping birds. 

Wherever you are, what better way to start the day than with a long, lazy breakfast at a classic French café? Here at My French Country Home Magazine, we like nothing more than fueling up with a leisurely morning meal, preferably under the shade of century-old trees on a terrasse (terrace).


A typical conversation at a French café a morning meal usually starts off with the customary exchange of pleasantries: “Bonjour, Madame/Monsieur (“Good morning, Madam/Sir!”)! “À vous, aussi! (“to you, too!”).” In France especially, these greetings are a cordial and important formality, be it at a café, marché, boulangerie or any local shop. You will then be invited to get down to your breakfast business with a “Qu’est ce que je vous sers? (“What can I get for you?”).”

© Pixabay

What to choose? First of all, know how you enjoy your coffee: café serré (“tight,” similar to an Italian espresso), café allongé (“lengthened,” espresso with a bit of water – as close as the French come to a cup of American coffee) or café crême (an allongé with a splash of whipped milk or cream). There are, of course, more complex orders, but these are the most traditional.

“Et que voulez-vous manger avec ça (“What would you like to eat with that”)?” This is where most of France will go for the café’s typical basket of pastries, filled to the brim with croissants and pains au chocolat, freshly delivered from the local bakery, still warm and flaky. The best cafés will also have homemade jams and preserves on offer– “faites par ma Grand-mère (“made by my Grandmother”)” – to be spread on a freshly sliced baguette, along with creamy butter, lightly salted with sel de Guérande, or maybe even some cheese. In the South, you could typically also be offered a fruit salad, with delicacies picked that very morning in the local fields and orchards. 

© Sergey Mostovoy

Hardy souls may ask for something more complicated, like an oeuf au plat (fried egg), or even des oeufs brouillés au lard (scrambled eggs with bacon). Although such an outlandishly “American” request may be met with a slightly raised eyebrow, the smell and taste of fresh eggs is well worth the temporary embarrassment. 

 © ivandzyuba

Once you are full, the temptation is strong to lounge about for a few hours, as is customary in French cafés, idly chatting away and planning the day or days ahead (quite often, your next meal!). You may even stay long enough to order a glass of wine (or two, or three), but be cautious: it will only make it harder to get up when the time has come to make your next move!

Read Next: The Best Classic Cafés in Paris

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