Marseille is misunderstood. Somehow France’s second largest city has the reputation, even among locals, as gritty. Truth be told, Paris has just as much grit. But it also seems Marseille is secretly proud of that edgy side—and the reputation is also bolder than the reality. In fact, the city has so much character, once you get to know the people and their candor, you’re destined to love it forever. Here are some of the restaurants les marseillais love. Thanks to the city’s prime Mediterranean location, many are on the water and grill up fantastic seafood fare, too.
Located in quiet fishing harbor Le Vallon des Auffes, just outside of the city, this first-rate gourmet restaurant boasts an ambiance so superb—glass windows looking out to a cobalt sea with dreamy views of the Frioul archipelago and Château D’If—that it nearly beats out the food. Nearly. First time visitors must try Chef Guillaume Sourrieu’s signature dish, the lobster tagine. It’s a winning combination that only makes sense given the fresh seafood available and Marseille’s Moroccan influence.
Busy, loud, and delicious, it’s an Italian restaurant with homemade pastas, natural wines, and a lovely outdoor patio. Note that reservations are a must here and La Cantinetta has multiple seatings. Are you a cheese lover? This is the place to come for Burrata imported from Puglia. La Cantinetta has had so much success that duo Stéphanie Nardoca and Pierre Antoine Denis have opened up a new venue, Restaurant Otto.
Lan Thai is just one of the many international restaurants that remind travelers this port city is a true cultural melting pot. This is the place for Thai food lovers who are familiar with authentic Thai cooking (or looking for it). From its Pad kaprow to its Pa-naeng duck, locals love this gem and sing high praises for the value for money, freshness of ingredients, and the ambiance, too. Note that as of this writing, the restaurant still operates cash only.
Some locals would call this place “fairly traditional,” but a Marseille restaurant list without bouillabaisse is no list at all. Le Miramar claims to be the “founding member of the bouillabaisse charter.” With a fantastic view on the old port, this address has been around since 1965, and in 2003 the Buffa family took the helm. It’s a place that caters to both the locals and tourists. Keep in mind the bouillabaisse is a family-style dish, and here it’s served in generous quantity, so we recommend you dining in numbers.
Italian food seems to have a foothold in the city, evidenced by the many pizzerias in town. Some might argue however that the pizza is French-ified, or not authentically Italian, but it certainly holds a place in the hearts (and stomachs!) of the locals here. Since 1943, three generations of the Cassaro family have stayed faithful to the original pizza and pasta recipes at Chez Etienne. Come for pies and calamari, but stay for the tarte aux pommes, delicious apple tart only made more delectable by the wood-fired pizza oven. Loyal local fans may take offense if you don’t like the place, so zip a lip unless you do—it’s a real institution.