I'm breaking this report into several posts, as there are a lot of great places to recommend. This one focuses on more informal places and patisserie
PreparationAs with previous trips, I did a lot of research in advance, scouring blogs, websites, and Trip Advisor and Yelp reviews for places that could accommodate gluten free. However, unlike Italy, London or many cities in the United States, I soon learned that there were very few places with official gluten free menus. Instead, we needed to figure out which restaurants had "naturally" gluten free options -- and were aware of cross contamination. We did find some suggestions of these types of restaurants from my research, but one of our favorite places turned out to be a local brasserie. So, I'd suggest having a basic list in advance, but also being open to stopping in at places that look interesting, and seeing if they can accommodate.
We also confronted an additional wrinkle -- we were planning to be in Paris in August, and many places do close for vacation for at least a few weeks during that time. I emailed/ face book messaged places I was particularly interested in in advance (using Google Translate) to find out whether they would be open during the time of our visit, so we didn't make expeditions to locations only to be disappointed by a "closed for vacation" sign.
Gluten free cafes -- and patisserieI know of two places (Helmut Newcake and BioSphere Cafe) that serve classic gluten free patisserie (eclairs, cream puffs, tortes, etc.) in Paris -- and luckily for us, both were open! Both also are good places for lunch or a cafe break, or spots to pick up treats for another day.
Helmut Newcake is a charming small gluten free cafe near the trendy Canal St. Martin in the 10th. We actually stayed at an apartment in this area, so went there twice, once in the late afternoon to pick up patisserie, and once for lunch (and dessert of course). To be honest, it is a little out of the way if you aren't staying in the area, although I would definitely recommend the neighborhood as a fun place for a meal or a stroll by the canal, it is a very lively area, particularly at night. Lunch options were limited but tasty-- the day we were there there was a choice of two pizzas and one cooked meal (a fish dish). The select of patisserie differed on both occasions, and I think there is a little bit of luck involved as to what you will find at the time of day you arrive -- but on both visits, we were able to purchase some delicious French gluten free pastries. I can also assure you that even those who do not need to eat gluten free will enjoy the pastries -- I know that I did. (The photo is of a caramel/ salted butter cream filled delicacy, yum.)
Biosphere Cafe is a little bit larger, and has a more extensive menu, including pizza, sandwiches, quiches, buckwheat crepes, and a few daily specials.
Thank You My Deer is a relatively new cosy and cheerful gluten free cafe in the 11th, again, not on the main tourist beat if you are only in Paris for a short time, but a good place to try if you are exploring the up and coming Oberkampf neighborhood (and I think there is a well known flea market in the area, although I didn't go there myself). There menu changes daily, with a small selection of soups, muffins, gluten free sandwiches (served on homemade gluten free bread) and salads. On some days, they serve waffles. They also serve brunch on Sundays. Of course, no cafe would be complete without desserts, and although theirs don't seem to be in the classic French patisserie tradition, they have cookies, pies, cakes, etc.
We also wanted to try Cafe Pinson, in the North Marais, which apparently has some gluten free options, but it was closed for vacation. Next time!
Finally, we had a great lunch at the Cojean in the lower level of the main Printemps Department Store. Cojean is a chain that serves healthy, self-serve options such as salads, soups, sandwiches, desserts, etc. Gluten free options are clearly marked right on the items, and they label for other allergens as well. Their salad options went far beyond a simple green salad, they included options with quinoa, olives, artichokes, etc. It is a good place for a lunch stop, or pick up some items for a picnic later.