43 Rue de Lorette
This restaurant serves Italian staples, massive steaks, and the best wood-oven pizza in all of Marseilles—and is notoriously hard to find and has no phone number. In addition, there's no menu, no bill (the waiters make very reasonable estimates), and your wine choice will be "red or rosé?" But the food is fantastic. It's also intensely popular, so arrive early. Like any genuine traditional pizzeria, Chez Etienne serves only dinner, but it stays open late.
140 Vallon des Auffes
Tel: 91 52 14 38
Fax: 91 52 14 16
A ten-minute walk from Le Petit Nice brings you to the Vallon des Auffes, a perfect, small calanque (gorge) tucked away underneath the Corniche where Marseille fishermen and their families live. Here you'll find Chez Fonfon, popular since the 1950s with actors and celebrities for sophisticated seafood at reasonable prices. Specialties of the house include good bouillabaisse and the Provençal fish stew called bourride, grilled catch-of-the-day, salt-crusted fish, shrimp, and live lobster, as well as Provençal lamb. For an even simpler meal in the same magical setting, stroll down the block to no. 129 and the Pizzeria Jeannot (91 52 11 28).
6 Rue des Catalans
Tel: 91 52 64 22
Chez Michel is not the most attractive restaurant, thanks to a cheesy, seafood-inspired decorating scheme, but it does offer delicious and authentic Marseillaise cuisine. In particular, since 1946, this has been the place to sample the local culinary pièce de résistance: bouillabaisse. They are so rigorous about following the traditional recipe for the famed fish soup that, before they cook it, they show you a basket containing all five of the traditionally required poissons that will go into the pot, including the pricey rascasse (scorpion fish) so often skipped by less conscientious kitchens.
6 Quai de Rive Neuve
Tel: 91 33 84 84
Fax: 95 33 43 51
In such a seafood-saturated town, it's nice to find a place where—as you might have guessed by the name—steak is the main attraction. There are also plenty of seasonal meats and fantastic pommes frites to accompany your carnivorous meal. This bustling, family-run restaurant ranks as a beacon of solid, traditional quality amid the tourist-traps of the Old Port area.
12 Quai du Port
Tel: 91 91 10 40
Fax: 91 56 64 31
The Web site alone should be a clue that this well-regarded portside restaurant is staking its reputation on bouillabaisse—and with good reason. The saffron-tinged fish soup is expertly prepared here, and if you're dining with a companion, you can compare this prototypical Marseilles dish to its cousin, bourride, the latter usually made with conger eel, sea bass, and bream poached with garlic and thickened with aioli. Beyond soup, the kitchen also excels at preparing fresh, catch-of-the-day bounty from the gulf, grilled simply or in a salt crust, as well as local langoustines (giant prawns) and homard (lobster). In warm weather, dine on the terrace with a view of the church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde.
2 Quai du Port
Tel: 33 4 91 90 63 53
Illustrating the renaissance of the port city, this second-floor boîte with wood floors, white pillars and tablecloths, and mulberry-colored walls boasts a fine panorama from its arched windows that skims over the cars and goes straight to the boats of the Vieux Port. It's the domain of young Alain Ducasse protégé Lionel Levy, proud owner of a Michelin star since 2003 for his intelligent blend of Med-Orient cuisine: tuna crumble with ginger and combava zest; cod risotto pepped with white peach and verveine; langoustines in a lemon-verbena nage. Desserts, too, are inventive, such as a chocolate pyramid with basil and sun-dried tomatoes.
Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Sunday, Monday and the month of August.