We are leaving for France in 4 days (hooray!) and wondered if there was a French food guidebook that focuses on small, interesting, "local" restaurants? We go to France fairly often and this time are staying in Mougins (Alpes Maritime). I know it is a very touristy area but still hoping to find some slightly off the beaten track restaurants. Last year we went to the western Languedoc which was amazing!
I use the Michelin Red Guide. It lists recommended restaurants in all price categories.
Go on Amazon and order a copy of "The Food Lover's Guide to Paris" by Patricia Wells - it covers not only restaurants, but also bakeries, cafes, street markets, etc.
The ugly truth of restaurant eating in Paris in particular is that most inexpensive food is centrally prepared 'airplane food' -- and the restaurants that serve wonderful chef prepared meals are mostly fairly pricey although there are some good bargains. But good bargains will not equate to cheap. In the countryside we have found hotel restaurants almost always pretty good and our best multi course meals have been at rural town hotels with noted kitchens.
Fascinating that the person posting the question notes that they will be visiting a non-Paris location and that last year they went to a non-Paris location.
And yet two-thirds of the responses up to this point address restaurants in Paris.
Paris is not France. France is not Paris.
To the original poster: I would recommend using a combination of resources: Michelin guides supplemented by websites such as La Fourchette and Gault & Millau. And never overlook the recommendations of locals in whatever area you may be visiting.
And since OP is "leaving for France in 4 days" perhaps the best guidebook is one purchased locally in France -- like the Michelin red or ask a local bookseller for suggestions.
Thank you so much for your replies! I didn't realise that the Michelin guide covers different levels of restaurants - will buy a copy in France. Bob, I appreciate your suggestions on the websites.
If you read French, the Routard guidebooks have very good recommendations for good-value restaurants. You'll want the Cote d'Azur one which should be easily available in local bookshops or at the airport.
La fourchette -- The Fork -- is now part of Trip Adviser and offers some reader feedback. As with other parts of TA, proceed with caution.
The viamichelin.com site, in addition to driving directions, gives recommendations for restaurants at destination towns. Not just high-end starred ones.
You may want to check the relais-routiers.com website. It lists truck stops where there is often great food. It takes some time to figure out the website, but we have found may great lunch places there. Most lunchs are very cheap and include wine. Of course, the restaurants are out of Paris near trucking roads or highways. If nothing else, become familiar with the sign that the restaurants will post. We learned of the site after stumbling upon a great relais-routier restaurant in Normandy.
The ugly truth of restaurant eating in Paris in particular is that
most inexpensive food is centrally prepared 'airplane food' -- and the
restaurants that serve wonderful chef prepared meals are mostly fairly
pricey although there are some good bargains. But good bargains will
not equate to cheap.
Is it really that dichotomous?
is it really that dichotomous -- not even sure what you mean. Can you get a lousy meal in outback nowhere France-- well of course, but the truth is that rural hotels make their reputation on their restaurants and so your odds in even a summer camp level room hotel of having a pretty good meal are high. And the nicer hotels have really good meals. We have had terrible hotels and been stunned by how good the food was and our best meals in France have been at rural hotels. e.g. Moulin des Ruats near Avalon in Burgundy, L'Esplanade in Domme and Roseraie in Montignac (they have new owners so don't know if they have maintained the standard -- we have eaten there 4 times over the years and had our first really great meal in France there).
Paris is a town where you don't get good food unless you really research it. And any cafe or restaurant with an enormous menu card will almost certainly be serving airplane food.
Hi Barbara, love your reply and definitely a good suggestion to walk in the other direction! Thank you to everyone who suggested online guides and books. Many thanks, Lauren
Go on Amazon and order a copy of "The Food Lover's Guide to Paris" by Patricia Wells
As others have noted, the OP is not going to Paris. There is also Patricia Wells' Food Lovers Guide to France, but it's old and hopelessly outdated.
To add to other advice, don't ignore Trip Advisor, as long as you read reviews carefully rather than just look at the starred ratings.
is it really that dichotomous -- not even sure what you mean.
You said that in Paris, the inexpensive food is akin to airport food while the good food is typically found at expensive restaurants. Those are two extremes especially for this budget traveler so i wanted to inquire if it is really that dichotomous meaning one or the other.
the truth is that rural hotels make their reputation on their
restaurants and so your odds in even a summer camp level room hotel of
having a pretty good meal are high. And the nicer hotels have really
good meals. We have had terrible hotels and been stunned by how good
the food was and our best meals in France have been at rural hotels
I am not concerned about the quality of food in hotels. Typically, wherever I travel, I rarely if ever eat in a hotel restaurant. Your description of "summer camp level" of food is something I want to avoid. Mom and Pop restaurants (or small restaurants) wherever I've traveled in the world are typically wonderful and not expensive. Is this not possible to find such restaurants in Paris?
Look for the plat du jour on the black slate (ardoise) outside. If
that sounds good to you, go in.
That sounds familiar! That is the plan too. We also typically order the house wine to save money as well.
What Janet is saying is correct for Paris, though I think the factory prepared food is much better than airplane food. Most of the food in the budget restaurants, favorite giant cafés such as on the tip of the Île St. Louis (sorry Susan) , Polidor which I've been going to for twenty years despite an unchanged menu, even small inexpensive mom and pop places, etc get their food from wholesalers, a lot of it factory made. All of Les Routiers delicious rib-sticking stuff is factory prepared. I've eaten in a lot of the Routiers as my French husband will make a U-turn for them. But it's done right.
So why do we find the food so good? It is well made, even if it's not the little Grandma back in a magical kitchen. Got to go to the countryside for that. Furthermore, the dishes, recipes and flavors are new to a lot of US people. For example, most of the fish soup in the south and elsewhere is made in big factory vats. The bigger the vat, the better the flavor.
As stated the exceptions are the plats du jour, which are often a house-made stew or lentils/sausage dish. If you look, the rest of the menu will be grilled meat with fries or veggies, and if it's meat or fish with a sauce, chances are it's factory frozen but good. Kitchens in these restaurants and cafés are too small to produce the variety.
Do the French find it good? They have laws about labeling house-made. A friend who has lived in Beaune her whole 70 years joined us for beef burgundy in a cafe 20 kilometers away. Potatoes cooked on site, packaged bœuf bourguignon--but we all thought it was fine. We're not purists. The wine sauce was yummy even if it didn't have all the bacon, onion, crouton goodies as in homemade
You do have to get to the 50 euro and above price-point to get the chef-made meals. Janet is good at finding these places; personally I never fly over without her recommendations in my phone.
( Airplane--really, Janet ;--)
You do have to get to the 50 euro and above price-point to get the chef-made meals.
Restaurants closed 2 days a week, typically Saturday and Sunday or Sunday and Monday, are an indicator that the chef wants a day off just like everyone else and that it is indeed he who produces and controls what leaves the kitchen.
I am not concerned about the quality of food in hotels. Typically, wherever I travel, I rarely if ever eat in a hotel restaurant.
You can miss some very good meals that way. Agreed, that in the US I would pretty much never eat in a hotel restaurant unless I was captive. The same would be true in a very large French city, unless it was a Michelin-starred-level restaurant and someone else was paying. However, among the most enjoyable meals I've had in France have been in the restaurants of small, family-run hotels.
Excellent meal in the restaurant at the Hotel de France in Beaune. The hotel is inexpensive, modest, clean and very basic. The restaurant was excellent, beautifully presented with a very limited menu (usually a good sign) and very reasonably priced.
As stated the exceptions are the plats du jour, which are often a
house-made stew or lentils/sausage dish. If you look, the rest of the
menu will be grilled meat with fries or veggies, and if it's meat or
fish with a sauce, chances are it's factory frozen but good. Kitchens
in these restaurants and cafés are too small to produce the variety.
Then the plats du jour it will be. I am surprised. In New York for example, we have a favorite Italian restaurant on the UWS in which we can enjoy fresh pasta for about $24 or an array of veal entrées for $28 and they are out of this world. There is a small family-owned Spanish restaurant in the East 30s whose menu is incredible and very reasonably reasonably -- various paellas under $25 including a salad. These are just two off the top of my head.
When we were in Vienna, we went to small restaurants (I forget the names but were recommended on the Austria forum here) whose menu was out of this world and very reasonably priced (no more than €20-25) or a finger sandwich place with a few tables near St Stephen's Cathedral that was dirt cheap AND unbelievably delicious (recommended by RS on his PBS program).
I don't want factory food and we cannot afford €50 entrées so I'll look for the daily specials on blackboards (plats du jour) in small restaurants. I'll be there in cool weather which makes lentils or any kind of stew that much more inviting. Thank you Bets and Janet for the headsup.
We might be going to the semifinals of the Paris Masters at the Accor Arena. We won't be expecting anything food wise there but, still, their vendors have GOT to be better than the crud at Madison Square Garden.
Just a clarification or two: fifty euro meals, not fifty euro main courses (An aside: since entrée in French is the first course, I switched to first course, second course for clarity.)
Also, the French restaurant is paying higher wages to everyone--,cooks, waitstaff, managers, and higher taxes on product and much higher for employee benefits.
outside Paris it is the 'Food Lovers Guide to France' that you want
Don't get that unless you want it for historical interest or the recipes. It's over 30 years old, which is when I first used it, and is now hopelessly outdated. It was a great guide in its time.
Go on Amazon and order a copy of "The Food Lover's Guide to Paris" by
What good advice! I took this book out of the library yesterday and it's a treasure trove of recommendations! Her list of inexpensive cafés per arrondissement with recommendations of what to order and a price range (from 2014 so I still get an idea) is fantastic. She talks about the importance of fresh ingredients and not factory food (or airport food) as was mentioned above. I haven't even gotten to the markets section yet. Unfortunately the book is heavy so I won't take it with me but I'll take copious notes.
The Food Lover's Guide to Paris exists as an iPhone app--brilliant!
I know this will appear before the original poster has left. But as I see it, the problem is that any " slightly off the beaten track restaurants" that are listed in guide books will be quickly overrun by tourists. If you want a good, local experience; unfortunately you have to avoid the places listed in guide books.
My too sense...