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Restaurant Help

This may sound crazy but my last and only trip to Paris I had the hardest time finding good food! I decided in the city most known for food in the world I would just "wing it". Not a good idea. I had a few stand out meals but overall a disappointing experience. So this trip I am planning ahead!

Will be traveling in April 2020 with a friend - we are not fancy folks so higher end restaurants are not our thing, looking for good casual dining options (mom and pop type places).

I'm specifically looking for somewhere around the Arc de Triumph or the Champs E'lysse area for a dinner on arrival day (so we will be tired and ready for something filling, simple and early).

Also, around the Louvre area and the City Centre (St. Chappelle, Conceirge, etc.) - lunches here.

Any suggestions?

Posted by
4662 posts

I decided in the city most known for food in the world

I'm afraid that's an outdated view and one which many restaurants have lazily been resting their laurels on. I find London to be far more exciting in terms of food than Paris. In fact I think the UK in general is more exciting than France. When you believe that your food is the best in the world where's the incentive to improve or diversify? Of course it's a generalisation and there are plenty of exciting restaurants in France but in general many are trotting out the same tired dishes, the same tired dishes that are found in pretty much every restaurant. I lost count of the Daube de Bouef I found on pretty much every menu in the French restaurants I ate in in the Cote D'Azur. Sure it's a classic but does it have to be on the menu on every restaurant in a small village square?

It's a bit like German beer. The well intended purity laws have prevented brewers from diversifying and keeping up with the interesting developments in the beer world. You won't see marshmallow, ice cream stouts or peach and mango IPA's being brewed in Germany because the laws prevent such additions to beer (I'm hoping to be proven wrong in this respect but my experience has shown this to be true).

Unfortunately I haven't been in Paris for some time in order to advise you on any good restaurants and even when I was there, nothing memorable stands out.

Posted by
379 posts

All the areas you mention are tourist central, so you will have have to pay high prices, or eat whatever is being pushed out to tourists. Good cheap honest restaurants arent a feature wherever restranteurs don't have to worry about earning repeat trade. However. not too much of a walk away is Café Beauvau (for lunch) which I like a lot https://goo.gl/maps/gNLesDrSHyDmHLTMA

I have had a decent meal at La Chaumière on Ile St Louis https://goo.gl/maps/R3Gv4HGvHcyHqCEu6

Posted by
1017 posts

I've never had a decent meal near the sites you are mentioning. Too touristy. I HAVE had decent meals with honest, non-fancy preparations, and where the dining rooms are filled with French residents, and some tourists as well. Here's a link from the NY Times that lists a few places where you can dine very reasonably: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/10/travel/affordable-dining-in-paris.html?searchResultPosition=1

In addition, I have had good results patronizing some of the restaurants on David Liebovitz' website: www.davidlebovitz.com/

Also, try the recommendations from Paris by Mouth: https://parisbymouth.com/

Posted by
3304 posts

This may sound crazy but my last and only trip to Paris I had the
hardest time finding good food! I decided in the city most known for
food in the world I would just "wing it". Not a good idea.

Like you suggested, to me it does sound crazy. When I'm in a new city or even home in NYC, I look at menus to see what is offered and the prices. I also look at the specials of the day. Next, I look through the window to see how busy it is inside and to see what people have ordered to determine if what I see looks appealing. I NEVER had a bad meal when we were in Paris last year.

Posted by
1997 posts

All the areas you mention are tourist central, so you will have have to pay high prices, or eat whatever is being pushed out to tourists.

Amen.

If you want to find good to excellent restaurants, looking where all the tourists are is not going to get you the results you want.

The day you arrive, and I assume that will be after an all night, transatlantic flight, you will not want to dine at normal restaurant times, beginning a 7:30 pm. You will be too tired to enjoy. Find a café, something simple which has service all day long.

I can´t think of anywhere I would go to lunch on L'île de la Cité (St Chappelle, Conceirge). Maybe le Fumoir, opposite the front facade of le Louvre. Also good nearby is la Cardonnerie next to Saint Roch church. Just a block or so to the north on rue du Mont Thabor is le Mont Thabor, a fantastic lunch spot mostly for locals only. If you go here for lunch, and the place is very small, you will probably be the only English speakers present. I don´t think that the menus are in English but it will be the best 13€ lunch you have ever had.

Great places to dine rarely just fall into your lap. It requires a bit of research and very often it also requires a reservation well in advance.

Posted by
3304 posts

Great places to dine rarely just fall into your lap.

Oh but they can!

I took the métro to the Basilica of Saint-Denis outside of Paris and after spending a couple of hours there, I was hungry & noticed restaurants across from the basilica. I chose one based on the menu and what I saw people enjoying. It was FANTASTIC! It ended being my main meal of the day as I was in heaven!

Posted by
516 posts

I know what you mean. Paris has such an overload of cafes and restaurants. The normal “signs of a good restaurant” qualifiers don’t always apply. Paris is one of the few cities where I have really come to rely on guidebook (or Airbnb host) recommendations. For a long time, and for whatever reason, I gave RS restaurant recommendations short shrift. Well, after at least a half dozen RS recommendations I’ve changed my tune, they have delivered some of my favorite dining experiences. It’s not cheating, it pays off.

Though it’s in Montemarte, I have to give a shout to Le Grand 8. It’s the kind of place you’re looking for.

Posted by
10053 posts

Are you willing to take a 20-ish. minute Metro ride from Charles de Gaulle-Étoile? We found La Cave Gourmande a couple of trips ago after several marginal meals at places RS recommends. Best boeuf Bourguignon ever and good prices.

We also have some faves in the 7th if you are interested: Le P’tit Troquet, Il Sorrentino, and Au Bon Accuiel.

Reservations recommended at all of the above and I think they all do online reservations.

Posted by
613 posts

Yes, use metro to go to not tourist Paris. Best way to find something: The Michelin Red Guide, an incredible source for finding where to eat anywhere they cover and carefully study the section on how to use it. They use text emogies.

The problem with RS guides is that they target Americans, not locals. Michelin is the locals' bible.

Posted by
4684 posts

If you read a little bit of French, the Routard guide to Paris is excellent for finding good value restaurants.

Posted by
379 posts

Just as my Australian restaurant radar didn't work when I first arrived in the UK, my UK restaurant radar didn't work when I first arrived in France. When I visited the USA my restaurant radar didnt work at all. This mean I have had quite a few very ordinary meals in all three countries when going it alone finding restaurants. Learning how to identify a good restaurant from across a busy street takes practice, and the signs are different in every country.

To find a good restaurant when visiting Paris, you need to visit some of the French recview sites - Internaute is one of the easiest to use if you don't speak French https://www.linternaute.com/restaurant/ Using restaurant reviews written by anglo visitors leads to many reviews for "the best" or "the cheapest" restaurants that are nothing of the kind.

Posted by
6612 posts

Paris is full of mediocre food heated in microwaves and served up -- airplane food and any restaurant with a very large menu and moderate to low prices is almost certainly doing this.

You. have to do your homework -- we almost always get poor food just choosing a place by sight.

Some places we have had good luck: Chez Dumonet, Josephine for boeuf bourguignon and fabulous grand marnier souffle -- also other standard bistrot fare like duck confit or hangar steak.

L'Initial has a 54 Euro 7 course + tasting menu that is really beautifully presented and tasty -- choice of the meat course from three -- the fish, appetizers, desserts are all the same. They will modify the food for allergy issues if notified ahead.

We had good crepes at Josselin on Rue Montparnasse. L'As d'Falafel in the Marais has very good falafel.

We had a couple of good meals at La Cordonnerie near the Tulleries -- one chef place.

We had lunch of grilled foie gras and parmentier with duck confit near les Halles at a little place called. Comptoir de la Gastronomie

All of these except maybe Josselin and the falafal place need a reservation.

Mine this and other travel sites for other recommendations. We eat out about once a week when we are in Paris so we have been careful to research and get recommendations and it has improved our luck. Check reviews and look at this site and TA and other travel sites and book a day ahead for neighborhood places and a week or two ahead for better known places (and famous places take a couple of months)

Posted by
153 posts

You might consider looking at John Talbott's site for places to have lunch. He is a retired American Doctor who goes to lunch several days per week at different restaurants in Paris and reviews his experiences. He takes a sound meter with him to check the decibel level, as he likes to talk to his dining companions. I find him an amusing curmudgeon who knows his French food. You can look at his archives to locate reviews by arrondissement.

https://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/

Posted by
5853 posts

While much advice given will help you find a honest meal in a French restaurant, it may not address your core issue, that French food is not all that exciting. I agree, even well prepared dishes are basically the stuff your Grandparents thought was haute cuisine. There is of course Nouveau cuisine if you are a foodie and into small dishes with a big price that do not taste what they look like, but like you, I find food elsewhere, even Germany, more interesting.

My advice, go simpler. The French do salads really well, add a bottle of wine and a cheese (which the french also do well on) or charcuterie plate and you have a memorable meal. If you like seafood, find a place that specializes in that, I found L'Ilot ( http://lilot-restaurant.com/accueil/english ) by taking that tact, small place but nice Tapa style seafood dishes. Basically I find the French produce excellent food items (Cheese, Bread, good seafood, etc.) so find a place that makes an ingredient the star. (A Steak Frite restaurant maybe for example)

You can also go for Ethnic offerings, to literally add some spice (maybe my main critique of French food). Paris has many well known and great restaurants featuring cuisine from their former empire of Northern Africa, Lebanon, and Vietnam. This is also one of my pieces of advice for London for what it is worth.

Posted by
10053 posts

Good advice Paul! When we lived in Rome, we loved going to Paris to eat food from other lands. Some of the best Lebanese we’ve ever had, in fact!

Posted by
201 posts

What's Gaby Cooking has an excellent trip guide and she's a food blogger so her restaurant recommendations look great!

Posted by
19 posts

Our first restaurant experience in Paris was at the Maison Rouge near Chatalet/Les Halles. Wonderful food and quite traditional. I had escargot, wine, duck breast, creme brulee, and coffee. Prices are very reasonable too.