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Dining in Paris with a picky child

We're planning ahead for a trip to England next summer, with a few days in Paris. We'll be taking our two daughters with us. The 12 year old is a fairly adventurous eater- the 10 year old drowns everything in ketchup. We're thinking that it's early enough, that we can hopefully "train her" to like some new things between now and then...but our question is what is "common fare" in Paris (My husband and the girls don't eat beef or pork, otherwise, anything goes for the other 3 of us...and we'll be on a moderate budget- no event dining, but also no McDonalds)

Posted by
1164 posts

You will find a lot of pizza places.

Posted by
40 posts

Pasta, Pizza, Sandwiches, Burgers, Chicken dishes, Frites. Your 10 yr old will have no problem. And how exciting to be 10 and exposed to Paris. Bon Voyage!

Posted by
1501 posts

My 11 year old granddaughter was dying to go to Paris. She's also a picky eater and the list of foods she won't eat even includes eggs! I told her I'd take her if she promised to try some new foods, that I absolutely refused to go to Paris and eat McD. This was the deal I made. She's a "white bread" girl, but ate a baguette every morning with hot chocolate at the hotel. She also had some French Onion soup (quite a coupe). There are lots of Italian restaurants, and we did eat a few high quality pizzas. The beef and pork issue with your husband and girls is going to be another obstacle. My advice is to strike a deal before you go -- like, we'll go without you if you don't agree to at least try some new foods!!! Try getting some Nutella here to try before you leave, which is the European version of peanutbutter, and see if they'll eat that. They serve crepes all over with nutella. It does have chocolate in it.

Posted by
9110 posts

Ketchup is not unknown amongst the natives.

Posted by
31303 posts

Eleanor, One thing I've found with "picky eaters" is that they're generally a bit less picky when they get really hungry. The food is not going to be like it is at home (unless you relax your rules and stop at a McDonald's on occasion), so she'll have to work with what's available. Ketchup doesn't seem to be a big thing in Paris, but it certainly is available. One of the hotels I've stayed at there provided it with breakfast for the scrambled eggs. Cheers!

Posted by
31303 posts

Eleanor, To add to my previous comments, there are a variety of good ethnic restaurants in Paris, so you'll have lots of choices in the type of foods that are available. I can usually find a good Italian restaurant in most countries that I've visited.

Posted by
813 posts

I agree with the others that you'll have options if you know what you're looking for. There's typically a menu posted in the front door of restaurants where you can all take a look and agree if you like something there or need to move on down the street somewhere else. Our biggest problem traveling with our kids is being able to hold off their hunger until the right time. If they get hungry, tired, the crankiness factor sky rockets. I suggest you grab a couple bananas, apples, and a box of granola bars (or little packages of cookies, crackers, etc.) to have in your purse/backpack. Before going into a museum or standing in line somewhere, have them have a banana or some crackers and you've just bought yourself an hour to get through the metro and back to your hotel or wherever you're going without a major fuss. Nutella crepes are our favorite go-to afternoon snack.

Posted by
355 posts

Lots of great suggestions. One caution though, Nancy mentions eggs and omelets, which is true. But if you order eggs, be aware that the French like their eggs runny. So order your eggs well done, unless you like hearing them chirp!

Posted by
6355 posts

@Linda - gosh I didn't know that about the eggs. Guess I was lucky, I had omelettes at 5 or 6 different cafes all over Paris and never had runny eggs once.
Good info to tuck away for future reference.

Posted by
8304 posts

I'm very picky about my eggs, as I can't stand them unless they are cooked all the way through. I rarely order them, as I find that no matter how much I emphasize this when my order is taken I almost always get eggs that aren't cooked enough. My last trip to Paris I was at a place that had a really delicious looking omelet on the menu. I asked the server in French if she spoke English, because I didn't know enough French to try to convey my question about the omelet. She said she spoke a little English, so I asked if the eggs could be cooked through. She said of course, you want it well done. And well done it was, the best omelet I've ever had!

Posted by
11450 posts

When I was 13 I had my first solo visit to stay at my grannys in Paris ( I previously had only been with my mom and sister and mom "protected us" from "strange food") .I spent almost 3 months there. I stayed with my granny but was also sent off with other distant relatives and friends for weeks at the beach or country homes. My grandmother wrote home ( this is when people wrote letters) that I was doing fine but she couldn't get me to eat anything but soup, ham, and ice cream. Of course I also ate bread and some salamis.. but my grandmothers point was I was driving everyone nuts with my diet.I did however eat mussels ( St Malo!) and had always eaten snails ( even at home here ) so they were ok too. I also loved rabbit rillets ( I did not know it was rabbit , thought it was just pate) . Point is, I survived , your kid will too. PS Meat is served rare in many cases, not an issue for you since child does not eat beef. I sent back a steak that was bleeding on my plate when I was a kid,, the waiter did take it to kitchen and they did cook it more, but then they put it back on the same plate they had served it on, and all my fries had soaked in the blood. Wouldn't eat them,, granny was M A D. Fries are served with many dishes ( including omelettes) as a common side. Ham baguettes are delish.. served plain with butter usually only. Soup is safe, lol
Pizza and pasta is around. Chinese food sucks in Paris. Try Morrocan if going ethnic.

Posted by
2000 posts

Note -- ham is a very popular sandwich item in the baguette sandwiches you see in cafe and bakery windows all over town -- but you can usually get a cheese or veggie option too. The breads and pastries are great, as is the cheese, and the crepes, mentioned above. Your picky one could probably exit on this for a few days with no trouble. Good luck.

Posted by
11450 posts

ha ,, memories.. got served calfs brains when staying with family friends in country.. the lady brought it to me raw to show me it and ask if I would eat it,,I of course said no.( and yes, it looks like brains) .Lady served us dinner that night.. like chicken ala king.. a creamy sauce with the brains in it over a puff pastry.She proudly motioned to me not to worry( my french was terrible) she showed me how she had picked out the hunks of "meat" from my serving.. so I had to eat the pastry and sauce knowing it was "brain sauce". My parents taught me you HAD to choke down anything if you were at someones house as a guest and served it.. Tasted ok. but the thought haunts me to this day.. over 35 years later. lol

Posted by
11613 posts

Jo: My "crepe with runny eggs" referred to the filling, not the batter, example: crepe with mushrooms, ham and eggs. Thanks for clarifying, though.

Posted by
11613 posts

Bistros usually have options that some restaurants don't. Ketchup is readily available. A savory crepe and a large plate of fries makes a filling meal (if the crepe includes eggs they will be a little runny). Go with a chicken or ham filling.

Posted by
4383 posts

Pack your own ketchup as the ketchup in Europe might taste different.

Posted by
3580 posts

Some stores in Europe carry American brands of foodstuffs. Larger stores may have ethnic or specialty departments. In Rome there is a large grocery store in the lower level of Termini, the main train station. I've seen American brand breakfast cereals on the shelves of the smallest food shops. Nobody makes corn flakes like Post and Kellogs. Even picky eaters usually like the milder cheeses found in some countries. In Paris I like to eat Chinese food. It is similar to that made in the US.
Fried rice may please your picky one. There are all sorts of sandwiches available in France. Pizza, quiche, ice cream, fruit, salads, soups........

Posted by
7947 posts

Just as a note. All crepes include eggs, otherwise it isn't a crepe. This is a batter, like a thin pancake batter. It isn't going to be runny. Perhaps your daughter will go for a croque Monsieur which is nothing but a glorified grilled ham & cheese sandwich.

Posted by
185 posts

Norma, you are probably right so I have removed my comment. I did it once years ago with two boys, 6 & 8, with no problem but that was probably an exception. My apologies.

Posted by
8293 posts

"... most French kids speak English..." Really? And should you really be encouraging youngsters to approach a family of strangers and interrupt their meal to ask what they're eating? I personally would consider this very rude.

Posted by
26061 posts

I see a lot of variations here, very valid ones, of suggestions for the French staple (English, too) of Cheese and Ham. I do note that Eleanor has ruled these out as pork and beef are off, and ham is a variety of pork. I am a bit confused why Paris carries the can when presumably the same issues will arise in England...

Posted by
3547 posts

Couscous restaurants are common and a step or two up from fast-food chains. Usually bistrots serving this wheat-based dish from North Africa will have a vegetarian version (fortunately almost all Paris restaurants post their menues outside.) Going the reverse direction, how about chicken? Or, better, duck? Duck dishes are a staple of smaller restaurants, partly because duck is cheaper than steak at the market, and confit of duck leg is like KFC only far tastier. Another tactic, especially at lunch, is to search out cafeterias at the big department stores which have something for everyone. The Louvre,of all places, is home to a food court, the Carrousel du Lourvre, although your daughters (and their picky father) will see it as more a collection of sit-down restaurants than the carry-out booths they know back home. Higher prices too, of course.
It is under the glass pyramid, entrance from Rivoli. This underground shopping mall is the easiest entrance to the museum too. http://en.carrouseldulouvre.com/W/do/centre/restaurants

Posted by
46 posts

Thanks for all the suggestions! Both girls enjoy crepes (and my older daughter was wondering just the other day if they had Nutella in France...it's a staple around our house). And thanks for the tips on the eggs, as both of them like eggs "well done".
My younger daughters biggest issue is seasonings (anything other than salt is "too spicy"...that's something we're working on) and sauces (other than ketchup). Honestly, if we tell her she has to eat a real meal in order to get dessert (and both girls have quite cosmopolitan tastes when it comes to dessert), she'll eat....but it's apt to take a while and be accompanied by faces (which I'd like to avoid for all of our sanity)...and anything that we make her eat over and over again before we go is more likely to be accepted when we go. England could be a problem as well...but we've actually trained them to eat curry, and they've eaten pub style food, so I'm hoping we can find a few things she won't complain about.

Posted by
1804 posts

Aside from crepes & omlettes, in Paris there are plenty of restaurants that serve up simple fare like roast chicken & potatoes. There are blogs, websites & articles online about kid-friendly dining spots in Paris for the picky and not-so-picky eaters. And if she lives on plates of fries with ketchup or sits around munching Pain au Chocolat for a couple of days while the rest of you eat your dinner, so be it... it's not the end of the world. My friend has 11 year old twin boys that used to be picky eaters, but rather than cave in & go out of the way catering meals to what they wanted, she started having them watch episodes of Andrew Zimmern's "Bizarre Foods" and the boys thought it was so cool that this guy traveled around the world eating strange crap that they did a 180 and started wanting to try some of the things they saw Zimmern eat on TV. I've traveled and dined with these kids in North America and abroad and have watched these once finicky eaters now chow down on everything from blood sausage, bull testicles, sweetbreads, tripe and bone marrow. They now desperately want to eat roasted sheep eyeballs (I have told them that they need to do that on their own as I will personally gag and quite possibly throw up watching them do that). Get her psyched now and maybe she will eat foie gras and escargot (even I balked at eating snails until I was in my 20s at a client dinner in a French restaurant and a plate was ordered for the table and I realized if you throw enough melted butter and garlic on them and don't think about what it is, they taste pretty good). In England, look for Pizza Express which is kind of like a Bertucci's. Or try Yo! Sushi (she may like the conveyor belt and they do serve cooked food like tempura or teriyaki). Marks & Spencer is also a good spot to hit if you want takeaway for a picnic dinner.

Posted by
1501 posts

Start now! Anthony Bourdain tells a story about him and his brother going to France with their parents, and both of them being such picky eaters that their frustrated and angry parents left them in the car while they went into a restaurant and enjoyed a lovely dinner. He said that that hungry evening they decided they would be more cooperative! A trip to Paris and London is a LUXURY!!! The kids need to cooperate. My grand daughter did because she wanted to go to Paris so badly, and I wouldn't take her until we had an agreement regarding her at least trying. Period. Make them make an agreement. Your trip and your restaurant choices should NOT be restricted by mini dictators who do not appreciate what a wonderful experience their parents are treating them to! You are paying for this trip and should be able to enjoy everything Paris has to offer.

Posted by
808 posts

My kid ate a lot of cheese plates (often off a dessert menu) or croque monsieur sandwiches. If we wanted to dine somewhere we felt wouldn't have anything he wanted we would stop for a few pre-dinner drinks where he could get a sandwich at a bar and then at dinner he would get a cheese plate of just a dessert. Also - every trip where ever in the world we are we ALWAYS seek out a McDonald's. If for nothing else than to see what Happy Meal toys they have.

Posted by
3109 posts

Sadly , as Ed points out , ketchup is used , albeit incorrectly . On frites , OK , on hot dogs , culinary sacrilege . I even have pictures of hot dogs in Paris smothered in it . Unfortunately , I recently experienced this same phenomenon in Bavaria , of all places !!

Posted by
2081 posts

Eleanor, This was my take on Paris and food. THere are awsome aromas everywhere. when youre hungry its so tempting to try everything. When i was young my mom would cook and if that didnt work out for us kids, you know what? We didnt eat. NO forcing or anything like that. It was up to us to try. if not we went to bed hungry. after a while we were willing to try things. Funny thing about hunger. The stomach seems to win everytime. Happy trails.

Posted by
11450 posts

Eleanor.. ah the misconceptions.. French do not like spicy foods( I do , which is why I found their chinese food to suck, very bland) so if you alreedy have kids eating curries ( not super popular in France) then I would so not worry about France..
As everyone pointed out, they have tons of basic stuff.. sandwiches, quiches, and lots of roasted chickens with fries..Kids will be fine. As a child my fears were based on eating some strange meat like horse or organs( yes , granny snuck both of those in on me) .. lol since I was with family they did eat foods that were not considered tourist mainstream.. this was many decades ago so no worries now. Nutella was invented in Italy believe it or not and VERY common in France. Many people rave about Nutella and banana crepes.. the thought of them makes my teeth ache,, so sweet, but your kids will find Nutella everywhere. I don't buy it for my kids so they tried it a few times in France and found it too sweet too.. but its at every crepe stand so no worries for you. I love the ham , cheese and tomato crepes , so you can have a grown up crepe and leave the kids to the sugar. Ps Crepes are always best fresh poured, watch at crepe stands before you order, I only get them from places that fresh pour for each order.

Posted by
403 posts

My kids would return to Paris this instant if they could have a croque monsieur (Grilled cheese to die for!!) with frites (fries) washed down with a fresh squeezed orange juice from the food court at the Louvre. They are still talking about that orange juice!! Seriously, France is very kid-friendly in terms of food. It's not weird or spicy, and there is some version of chicken and fries, or pasta or grilled cheese available almost everywhere. If all else fails, you can't go too far wrong with a buttered baguette. My 8 year old ate an entire one while waiting in line to climb Notre Dame.

Posted by
800 posts

Eleanor-as long as you are somewhat flexible as to what constitutes a "real meal" you should be okay. Bread and milk (or hot chocolate) for breakfast is quite common and should be fine for your daughter. My son was "normal picky" and ate plain salad (ie raw veggies with no dressing) and croque Monsieur for many lunches and dinners. He had two croque monsieurs once when they were small. He also ate pizza and we had REALLY great pizza in small towns in the dordogne. Of course he was the only one to finish his serving of foie gras...He also loved having a cheese plate at the fancier restaurants, and I was fine with him having dinner of bread and cheese. I agree that you should be sure you understand the menu terms ahead of time as food that comes slathered in sauces, even if it was just chicken, would have been a big turn off.

Posted by
1797 posts

I don't eat McD's at home but boy was it good in France. They are ten times nicer inside than the ones here and it was nice to occasionally have something easy and familiar. I want to go back and try more local foods but it isn't a sin to eat there also.

Posted by
2081 posts

@ Angela, I dont know why i forgot about the fresh squeezed OJ over there. On my recent trip, i had it as much as possible. In Bastogne i found a grocery store that had a fill it yourself dispenser. Just figure out how much you want and use the appropriate size container and it was waay cheaper than by the glass. One thing i wish was that we could get as sweet of OJs here as they seem to do over there. happy trails.

Posted by
10 posts

I'm not sure if your husband and girls don't eat pork for dietary/religious reasons or because they don't like it, but if the girls will tolerate a hot dog one of the best lunches I had in all of France as a teenager was a hot dog on a baguette with mozzarella cheese - they seemed to be serving them everywhere, and they were cheap!