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Eating out in Paris,

I have been to Paris before , but only with my daughter, who was too young for most places so we tended to just eat on the go.
This year for our wedding anniversary in September I am returning with my husband.
I haven't ever eaten or ordered in restaraunt in Paris.
My French is very poor, trying to learn all the time, my husband has none whatsoever.
I am so nervous about giving it a try, we have also limited tastes, ie, being from Ireland, we're used to our meals consisting of potatoes, veg and meat.
I would love to go for a meal on the night of our anniversary, but worried about embarrassing us.
Any help or advise, probably end up getting a crepe somewhere..I usually just chicken out of these situations.
Oh another thing, we're not wine drinkers, we usually just have a beer, is this too a big no no , and I'd say not liking wine it must be insulting to the French.

Posted by
1806 posts

It's surprisingly easy to order in restaurants even with extremely limited French. I ate in many restaurants well outside the tourist zones in an effort to save money (eat where the locals eat and the prices are cheaper and the food tends to be much better). I have pretty limited French.

Learn a few very basic phrases (i.e., "I would like" - then insert name of dish or just point to the menu, "Please bring me...", etc.).

Buy a menu decoder so you can recognize some of the basic terms for fish, steak, potatoes, chicken, fruit, etc.

Bistros in Paris serve up some nice meals that are pretty simple, but still very good - roast chicken with potatoes, carrots and the like. I found the majority of the time if you are really struggling to order something, the waiters recognize you speak English and immediately start talking with you in English (they genuinely appreciate any effort you make at speaking French, even if you mess up).

The French are not insulted if you don't want to drink wine. It is perfectly acceptable to order a beer, water, Coca Cola, coffee - whatever you want, they do not judge you if you skip wine with your meal.

You might feel a little more comfortable if you try ordering a few meals in some smaller bistros or cafes before you move on to a more formal restaurant for your anniversary dinner.

Posted by
1455 posts

Ellen, I just got back and I know zero French. I tried my best and if all fails, I just ask "parlez vous angeles?".

You'll find plenty of potatoes, meat and veg. I had a variety of meats from chicken, lamb, pork, beef, and my favourite... duck! YUM!

Beer was served in most places we went. I don't drink wine, and was able to order regular tap water and bottled water.

If you stay in Paris, you should have no problem finding someone who parlez vous angeles.

Posted by
852 posts

Hi Ellen,
... using your mouse, copy the above link and paste it into your Internet search box. Then click on ENTER on your computer's keyboard. When you have the home page of Tom's Guide To Paris on your screen, find the EATING icon and click on it. There will you find many questions answered. If you have unanswered question(s) click on CONTACT ME and email those to Tom. bon appétit! P

Posted by
66 posts

Thanks for replying guys.

I was on my last visit able to approach a French person and ask ''Parlais Vous Anglais?'', I found the French so mannerly if you make the effort.
Why I was on shaky ground here is the fact that I 've always been led to believ the French are the elite when it comes to dining out.
Also my french is at the stage where I can read it and after a few moments can translate in my mind, by piecing words together, but I'm not yet fluent enough to translate as a French person speaks to me. I find French to be a very fast language, but then as I've been told so is English to someone who doesn't speak it.
anyway thanks for your help, I'll keep in mind all your advice.
Merci Beacoup mon ami

Posted by
101 posts

Hi there Ellen.
I bought Rick Steves French Phrase Book and Dictionary. Its pocket sized so easy to carry around. When I get a few spare moments I browse it and learn some new phrases.
The book is broken up into useful chapters like Eating, Travelling, Drinking etc. And it has a menu or rather food related word decoder. Easy to read and follow.

Posted by
74 posts


there's no need to be nervous (and I'm the biggest fraidy-cat there is!) The other posters are right: there are plenty of ways to get a good meal without your feeling snubbed. You might want to check out a semi-chain called Hippodrome; the food is not gourmet, but it is good. No matter where you are, consider the plat du jour; you will save money and get a good meal. I did eat potatoes in Paris, and they do serve vegetables. I tend to eat poultry rather than red meat, and I was fine.

I am neither a beer nor wine drinker, and I was fine. I mostly ordered Orangina (their orange drink, which is good) or maybe a Fante Orange soda (it tastes better there than here, or even Coca-Cola. (their Coca-Cola tastes a little bit different from ours, because theirs uses sugar rather than corn syrup as a sweetener.

I found that the trick in Paris was to start in French: "bonjour, monsieur. Je ne parle pas francais. Parlez-vous anglais?" and then finish the conversation with "merci" and "au revoir." I only met one person who disliked this, and that was a public toilet attendant in the Luxembourg Gardens -- and even he helped me.

Please don't stress about this part of your trip. Everything will be fine.

Posted by
506 posts

Per request - an answer regarding beer.

The French too have attempted to make a good lager, but I would stick to your hard and true favorites. Yes, you can buy a Guinness here as well as a few other lovely variations. Skip the Kronenberg and 1664 - these are local and nothing less than piss water.

It is most common that beer is an aperitif drink. But there is nothing to stop you from ordering one with dinner. The only place I could see this as insulting is a high end restaurant, where the wine list and food are often pared to compliment each other.

I suggest trying le Trait d'Union in the 6eme on rue de Rennes. It is on the corner of Rennes and Vaugirard across the street from metro Saint Placid (#4) looking up the hill at Montparnasse. Try the upstairs seating, usually a bit quieter. This is considered a local institution - once a Moroccan restaurant the cuisine has changed with a bit of the old decor remains.

You will be able to find your meat and potatoes, they often serve lamb, veal, beef, chicken and fish meals. Salads and desserts are not bad either. Why this place, it is French but not too French and accommodating. They have a good bar and nice atmosphere - prices and food are moderate.

Le Trait d'Union
122 rue Rennes Paris 06
Téléphone : 08 99 69 06 38
reservation usually not needed - but on a weekend it is worth a call.

Posted by
448 posts

Ellen..i just live in France and am no expert..but i think you'll be quite okay going out for a veg, meat, potato meal..Don't be afraid!!...Even restaurants with "subtitled" menus serve nice food...and RE: ordering wine...After the waiter takes your order he usually says " et pour le boisson???"...and you can ask for beer or water or whatever...which i can assure is not insulting to the French..Perrier is still quite popular..

Posted by
335 posts

Ellen, I know very little French but managed very well in restaurants in Paris by following a few simple rules: Learn a few phrases, use them, be polite, and then ask if they speak English. Also, avoid any with English menu translations (usually tourist traps) and buy a menu translator such as the great little Eating and Drinking in Paris. I use this all the time - it has a list of recommended restaurants (I tore this part out since I don't use it) and a dictionary of food terminology. Oh, and follow the hint I picked up on this list several years ago and have all your travel books spiral bound. This makes them MUCH easier to use! Enjoy your special trip.

Posted by
32 posts

I've found that most of the restaurants in hotels (particularly the larger ones) have English on the menu. And there are MANY excellent (even "best" rated Michelin restaurants) in hotels. We ate at the Brasserie d'Hotel du Louvre for lunch yesterday and they had an Eng menu (and a kids menu!). Another tip: if you want a draft beer (rather than bottle), order a "pression" you can either get it in a 25 cl or 50 (just say petit or grand or 25 or 50).

Posted by
448 posts

I've been to several good and interesting restaurants in Paris and can say that just because they offer a menu in English (or a language other than French) it is not a tourist "trap"...usaully it's just a way to be more welcoming..

Posted by
16 posts

So, I am currently in Paris and will be here for several weeks. Anyone who has a recommendation on places to eat I would be very appreciative. I am a woman traveling alone so, might not feel comfortable in too fussy a place. Also, the shrinking dollar has me being somewhat careful. Still, I'd love some ideas. Taking out from the bakery and grocery store is getting old quick.

Posted by
10344 posts

Linda: Go to www.viamichelin.comclick Tourism Restaurants Hotels tab at the top ribbonlook for the box on the left, in it select Restaurants tabinput for location Paris 750xx with xx being the arrondissement you'd like to dine in, for example, paris 75005 is the 5th the price range and cooking type you'd likehit searchfor extra special recommendations from Michelin, also check the Red Guide box, before you click Search

Posted by
66 posts

Question for Linda ??
so if I ask for ''une pression grande , sil vous plait'' is this right..