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Paris Dinner Reservations- required?

Hello! I'm making my second solo trip to Paris this May, and on my previous trip I often wussed out of eating out for dinner because I thought reservations would be required just about everywhere. Are the rules really so strict about dining out alone in the evening?

Posted by
9110 posts

What rules? There's no such thing. Maybe I've missed something, but I've been eating in Paris off and on for a gazillion years, a good chunk of it alone. I've always left well-fed. Only a couple of times have I eaten where reservations are required since most of them are over-rated, over-expensive, or over-touristed. Try a neighborhood brasserie for an interesting feel and good grub at a reasonable price.

Posted by
4 posts

Ironically, I think I read too many guidebooks before my last foray and freaked myself out.

Posted by
9110 posts

Aha! There are rules after all. Rule 1: Ignore guidebooks, especially about eating. Rule 2: Read history instead of guidebooks.

Posted by
689 posts

You certainly can eat many places, like cafes, brasseries, bars, etc, without reservations. Those kinds of places don't even take reservations. And you could eat happily and well that way. But some places, you do need them. You need reservations for Michelin starred places, definitely. There are many wonderful one-starred places in Paris that are actually good values, so don't rule them out because "starred" sounds intimidating. It is considered polite to make them in better restaurants that don't have a star as well. The chef likes to know how many people he'll be feeding on any given night. I've been told by restaurant staff that they are happy to accept walk ins, but that the walk in diners may not get that free starter that all the other tables get, or they may not be told about certain specials that are limited.

Posted by
253 posts

After about twenty trips to Paris, with an average of three nights there or more, I can never, for the life of me, ever remember making a single dinner reservation.

Posted by
4 posts

I work retail so anything starred is out! Seriously though I feel much better now. One of the books I read even suggested asking for a table for two then pretending to be stood up rather than requesting a table for one! Crazy.

Posted by
358 posts

When in Paris I try to eat around 7:00pm which is early for Parisians. My favorite places to eat are in the 4th and 6th districts. In the 4th L'AS Du Fallafel is a great place for lunch packed with people or Pizza San Antonio. In the 6th I like Marinara's which has very few tourists and mainly Parisians and the pizza/pasta are excellent.

Posted by
253 posts

Well, I guess it would only be fair to add a caveat to this. My wife spent a week in Paris until I showed up, so she ate out by herself nightly. She chose not to go to anything too fancy, simply because the Parisian dining scene really is not comfortable with single diners. But while it was at times awkward for her, at other places they treated her very well. So it just depends. The smaller bistros were the better ones.

Posted by
1986 posts

There are wonderful local bistros all over paris - just get off tghe main streets. Ask at yiour hotel. wander around and make a note of any that look interesting. I have found amny many places where they seat you at long tables- they just fit you in where there is space. The food and the company will be enthralling

Posted by
4 posts

I'm staying at the Citadines in St. Germain, so it puts me right smack in the middle of things. I'm thinking I'll avoid the Rue de Buci though. When I went wandering there on my last trip it seemed more "see and be seen" to me.

Posted by
4684 posts

Sorry to disagree a bit with people, but I would recommend reserving for anywhere with a food price over about twenty euros on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night, and definitely reserving at any time if it's a place you really want to go to.

Posted by
146 posts

I have never made a reservation in Paris except for the Eiffel Tower restaurants. If you are around the 15th arrondissement, try Je The'....Me. It's a flat 25 euro for the three course menu. It's awesome. As I sit here eating my cup-o-noodles at work, I can still remember the Baba cakes with the hot scalded cream and rum reduction on top, with a side bowl of cold whipped cream! OMG! It's on Rue D'Alleray. Was there in January and it was cold and the wind was howling. Cozy and warm inside! And I think they are closed on Sundays and Mondays, but I cant remember for sure. Good wines too.

Posted by
355 posts

Do you eat out in Chicago? I'm from San Francisco, and the dining scene in Paris is pretty similar. I can't imagine a city like Chicago would be much different. There are restaurants that require reservation. There are restaurant that won't even accept reservations. And there are restaurants that take reservation, but will seat you without one, if they have an available table. I have never had a problem without reservations in Paris. But I have also made reservations for dinner in Paris. If I see a restaurant I may want to try, or have heard good things about one, I will ask the hotel front desk to make a reservation for me. As I said, I find Paris dining to be similar to any large city.

Posted by
8393 posts

I didn't realize how cheap we must be. We never make reservations in Paris. We always manage to find a local run place; found one on the rue du Rivoli under the arcades (the only one; it's on a northwest corner), one on the rue St. Honore, and even off the Champs Elysee. Look for handwritten menus instead of multi-lingual print. You will always be welcome at these types of places, Anjali. Staff will talk with you, or if you want, just read a book or kindle. If you pull out a guide book and ask a question, everyone will give you tips.

Posted by
4534 posts

The main reason for making a reservation is that many restaurants are very small and dinner is a several hour event. So if you see a place that looks good and you like the menu, stop in and make a reservation so you aren't disappointed later. Otherwise, just try any place that looks good and see if they have a table. Earlier is better as the Parisians will eat more often after 7:30. And bistros/cafes are always accommodating.

Posted by
4534 posts

PS - Since you will dine alone, be sure to bring along a book to read or journal to write in. Dinner is a slower service than we are used to and it can be awkward just sitting alone waiting for the next course.

Posted by
920 posts

Anjali, go read "Tom's Guide to Paris"; especially his dining section. Lots of fun and not so expensive places to eat. If you have any questions, send Tom an Email.

Posted by
56 posts

One reason to make reservations is for the discounts. Friends have tried La Fourchette (the Fork) http://www.thefork.com/3_restaurant/Isle_of_France_restaurant/1/ while in Paris. It is a restaurant review site, and some of the listed places have very significant discounts if you reserve on line. I just looked at the site, and there are 581 restaurants that have "special offers" listed. We are going to give it a go next time.

Posted by
8393 posts

In Mark Bittman's Paris travel article in the New York Times today, he talks about tweeting reservations to a restaurant. He says the chef wasn't happy about it, but he was with local foodies so the chef got over it quickly. He also describes people at another restaurant sharing the different courses in a meal because the portions were so big. This never used to be done. Tres faux pas. Times are changing in France.

Posted by
1437 posts

If you are going to be using Groupon.fr vouchers, advance reservations will be required, with the restaurant wanting the voucher's code. I am finding these to be a decent good value option for one or two meals that can be planned for ahead of time. Some really good savings to be had - but be careful to check the reviews with Qype, Cityvox or TA before committing. I will be using some of these the next time that I'm in Paris and Nice this Spring. The only problem with these, as far as the OP's question goes, is that these offers are usually for two diners....