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sharing meals in France

Next week, my husband and I fly to Paris to spend a month throughout France. We have shared meals in restaurants for years in the US to save money and maintain waistlines. Is this an option in France?

Posted by
8193 posts

If you are eating in a nice restaurant, which doesn't necessarily mean expensive, no, you do not order one meal from the menu and share it. That would not be okay here, San Francisco area, either. If you didn't actually mean a "restaurant" and it's somewhere casual, then it may be okay. Depends on how casual it is.

Posted by
8293 posts

OK, I'll say what no one else has said. It would be a chintzy thing to do in a proper restaurant in France. It would not be done where I live either. Order lighter meals than you would at home and as has been noted, portions are smaller than in most American restaurants. If you want to save money, buy some bread & cheese & fruit for a light supper in your hotel room.

Posted by
10943 posts

You'll find the portion sizes in France are much smaller than in the U.S. Our portion sizes here are ridiculous...nearly double what you'll find in much of Europe.

Posted by
552 posts

On vacation, sharing should mean going Anthony Bourdain style and ordering one of everything on the menu!

You can walk it off the next day.

Posted by
21647 posts

As others have pointed out it is not a good option in France. It is culture issue as much as anything. When you enter the restaurant take a look at what other dinners have on their plates and that provides a good example of portion size. You can be creative with what you share but if the idea is to order one meal and two plates, Not n good idea.

Posted by
8193 posts

It's not just a France, culture thing. Where I live, San Francisco area, it would be considered low class. And many restaurants would not even allow it.

Posted by
10344 posts

This exact question has come up before, and in particular, it came up at a time in the past when a Paris resident was a regular here (unfortunately, she's no longer active on this forum). Her opinion was the same as everyone else's (the above replies, so far):

she said a Paris restaurant would not be a good place for a visitor (or local) to try this--that it was likely to cause unpleasantness. And also was not necessary, because in general serving size in Paris is much smaller than in the typical US restaurant.

Also, when this question has come up in the past, it has been pointed out that, due to the size of servings in Paris, even if the restaurant allowed it, you would likely walk out hungry.

Posted by
552 posts

Wait!... for the price of a cup of coffee, can't you park yourself as long as you want at any sidewalk cafe?

If I'm buying beverages (huge markups) especially a bottle of wine, no one better tell me it's low class to just nosh on an appetizer or two while I sit and enjoy the view from my high-priced perch.

You don't have to split a "plat principal" to eat light. Here's a frugal haiku for you, kathleen.


Order a salad,
Slurp on a scrumptious sorbet,
Then call it a day.

Posted by
689 posts

Bill, a cafe is much different than a restaurant in France. I'm guessing you could get away with it in a cafe, where as you pointed out it's perfectly acceptable to not order food at all (though I probably wouldn't ask for a whole other place setting). I would not do it in a bistro, brasserie or restaurant. I also would never do this in a decent restaurant in the US and have never seen anyone else do this either, though in the same vein, it's fine to do this in very casual places in the US.

Posted by
552 posts

Using Seattle as an example, I'd go to a posh place like Crush or Zoe, and have no problem ordering exclusively from the appetizer and salad side of the menu.

My wife and I share everything, passing the plates back and forth several times.

What about people who come into a nice restaurant after the theater, just for dessert and coffee?

All the restauranteurs I know are just glad to have the business. $14 glasses of wine or terrines of custard do wonders for the profit margin!

Posted by
21647 posts

Why is it that Bill's response doesn't surprise me? No one says you cannot do it. It is just that it mostly likely will be unacceptable and may cause some unpleasantness BUT if you are willing to accept that, then do it. American tourists have probably done worse things than split a meal.

Posted by
8293 posts

But, Bill, with all due respect, Kathleen, the OP, is going to Paris, not Seattle.

Posted by
2193 posts

But is it acceptable for one to share a glass of "el calvados" with a partner when skipping the beaches and sipping this sweet brandy in Normandy? Sorry, Bill...I couldn't resist.

I agree that a distinction should be made between nice restaurants and other establishments with an eye toward what's acceptable when considering the local culture. This is true anywhere, including San Francisco, Paris, or Des Moines for that matter. Sharing a dessert in a nice place is different than sharing a meal. In my opinion, sharing an entree in a nice restaurant is generally not acceptable anywhere. Paris? Even more so.

Susan: Just remembered a great Spanish tapas place in the Russian Hill neighborhood where sharing is more than okay...Zarzuela.

Posted by
3551 posts

In France in general it is NOT acceptable.
Every time I try it becuz I am not that hungry the waiter or other ee of restaurants makes it unpleasant or ignores and brings me 2 orders instead of one. We eat and go and do not linger so I cannot reason w/ it. Best just not do it unless you are ordering take away.

Posted by
689 posts

Yikes, Bill, I certainly would not do it at Zoe or Crush in the dining room. This is what restaurant bars are for--THAT is an appropriate place to go if you just need a glass of wine and appetizer. You do not take up a table that could be occupied by someone ordering dinner. When I've had dessert at good restaurants I've usually also been directly to the bar, though if it's 11 pm after the theater it could be slow enough they'd seat you in the dining room.

Posted by
8193 posts

Yes, in a trendy restaurant where you order many little dishes, or a restaurant where you order several appetizers, or a Tapas restaurant, for instance, share as much as you want. Of course it's totally okay in that situation. We're not talking about those situations. The OP said "restaurant"...not a cafe, not a Tapas bar, not a Sushi place, not a Chinese restaurant for Dim Sum...a restaurant in France. Even here, you (ok, maybe you would :), let me change that to...a friend and I would not go to a nice restaurant, be seated, order one appetizer and one entree...then, when the waitperson brings the one appetizer, the two of us share it. Then, when the one entree comes, each of us eat off of that one plate, sharing that one entree. Then, ask for the bill, pay, and leave. I just wouldn't do that, and many restaurants would not allow it. Yes, some restaurants would, because they are desperate for the money. IF we go to a foreign country, a la Rick Steves, to enjoy, experience, soak up, be a part of their culture, we should be respectful. We should not be "Ugly Americans" and do something there that is not appropriate, and I might add, not appropriate here either. I was a waitress for a couple of years and if someone came into the restaurant I worked in and did that, we would all be talking about it and I guarantee you, waitpersons and chefs have their ways of getting back at you. And if you knew what their ways are, you would not want to eat the food that is brought to you. That is also true of customers that are rude and unpleasant, even if they don't share one meal between two people.

Posted by
552 posts

Since when is having a cheekier outlook than most considered trolling?

I guess I'm just used to talk pages that are a little more outrageous (some here may even say profane) than this one.

Don't forget, I'm also the one who likes to roll Anthony Bourdain style.

Surely you'll agree that spending lavishly is no guarantee a cranky wait staff won't spit in your food anyway.

Unless someone is going to tell me flat out that upscale = uptight in the French restaurant industry (it would be sad to think that's true), I'm going to take the same casual approach to dining over there as I do here in my home town.

Posted by
552 posts

The ability to edit creates non-sequiturs.

The outrageous talk threads don't allow for editing.

Posted by
21647 posts

Bill, since you have a cheekier outlook I assume you know and understand the meaning of that word --- insolent, boldly rude or disrespectful, effrontery. And you are correct that there are "talk pages" where that is the accepted behavior. Always thought that this site had a little high intelligence level and greater decorum among the vast majority of the posters. I assume the other sites are more appreciative of your cheekiness. To me, cheeky people are boring.

Posted by
552 posts

I apologize for my tedious effrontery.

I leave in thirty hours. There will be no boredom inflicted on Frank for most of September.

I'll bring back pictures of all the cranky chefs and wait staff that suffered through my insolent regard for their craft.

Posted by
552 posts

BTW, here's the definition from my computer's dictionary software...

cheeky |' ch eke|

adjective ( cheekier , cheekiest )

impudent or irreverent, typically in an endearing or amusing way : a cheeky grin.

Posted by
8193 posts

Hey Michael...Zarzuela...I'll check it out! Thanks :)

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks to all for your sage advice. We're off to France for September. Au revoir!

Posted by
3 posts

My husband and I share a complete meal ALL THE TIME. We live in a posh northern suburb of Chicago and do this in the city of Chicago and the suburbs. It is not "low class"; it is how we deal with the overly large portions served at many, many restaurants. Would we do this at Charlie Trotters, or similar? No. We usually order an appetizer, salad, entree, dessert, coffees, and wines.
We did this at fine restaurants in San Francisco and Sausalito and Carmel. No one batted an eye.

If the portions are smaller when we go to France, we will not employ this strategy. You should do what works best for you.

Posted by
21647 posts

Nina, you woke up a six month old discussion that was long past. The discussion was about sharing meals in Europe and not Chicago. We share meals all the time in the US but it is not as acceptable in Europe. Which was the point of the discussion.

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks to all for their input - even those who joined the game late! :) My husband and I have been back 4 months now from France and we had a wonderful time. We travel for a month (not the usual American 2 weeks) so we really have to budget to enjoy our foodie tendencies. Usually we ate in informal bistros and would share something like a pizza and salad(e.g., at a Rick's recommendation in Sarlat.) If we went to a formal restaurant, we would order our own meal and often we picnicked. Bon appetit!