here's a blog entry by a favorite food blogger, david lebovitz, on some favorite restaurants in paris, including some tips for visitors on dining out in paris... he's a former chef from the famous chez panisse in berkley, now living in paris, so i definitely trust his recommendations. i had trouble finding really great restaurants while we were in paris - we didn't do enough research, and didn't know whose recommendations to trust when we were there. we had a few good meals, but i am keeping my ear to the ground from now on for our next trip someday. i've quoted his post below, for future reference in case the post were to disappear... i hope he doesn't mind. also, check out his site for more restaurant recommendations, and his personal tours of paris with chocolate and markets in mind. what could be better than having an expert guide by your side, leading you to all the best chocolate in paris? that's right up my alley!
(by the way, his cookbooks are amazing... especially room for dessert. yum!)
Several of these are also not fancy places. Sure, many people come to Paris for fine-dining, and you can find many of those addresses floating around guidebooks and online. But sometimes you just want a big plate of vegetable salads instead of half a carrot garnished by a shredded basil leaf with a dot of saffron sauce. I've included a few stand-by, reliably decent restaurants in case you happen to be in Paris on a Sunday, when many places are closed.
Before you start, here's a few tips when dining in Paris:
- It's always a good idea to reserve a table. Even if you arrive and the place is virtually empty, they like to know you're coming and you'll get a warmer welcome. Unlike the US, often you can call most restaurants that afternoon and get in easily. Hot restaurants, or ones that are fancier, you should call about a week in advance, or longer. Don't bother using email links on most restaurant's websites here since you're unlikely to get a response.
- Don't be embarrased to order wine or water by the carafe. You probably think you'll feel like a cheapskate...but get over it. If you look around, most of the Parisians are doing the same thing. And yes, the water is safe to drink in Paris. Why do people keep asking that?
- Adding a tip is not required, but in spite of what you hear, most people leave a little extra for good service. If the check is 28€, you could leave 30€ if you were pleased. Or if your meal is 95€, you could leave 100€. But remember that it's not required and if they don't bring you back your change, request it. I've had a few places pull that one (in Paris and in the US.) It's rude and presumptuous.
- LIke anywhere in France, always say Bonjour or Bonsoir when entering a restaurant, and when you leave, say Merci. Preferably add a Monseiur or Madame along with it.
- Many restaurants have 'deals' at lunch, or fix-price menus that are often a bargain. Some have them at dinner as well, and they're generally a good value.
- Please, do not bring out your hand sanitizer at the table. Do your grooming in the bathroom.
- No one has doggie bags, so don't even ask. (Although a friend of mine showed some cleavage and got one. Once.)
- No one has ice, so don't even ask. (Ok, well, you might get one or two. Wear something low-cut if you plan to ask.)
Rôtisserie Beaujolais 19 quai des Tournelles, tel 01 43 54 17 47. Grilled and spit roasted meats, and typical French fare. In the 5th. Avoid seats just next to the opening to the oven...it's très hot and they like to stick out-of-towners there, who they think won't complain. But I do since they invariably lead me to it. Open Sunday night.
Chez René 14, blvd St. Germain. Tel 01 43 54 30 23. Great French classics. The best Coq au Vin in town, with a sauce as smooth as velvet. If you don't order the fix-priced menu, be prepared for a lot of food. It's quite an experience and the cheese plate(s) is/are insane. Dinner menu, approximately 40€. In the 5th. You didn't hear it from me, but there's a clear brandy digestive hidden behind the bar...with a snake in it!
Cuisine de Bar 8, rue Cherche-Midi (M: Sevres-Babylon), tel 01 45 48 45 69, in the 6th. Open-faced tartines, or sandwiches, served on pain Poilâne, the famed bakery next door. Order the 12€ formule with a salad, tartine (I like the one with sardines and flakes of sea salt, or poulet with anchovies), a glass of wine or bottle of water, café and a spiced cookie. Very casual yet chic. And friendly. No reservations...lunch only. If the wait it long, they'll often pour you a welcome glass of wine.
L'As du Falafel On 34, rue des Rosiers in the Marais (M: St. Paul), closed Friday night and Saturday for the Jewish holidays. The best falafel anywhere! Join the crowd clamoring at the window. A dive & definitely a must...decent frites as well. One dining room is non-smoking. No reservations.
For something vegetable-oriented, Chez Marianne in the Marais at 2, rue des Hospitalieres St. Gervais, tel 01 42 72 18 86. Come here for decent Mediterranean salads. You choose a combination plate of 4, 5, or 6 salads. This is a good address to know about if you're craving something without a lot of meat. Perfect with a bottle of house rosé. Approximately 20€. Reserve, or wait for eternity. Can be a bit smoky, but open every day and night.
Chez Omar is one of my favorite restaurants in town. Specialties are couscous and they have excellent steak and French fries as well, but I always have the roasted lamb, or méchoui d'agneau. Very lively, no reservations. Open daily for lunch and dinner, as well as Sundays. If you go for dinner, be prepared for a wait after 8:30pm. Don't let any Parisians cut in front of you! A simple shove with your shoulder, followed by a very apologetic "Oops! Pardon" is usually all it take to get them to recede. Do it firm enough and you'll only need to do it once. Trust me. Moderate prices, which do seem to keep climbing each time I go. In the 3rd, at 47 rue de Bretagne. (M: Temple or Arts and Metiers)
Another great couscous place that's less-hectic is L'Atlas, with fine Moroccan food. Feathery light couscous and savory tagines. Skip the first courses. Not fancy nor too pricey considering the fine food and gracious service. DIne in the lovely tiled dining room, or outside in fine weather. Located at 12, St. Germaine des Pres. Vegetarians will love the large selection of seafood tagines. Tel 01 44 07 23 66 (M: Maubert-Mutualité), in the 5th.
Bistrot Paul Bert 18, rue Paul Bert, tel 01 43 72 24 01 (M: Faidherbe-Chaligny) Out of the way, but definately worth going to. I love this restaurant. Some of the best desserts in Paris too. Offers a 3-course fixed menu for 32€. In the 12th.
Les Papilles 30 rue Gay-Lussac, tel 01 43 25 20 79. Wine bar and light, 'market-fresh' food. Menu approximately 30€. In the 5th. Small portions, but cheerful staff.