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Jun 14, 2006 12:01 PM

paris, a backpack and internationally renowned restaurants

  • p

this might be an odd request, but as someone who is desperate to try to get in all the experiences she can... this is what it comes down to.

i will be backpacking with my sister for a few weeks through europe and will have a few days in paris. expenditures will be running high but i'm willing to blow a wad of cash on a fantastic meal in one of the internationally renowned restaurants in paris. i'm thinking around a max of $200 US/CND (nearly the same the way we're going right now!) but lower is better since my sister is on a much more limited budget.

my main concern is that i will look like a dirty backpacker. which major estaurants in paris might be ok with this? how much might it cost? is it open in august or the first week of sept?

thank you so much for any input you may have.


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  1. I think it would be helpful if you can be more specific on what you will be wearing for a meal while you're in Paris. I don't think any major restaurant is "ok with a dirty backpacker" nor might you feel comfortable eating in one of them.

    7 Replies
    1. re: PB

      clothing i would be comfortable doing intensive travelling in. we won't be bringing any nice clothing like heels, dresses, dress pants, or frilly tops that will only be worn once during our trip. at best, maybe some nice jeans, and a nice sweater. only clothing that will be able to be worn while trekking or biking across a city.

      as long as i'm not dining beside someone in tuxedos and gowns, i'll do fine. but if i won't be welcome then i'd prefer to know in advance rather than build up a portion of my trip around a restaurant.


      1. re: pinstripeprincess

        I assume what you're refer to as ‘internationally renowned restaurants’ as those rated as 2 or 3 star in the Michelin Red Guide. Most of these restaurants are fairly dressy (most men in jackets and ties and women in dresses or slacks) but I've seen guests, including myself, in dark jeans with a shirt/sweater. But I must confess that we are a minority. For Parisians, shoes are very important, therefore, a great pair of jeans with sneakers will stick out like a sore thumb. Of course some people can carry this off and still look very chic.
        On your budget, lunch would be your option. Many of these restaurants offer a 75E (or approximate) prix fixe lunch consisting a choice of an entree (what the French call our first course), a main plate and dessert. Some will also include a cheese course. There are usually 3 or 4 items to choose from for each course. Then you will be serve petite fours and chocolates to finish the meal. This menu will not have luxury items such as lobster, turbot, caviar but the ingredients and cooking are still excellent. Dinner or ordering from the regular menu will cost at least three times of a prix fixe lunch. Wine and drinks are not included in the price but service and tax are. Here are a few suggestions: Restaurant Le Meurice, Taillevent, Le Grand Vefour, Carre des Feuillante, Le Bristol, Les Ambassadeur at Hotel Crillon, Ledoyen, Le Cinq. Don’t be turned off by restaurants in hotels as some of the best are housed in them. Most of these have a website that will give you a sense what they are like, sample menus, and their hours/days of operation. Pay especially attention to their annual closing which frequently occurs in August. Some have a dress code stated on their website but they are lax as long as you are presentable. I think they are more so with female guests because jacket and tie for men are so easy to enforce. The hotels generally have more than one restaurant, so make sure you choose the right one. The one that is of interest is their signature top of the scale one. There are a few recent related posts. Just search down for:
        NYChowhound in Paris has a few posts on lunch at Taillevent
        Le Meurice for 45 Euros; the restaurant that you want is Le Restaurant and not the one with the
        45 Euro menu
        Paris Les Ambassadeurs.
        If you are not too self-conscience of being a bit under-dressed, make a reservation, go for it and enjoy yourself. It’s only a meal.

        1. re: PB

          You will not find a 3* restaurant in Paris for dinner close to your price point.
          The lunch suggestion is best.
          You will also feel more comfortable in your very casual clothes.
          3* in Paris are more formal than most places, and some people really dress up.
          On the other hand, I was at a wonderful 2* rest. in Milan last month, and at the table next to ours, the man was wearing a suit and sneakers, and the lady was wearing something like a dressy track suit.

          1. re: erly

            thank you for your input, i knew that $200US was probably a bit low on the scale for anything 3* but i thought i'd give it a shot. will just have to do it another time around with someone who sees the value in it and has a fatter wallet.



            1. re: pinstripeprincess
              Bill Strzempek

              My two cents. You know there are so many great great "world renowned" bistros and brasseries in Paris where you would be comfortable in what you're wearing and where you'd have memorable meals that include dishes as sophisticated as some of the starred haute places, why put yourself through the potential anxiety of being the sore thumb in the room and just pick a few great bistros instead?

              I wanted to say something else, but I don't want to sound insulting or be impolite, so please don't take my comment that way. Others may disagree with my view, but it's how I feel about dress codes and it goes to the point of all of us tourists "fitting in" and being respectful of social customs and mores in other countries.

              In this case, it's the social experience of Paris. There is an "unspoken" social agreement and social expectation one enters into when dining in 2 & 3 starred places in Paris, and that includes participating both in receiving the enjoyment of the experience, but also in not diminishing the experience for others. I think if your fellow diners who are nicely to extravagantly dressed up and may have waited a year to dine in perhaps gilt-edged splendor for a special occasion were to be seated next to or directly facing rumpled backpackers in sneakers (not saying that you'd be rumpled or in sneakers, just for an example), some of the enjoyment of your fellow diners' experience would be diminished, and that's really not fair to them -- at the prices they are paying they are entitled to the best experience possible, that's why there are dress "codes" in the first place, it's really a social "code" that is meant to inform the clientele of what the unspoken mutually agreed rules are to maintain a top level experience for all diners in a top level restaurant. It's similar to going to the opera, one enters the hall and is expected to be silent during the performance so as to maintain the quality of the experience for everyone else, that's the "social agreement" there. It's not a dress code at the opera, it's a silence code. If it is broken, the experience is diminished for others.

              All that being said, if you do go to the starred places in your casual wear, you should expect the service to be as warm and professional as if you were in Chanel: you're paying the same money those in Chanel are. If you go that route it probably wouldn't hurt to have a word with the host beforehand to say "sorry we can't dress up, but it is our dream to eat here," I'm sure the flattery would be very appreciated.

              1. re: Bill Strzempek

                not to sound indignant, and i'm going to chalk it up to the forum and the fact that one cannot properly express themselves in a simple 3 line query nor can they intone anything... but while i appreciate all the answers, i do understand how this whole dining experience works.

                i asked simply to ask, in my opinion it generally doesn't hurt.

                if those who have dined in such places in paris don't believe that it would be acceptable then i'm quite happy to reserve it for another time when i won't be on a backpacking style trip. but i don't know such things as i don't exactly hop over to paris often. i have respect for restaurants and what they try to offer, however, if there was one that was perfectly fine with very casual wear then i would love to hear of it. admittedly, i have dined in one of the better restaurants in my city to have a couple other patrons sitting in hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts. it was a bit disturbing to say the least, well until the food arrived, but i didn't feel that we would be that extreme.

                i'm not offended in any way, nor would i expect worse service due to style of dress, i am just disappointed that it isn't a likely option for this trip but will await the next to try out a high profile restaurant. instead i had already decided i would have just done some serious hounding at the brasseries and bistros.

                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                  It is possible to pull off starred restos in Paris without a jacket or formal dress, if you look really cool or famous. For men, that usually means trying to look like Keith Richards: jeans, exotic skin boots, messed up hair, tight black t-shirt, stubble, earings. For women, it's a toss up between funky (but neat) or sexy. If you can pull off either with the attire you will be bringing, go for it.

                  If it doesn't have a star or has only one, I am not sure that even taking a shower is required these days.

    2. I just visited Paris with my daughters, both of whom were dressed rather casually (tank tops and sweaters, for example) most of the time. We felt totally acceptably dressed in Ze Kitchen Gallerie (and had a fine creative meal at around $100 per person, including wine and apertifs) Just take a little jewelry along to wear (women in paris do dress with style) and you will be fine at the tier of restaurants below the formal, starred places.