HELP Finding Restaurants
I think you're right. I found trying to follow recommendations for eating in Paris overwhelming. The first time. The next time I made more of a project out of it and went equipped with maps and printed up recommendations in a folder. Helped a lot.
"for it is usually not worth crossing Paris for a particular bistrot and most of the time, there will be one nearby wherever your are." I find this to be true at home, and I believe it is true elsewhere, like Paris, if you're not going to a special place for a special reason.
Once you find the name of a place that seems interesting to you, you can Google it for information that's worth printing. Once you have an address for a place of interest, you can get a printable map off of mapquest. This way, you get an idea of what's in what locality. If you're planning a trip to Paris, you should have a guide book with maps and an idea of the location of where you are staying and even the locations of some of the things/places you hope to see.
There's also a map that is quite extensive but not nearly all inclusive.
you might also try searching with the http://www.viamichelin.com website. Each arrondissiment has its own postal code, like a zip code in the US. In Paris they all start with 750XX, with the XX being the arrondissiment number, so the 1st arr would be postal code 75001. You can key this in via michelin.com and get a list of restaurants in that area. The printed Red Guide is also divided by arrondissiment and has maps, etc to help you get around.
There is the list of the best bistrots parisiens on the Bottin Gourmand website, it is on a map, and imo the best tool for those who want to pick good bistrots, for it is usually not worth crossing Paris for a particular bistrot and most of the time, there will be one nearby wherever your are.
There are 20 arrondissement in Paris, the first is the center with Notre-Dame and les halles, and they spiral til the 20th in the north east. They have different size but usally crossing one is around 20min by walk. The one digit arrondissemnts are basically the center of Paris: 1 to 4 in on the right (northern) bank of the Seine river, 5 to 7 being the latin quarter and saint germain on the left bank (7 is big, include power centers, Eiffel Tower, Invalides). 8 is where the champs elysées and most starred restaurants are, finance and power district. Higher numbers are more residential, though not without touristic appeal. Fancier in the West (15 and 16), less so in the east (12, 13, 19, 20), though there are almost no lower-class neighborhood in Paris anymore. Most places mentioned on the board are in the 1-8 area.
You can cross the whole city walking in two hours east-west, one and half hour north south. Using the metro, no place inside the city is more than 1 hour distant from another, and usually less than thirty minutes for most of the places mentioned in this board. The website of public transportation (www.ratp.fr) will give you the best solution to go from one address to another at anytime, including maps and duration.
Google is often the easiest place to locate a restaurant or hotel, since it tries to integrate them in Google Earth.