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Foodie 1st time in Paris - what to not miss, and what to run from?

Hi everyone!

I'm very new to these boards, and trying to plan a trip to Europe with my husband. We are traveling this spring (Late April/Early May), and one of our stops is Paris for 4 days. We would like to find at least one excellent "fine dining" restaurant, and the other three to be good food at more reasonable prices (bistros, etc.) that are good value for $.

The most important thing to us is that we feel we get a good feel for what authentic French fare is - the best Paris has to offer. We really want to stay away from tourist traps/chain restaurants, if possible. We are looking for the recs that would start "When in Paris, you can't miss _____ restaurant" or "When I go to Paris, I always eat at _____ restaurant." Feel free to include statements of "Steer VERY clear from _______ restaurant - it's (bad service/bad food/ bad atmosphere/super touristy/no value for the $$$)." You know what I mean...

We are also comfortable with having our "main meal" as a lunch, and a lighter dinner, if that works out better for the restaurants recommended. Also, we would love some recs for places we can pick up some great baguettes and cheeses on the fly, and some great patisseries as well.

In addition to Paris, we will also be traveling to many cities in Italy, so we don't particularly need a recommendation for Italian (unless it is simply not to miss!)

Thanks so much in advance, for all of your help and knowledge! I should mention that this is our very first trip to Europe. We've been to almost every major city in the US without much problem, but for some reason, planning this trip overseas has thrown me for a loop!

I will be following up with questions for the other cities that we are visiting, on the appropriate boards, too (London, Florence, Siena, Venice, Rome), so any help you can give is greatly appreciated! I promise to come back and write a full report! :-)

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  1. As the possibilities in Paris are endless, I would suggest you do some research on this board and come back with a list of some places that appeal to you. You will then get opinions on these and suggestions for possibly better choices. Your idea of having the major meals at lunch is a great way to try some of the best and most expensive restaurants without breaking the bank. L'Astrance and Carre des Feuillants are two of my favorites for a wonderful lunch for half the cost of dinner.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rrems

      Thanks - I know that I am a little vague with what I am looking for, but to be honest, there have been SO many great suggestions, that I was looking for what a person might call "the quintessential Paris experience" if there is even is such a thing.

    2. Okay, to clarify my original post, we are looking for one big splurge "night" (and that can be for lunch, too) at a 2-3 michelin star restaurant. Thank you so much, rrems, I like both of the suggestions that you gave for lunches - we will definitely try one, if not both! I am assuming we need reservations, even for lunch, at these places, correct? Or can we walk in, given it is lunch, weekday, and in late April, early May?

      Also, are there some restaurants that are a little more on the reasonable side - I've heard good things about Flora, Julien, and Au Bascou, but I would welcome any more ideas.

      Hopefully this helps all of you to help me! :-) I'm still a newbie on this site, and I really appreciate all the advice!

      1 Reply
      1. re: FoodieNess

        You will absolutely need reservations for lunch, though not as far in advance as for dinner. The best restaurants are always very busy. L'Astrance especially is rather small so it gets booked up.

      2. If you want a WONDERFUL little place that caters to locals, consider Au Fil de Saisons. I tried this place during a trip early this year after reading about it on Chez Christine's blog (link below) and it's definitely on my list of places to revisit. The house special duck cooked for 7 hours, with foie gras melting on top of it, has been the stuff of my dreams ever since that meal. The tab for two of us for dinner, three courses each and a bottle of wine, was under 100Euros - a great value for the quality. This is a tiny place, so be sure to reserve in advance. http://chezchristine.typepad.com/chez...

        On the same trip this year, we had lunch at Taillevent, which was wonderful. We ordered the 70Euro menu and felt not an ounce of deprivation. The food was wonderful, the wine was sublime, and the service was incredible. Definitely an experience to remember.

        One of the nice restaurants in Paris where I've dined several times is L'Oulette, though we didn't make it there this year. They are justly famous for their oxtails and foie gras wrapped in cabbage (so yummy), but everything there is wonderful. They have a menu of coffees and you can choose the one you want (hmmm Ethiopian tonight, or maybe Hawaiian?) They also have wonderful herbal teas/tisanes. If you don't want dessert, you can have a flight of Armagnac, and they bring you a plate of mignardises anyhow (chocolates and sugared almonds). Depending where you are staying, the main shortcoming is the location - - the restaurant is in Bercy, near the soccer arena, which is off the beaten path. It's a short walk from the Metro station to the restaurant, but it can be a long Metro or taxi ride depending on your point of origin. This is also a good value for the quality - dinner for two would probably be in the range of 150 Euros.

        Browse the board - there are loads of posts like yours with advice offered.

        1. I think Savoy is quintessential Parisian, and that would be my recommendation for your fancy meal (reserve the 100eur internet lunch menu). I would also consider Senderens (see reviews of both on my blog -- www.julotlespinceaux.com). For other meals, I would advise La Regalade and l'Ami Jean as bistrots, Wally for couscous (officially considered the main popular course in France according to a recent survey). All of them very Parisian and very delicious. And then allow for improvisation as well.

          2 Replies
          1. re: souphie

            I have been researching more and more for my "Big Splurge" meal - I feel as though time is running out! I wasn't able to get a reservation at Le Comptoir, so I know that it will be difficult to find others in short time.

            I've read souphie's blog on Senderens, and it sounds delicious, and right up our alley. Do they have a Prix-fixe lunch menu? It might be out of our price range otherwise...

          2. You should stop by Laduree for hot chocolate and macaroons. I especially like the Rue Royal location. Also try a falafel from one of the places on Rue Roissiers (sp??).

            1 Reply
            1. re: LulusMom

              forget the falafel nonsense, its a tourist trap..its horrible

            2. Great ideas, all! I do like the idea of trying couscous (I've hears a lot about that trend) and L'Oulette also sounds right up our alley, so to speak (good food, good coffee, and a flight of Armagnac with chocolates and sugared almonds? What's not to like?) And the duck at Au Fil de Saisons...well, that sounds like a little piece of heaven!

              So, on another note (and I might start another thread entirely on this...) I will be in Paris on May 1st, which is Labor Day, and l'Ascension this year. Yikes!!! Is anything going to be open? I know the museums will be closed. Will the restaurants be open? What would you recommend we do/see that day?

              1. I'm new here (in fact I registered just to make this post) but I had to recommend Cave de l'Os à Moëlle. My SO and I ate there in 2006 and we will eat there when we return in September and every time we are lucky enough to be in Paris. It is table d'hote ( a family style restaurant). You share tables with other people and eat what is placed in front of you. We had more food than we could eat, plus deserts and cheeses, for around €35. It is part of a wine shop so you pick your own bottle and they pour it for you. It was just such a unique experience, not to be missed in my opinion. We met wonderful french diners and the conversation was as great as the food.
                The other thing I would recommend is eating street food when you can. The crepes and paninis are so good and relatively inexpensive.

                5 Replies
                1. re: cat111719

                  I have not been to Cave de l'Os a Moelle, but have been to l'Os a Moelle, the slightly higher priced and more standard restaurant. The decor is typical bistro but the food is exceptional and contemporary, and the price of 36 euros for a 5-course meal with several choices for each course is a great bargain. I am happy that your experience at the wine bar was positive also. These are great finds.

                  1. re: cat111719

                    Thanks for the rec - nice of you to register just to add something to this post! I'll look into both restaurants. Wonder if they will be available during Labor Day, that could be nice...

                    1. re: cat111719

                      What is it like eating at the communal table at Cave de L'Os a Moelle if you're french isn't terrific? Would you still recommend it? How about for single dinners?

                      1. re: jasmine

                        I think it's fine if you don't speak much French. If you get there early, there won't be many other diners, if you prefer that. When I ate there, the hostess spoke some English and explained how things work. I quite enjoyed my meal -- the starters (carrot salad, celery remoulade), soup (incredible -- I believe the chef is known for his soups), and desserts were great. In comparison, the main was terrible, but the other dishes made up for it.

                        1. re: jasmine

                          When we went there, there was a group of Japanese travelers who kept to themselves and a young french couple. We hit it off with the French couple although the wife spoke very little french and I spoke even less french. Somehow, the wine seemed to help us understand each other and it was without a doubt one of the most memorable nights of our trip. I think it would be perfect for someone dining alone, especially if you try to speak even a little bit. I found everywhere I went that if I even tried one French phrase, people were willing to overlook my horrible accent, grammar, etc. and start a conversation. I love my boyfriend but I can talk to him anytime. To actually meet and have conversations with some local people, to me, is what traveling is all about.

                        1. where is the Cave de..... at least an area? or is there a website.. I can look that up....thanks..

                          1 Reply