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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