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Mar 24, 2009 04:06 PM

First time musts.

My wife and I will be visiting Paris, May 15-20. We are staying in the 6th. This trip will be primarily centered upon food. During the course of my research (chowhound, zagats, travel guides, food guides, blogs, etc.), it's become abundantly clear I won't be able to visit a fraction of establishments on my now voluminous list. We aren't particularly looking at any Michelin starred palaces nor any "cheap eats". Just excellent French fare (traditional or nouveau). We also like casual, convivial atmosheres (loud rooms don't bother us near as much as quiet ones do).

Since we'll be there 5 days, we're looking at as many as 10 meals (lunch & dinner). So, these are ten we're considering. Any I should add or delete? Any would be better for lunch or dinner. Your comments and suggestions would be very welcome and appreciated.

1. Chez l' Ami Jean
2. Chez Denise
3. Christophe
4. Bofinger
5. La Cerisaie
6. L'Oulette
7. La Regalade
8. Le Comptoir
9. Chez Dumonet
10. La Fontaine de Mars


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  1. I can only speak to the ones I have been to:

    1) Chez L'Ami Jean/La Regalade - both are excellent and worth a visit. And as your trip is some weeks away, you will still have time to get a dinner reservation.

    2) Chez Denise - Good food with reasonable prices, relatively large portions, and great atmosphere. It certainly meets the criteria for casual, convivial, and loud. In essence, you are sitting with other diners.

    3) Le Comptoir - If you are going to go, probably easiest for lunch. Lots of comments of this board about this place.

    4) La Fontaine de Mars - Haven't been since 2007, so my comments aren't very current. But, based on my experience, there is better food to be had in Paris. But, it is a very traditional bistro with decent food, nice location.

    13 Replies
    1. re: shopwinedinefine

      Please forgive the interjection, BayouTeche, but you will be in Paris the week before I, and I'm curious about shopwinedinefine's comment that "you will still have time to get a dinner reservation." Perhaps you are also.

      How early do people generally make reservations for lunch/dinner? Is eight weeks really necessary for a(n in-demand) bistro? I didn't think I had to worry about this until about a month out, max.

      1. re: Leely2

        A month is usually enough, particularly in these recessive times.

        Bayou Teche, your whole selection is good to excellent but, while I don't know you, I don't think you can handle two such meals a day over ten days. Day 3 and you'll be dreaming of a light salad as only meal of the day. Maybe you have an intensive fitness schedule in-between meals planned? Even then, you run the risk that the last places you try will feel mysteriously much less good than the first.

        In my opnion, le Comptoir can go -- it has no place in a top ten of the city. Bofinger is very nice but not a food destination. La Cerisaie is also very nice (this time not in an historical brasserie kind of way but in a six tables bistrots run by a couple kind of way) but not worth the wow in my opinon.

        To be fair, I never went to l'Oulette.

        1. re: souphie

          shopwinedinefine - Thank you for your input. L'Ami Jean, Regalade and Denise are at the top of my list.

          souphie - Appreciate your reply. We will actually be in Paris for 5 days. Agreed, we will not be able to sustain a full lunch and dinner every day. But, I figure we will do 5 dinners and maybe a couple of lunches. If we have 10 solid places to start with (as opposed to 200), we can work within those confines.

          Removed from list: Le Comptoir, La Cerisaie, l'Oulette and Mars. Moved up: Le Petrelle, Aux Fins Gourmets, Racines and l'Auberge Bressanne. Better?

          1. re: BayouTeche

            Another vote for Chez Denise, festive, welcoming, and very French. Best to go there when one is hungry, try to save room for the delicious desserts (easier said than done).

            1. re: BayouTeche

              l'Oulette is quite good, does not get much attention on this board, I guess because it is not at all centrally located, takes some effort to seek it out. For SW style cooking I say it is every bit as good as Au Trou Gascon, very reasonable prices too.

            2. re: souphie


              We will be there as well and wondering which of these might be open on Sunday evening. We fly out the next day so are looking for this type of place for Sunday. Since most French restaurants do not have web sites, it is a little difficult to check this out. We were thinking about L'Ambassade D'Auvergne for Sunday. What do you think? We are staying near Boulevard Montparnasse and know that La Coupole is just around the corner. But would prefer something else; we are willing to travel by taxi or the metro.

              1. re: Pammel

                Get a Michelin Red Guide or look these up on Michelin is very reliable with regards to listing days and hours or operation.

                Specifically, Ambassade d'Auvergne does have a website and is open Sunday, here is a link:

                I ate there once but have never been compelled to return. In my opinon the aligote they are famous for is overhyped, good but not the thing of dreams some seem to indicate. Staying in Montparnasse, I would eat at La Rotonde or Monsieur Lapin, both open on Sundays both have websites.


                1. re: f2dat06

                  I also had lunch once at Ambassade d'Auvergne. I had some white soup (cauliflower, if I remember correctly) that was absolutely heavenly, but the main dish (some kind of fish and potato casserole) was only average. I have no recollection of the dessert. Rather crowded, too; I had to share a large table with chain-smoking strangers (this was some years before the no-smoking law).

                2. re: Pammel

                  Besides La Rotonde, I recommend Le Parc aux Cerfs, Rue Vavin (right behind Le Sélect). Open on Sunday. Wonderful neighbourhood bistrot.
                  3 courses around 30€.

                  1. re: Dodo

                    My amended list follows:

                    1. Chez l'ami Jean
                    2. Chez Denise
                    3. Christophe
                    4. Bofinger
                    5. La Regalade
                    6. Josephine-Chez Dumonet
                    7. Le Petrelle
                    8. Aux Fins Gourmets
                    9. l' Auberge Bressane
                    10. La Rotonde

                    1. re: BayouTeche

                      I love Aux Fins Gourmets, which doesn't get a lot of praise on this board. Their cassoulet is heavy, hearty and rich. Mmm! Good harengs and confit de canard, as well. I once saw Bernard Henri Levy there!

                      1. re: BayouTeche

                        In this list, Christophe, probably Bofinger, l'Auberge Bressane and La Rotonde are open sundays. Since this is an issue too, the ones open on mon are 2-3-4?-5(dinner)-6-9-10

                        1. re: souphie

                          Excellent! Thanks for the tip. I was just thumbing through my books for just that info.

            3. Thanks for me as well for the information on the restaurants open on Sunday for dinner. I have an unpleasant memory of quite a few years ago when I first experienced most restaurants being closed on Sunday evening in Paris. We drove from Geneva to Paris on Sunday through Burgundy. I wanted to stop to eat but was vetoed as some in our group wanted to get to Paris in time to go to Monet's garden in Giverny because we were flying back to US the next day. I was assured we would find a great place to eat in Paris. Well we didn't and I have not forgotten that experience. I have been back to Paris many times since but restaurants come and go and their schedules change. So definitely want to check it out first.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Pammel

                Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. In the next couple of days, I plan on making our dinner reservations for the 5 nights. The 5 we're leaning toward are, l'Ami Jean, Chez Denise, La Regalade, Josephine and Le Petrelle. The other 5 on the list, we will try to squeeze in a couple of lunches. One question about lunches.....are reservations recommended for most of these places for lunch as well? And are any preferrable for lunch over dinner?

                1. re: BayouTeche

                  Chez l'Ami Jean is preferrable for lunch because it is less packed and less rushed. (Food and wine are the same). Same for la Régalade. Reservations are always smart.

              2. I would consider going to chez Robert et Louise. Its a unique fun place with excellent(lots of it) food.

                4 Replies
                1. re: porkpa

                  Yes, we're considering Robert et Louise as well. It does seem "unique".

         many little time.

                  1. re: BayouTeche

                    When I want everything in a menu, I close it and order what I remember. Try that with restaurants.

                    1. re: souphie

                      All dinner reservations made. Thanks to everyone for your suggestions.

                      Fri - Josephine - Chez Dumonet
                      Sat - Le Petrelle
                      Sun - Cristophe
                      Mon - Le Regalade
                      Tue - L'Ami Jean

                      Cheers ya'll!

                      1. re: BayouTeche

                        If any of those dinner reservations are early and you are eating somewhat lightly that night, going to Chez Denise at around 1 AM is one of my favorite experiences in Parisian dining. The place is filled with workmen and very voluble people, in the best possible way. It becomes a very large party and everyone is included. Food passed around and whatever. l try to do it once each trip to Paris.