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Help me Chowhound in France. How do you spy a great restaurant/cafe/patisserie?

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We are living in Vence for 6 weeks this spring to experience the culture, We will take a few day trips here and and there and spend time in Nice. Of course we have gleaned recommendations, but they are few in each place. Hoping this topic might be a use to folks all over France.

So how do you spot a good place to chow? For instance one guidebook says to never eat anywhere without the menu and prices clearly posted and to stick with places with French menus (rather than english). Here I know chowhounds peek in kitchens for certain ingredients, flours, or lack of certain types of shortcut food. Some look at the appearance of food or smell. So what do you look for?

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  1. I guess as far as patisseries or boulangeries go, if you see several that are near each other and one has a long line and the other doesn't, join the long line because that's usually the better place. I read that somewhere, probably the Julia Child biography My Life In France.

    1. Just follow your nose and if unsure, check your Michelin guide... To experience the French culture, all you need is to push the door of any restaurant, and you will soon learn! This beingsaid, Vence and Nice are hardly the best places to explore French culinary culture (a bit too sophisticated, and Mediterraneo-Italian may-be?)

      1. For a bakery, look for the words "artisan boulanger" somewhere on the storefront. That's a guarantee that they're not baking frozen dough from somewhere else.

        English on restaurant menus is usually not a good sign. Ask your host or people you meet for "une bonne addresse" or "une bonne table," which will normally lead you to places where locals eat. If you read French, look for online restaurant reviews using the word "avis" as part of your search phrase, i.e. "Vence restaurant avis" in order to get opinions of French people about a place. I usually find those to be much more helpful that reviews by tourists.