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Dinner with an 8 year old in Paris

We'll be in Paris in December with our 8 year old. We very, very rarely eat in the sort of chain restaurants that people often think of when they think family friendly. We take him to everything from very casual to pretty nice restaurants. Not the fanciest, but the sort of place where adults put on something nicer than jeans to have a nice meal. (If by any chance someone is from the Westchester Cnty area, we wouldn't take him to X2O, but have taken him successfully to Le Provencal in Mamaroneck and Barcelona in Greenwich.)

We make it work by:

-going on the early side, somewhere around 6 PM, give or take

-ordering off the children's menu, not ordering him a separate dish and just giving him some of what we're eating or, worst comes to worst, getting him a plain plate of pasta and asking for some olive oil and salt to put on it, because he'll always eat that

-having raised a child who knows how to behave in a nice restaurant

That has all worked out just fine for us here in the NYC suburbs, in NYC and on vacation in various places around the US and in Toronto.

We won't eat out with him every night. Some nights we'll all stay in and some nights we'll get a babysitter, but it would be nice to take him out for dinner a few times. So. Paris, where I'm under the vague (and perhaps incorrect) impression that kids don't go out to dinner in restaurants all that much.

We'll be staying in the Marais and thinking way back to our honeymoon 15 years ago, I think Chez Janou is the sort of place we'd want to take him: good food, fairly casual, IIRC.

I know the restaurants don't really open until 7. That's ok, we'll put him on a schedule that allows for 7 PM restaurant meals.

How does a restaurant about Chez Janou feel about seeing a young child at dinner? Is everyone going to be happier if we take him to a different sort of restaurant or just don't take him out to dinner? If a Chez Janou type place doesn't work, what does?

I understand that we're not likely to find children's menus and that's not a problem at all. Any objections to just giving us a plate and letting us give him some of what we're eating? Or to just ordering an entree for him? Assuming there's pasta on the menu, would we give offense if we ask for a plain plate of pasta, a little olive oil and some salt?

Any other tips?

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  1. Children in Restaurants in France are very common, but you tend not to notice them because they generally behave well and are part of the meal. You may find 7:00 limits your restaurant selection as some may open a little later, children's menu's are rare most kids eat the same food as adults and I believe most places will adjust portion size.

    A good bet is "Fish" on rue du Seine in the 7eme. It is casual, relaxed and could be a good first meal in order to get into the swing of things and feel comfortable. The food is very good, and the staff speak great English

    1. Well, on other sites, I've been overbearing in my repetitious comments on this subject. My experience is that if children, from 9 months to 50 years, have "restaurant" voices, are willing to experiment and have sufficient distracters (stickers for the former; intellectual conversation for the latter) and parents are cool, French restaurants are equally cool. I've never had a problem and I refuse to compromise or dumb down (i.e. go to Flunch or Quick). Again, my experience is that they go out of their way to accommodate; bringing over (unrequested and unlisted) salami, mousse, ice cream, etc. Also, in the Great Recession, times of service have become a bit more flexible, in restos and markets - so it pays to ask? The worse that can happen is a "no."

      1. Marcia - We took our son to Paris when he was 8 and did just fine. Like yours, he was used to eating in non-chain restaurants stateside, had appropriate table manners, and was reasonably adventurous -- i.e., at that point, he ate fish (as long as it was filleted), roast chicken, steaks, and veal. We generally ordered him his own entree and dessert from the adult menu. I don't remember ever going to a restaurant with a children's menu.

        We never were treated by the owners or patrons with anything other than respect. It was 13 years ago, so I cannot recommend specific places. We found that as long as we stopped for some sort of snack in the late afternoon when our feet needed a break anyway -- ice cream, citron pressee -- he was fine going out to eat at 7:00 or 7:30. We just slept in a bit in the mornings, so that he'd make it untiil 10 or 11 at night.

        1. When a restaurant lists a "Menu Enfant" you should feel welcome, here are a few nearby: Le Bar a Huittres Bastille, L'Excuse, Le Traversiere, Chez Leon, Leon de Bruxelles and Le Caveau de L'Isle. You could also search for Cafes and Brasseries that don't shut down in the afternoon (most of them), especially those with a Terrasse. Most cafes can easily handle a "Mac & Cheese" order, as well.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Oakglen

            I got the impression the OP was looking for reassurance they could eat in good restaurants rather than need to seek out ones with kids menus...?

            1. re: PhilD

              I must admit that when I used to see a "

              I must admit that when I used to see a "Menu Enfant" that was a major negative indicator; however times are changing, even in Paris. Today even some of the most posh restaurants offer specials for kids. Pierre Gagnaire (30E) and Le Pre Catalan (30E) are good examples. My prior list was for the Marais area only.

              1. re: Oakglen

                Bernard Loiseau, Alain Chapel always had the most wonderful "menu enfants". They had to specify you could not have them if you're over ten.

          2. Well behaved children in restuarants are never a problem and generally quite welcome. Some of the really fancy restaurants have amazing children's menus as Souphie mentioned. In general most places will be accomodating to children. For example you can also get a portion of gratin dauphinous for example or something like that. And ordering an appetizer size portion of ravioli as a main course is never a problem with children.

            1. Marcia, we just spent a week in Paris during April with our 2 kids, aged 9 and 5. We didn't go to any "fast food" at all, but we did stick to smaller, less formal bistros and brasseries. Brasseries in particular were a big hit with our kids, who are big steak, stew, and roast chicken kids. Both our kids knew the "polite" words in French: the words for please, thank you, milk, and maybe about 10 others. We adults struggled along with my "menu French" and my husband's French-Canadian slang-y pronunciation. Even the crustiest old serving guys, without fail, were incredibly kind to the kids, once they sussed out that they were well-behaved and generally pretty excited to be eating out in Paris. They brought them little goodies to tide them over while waiting for meals, served them complimentary ice cream and cookies at the end of dinner, and invariably stopped all of us on the way out and thanked the family for our patronage and our interest in France and food. We didn't see a ton of French kids out for dinner, but we went early, 7 or so, and the ones we did see were conversationally chatting to the adults at the table; they didn't have their heads buried in a GameBoy, as is common here in the Boston area. Seriously, we did not have a single bad or questionable experience, as all the restaurant personnel were friendly and willing to explain whatever we needed explaining.

              2 Replies
              1. re: chachlilmum

                Thank you all for your responses. It sounds like we'll be just fine. I will add the restaurant suggestions to my list.

                1. re: marcia2

                  Hi, Marcia. My hat goes off to you for raising a child who isn't limited to "family-style dining". We live in Toronto and I'm curious where you ate when you visited our city. I took my son to Paris last year when he was 9 and had similar concerns during the planning stage. Everything worked out fine. In fact, having a well-behaved child at the table really allowed me to see how thoroughly Paris' fine restaurants train their staff. We had lunch at Le Pre Catelan and my son accidentally knocked over a glass container that had been balancing on the padded tablecloth. I watched in horror as it fell and cringed at the thought of the glass breaking in the quiet dining room. It never hit the floor. One of the waiters caught it in mid-fall, quietly replaced it and went on with his business. Everyone acted as if nothing had happened and at the end of the meal, the Maitre d' even presented my son with an autographed copy of the "World's Finest Restaurants". I was very impressed with their elegant service. Of course, the food on the tasting menu was excellent too.
                  Other places we enjoyed include: BREIZH CAFE (Marais) for crepes, oysters, great organic fruit nectars and flexible dining hours; LE JULES VERNE (at the Eiffel Tower) for lunch + an expensive but exclusive ride up the Eiffel Tower; LE SOUFFLE (near the Louvre); LE COMPTOIR (for lunch and weekend brunch); LE FIN GOURMET (on Ile Saint Louis, right across from the famous Berthillon ice cream store); and even the celebrated GUY SAVOY for the special Internet 100 E set lunch. Everywhere we went, my son was well accepted. We'll be in Paris this December too. Bon appetit!

              2. Last year we travelled to Paris with our (then) 12-year old who is well-behaved but an extremely picky eater. I had the same concerns as you did, but it worked out fine. The only chain we went to was Chez Clement which we all enjoyed. We also went to Josephine Chez Dumonet and Au Petit Marguery, in both places he didn't find anything appealing on the menu - except for desserts! - so asked for plain pasta with olive oil which was provided without the slightest hesitation.