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Sep 21, 2009 01:34 PM

Non touristy in central Paris. Impossible?

Sorry, I haven't had much luck with meals in Paris. The best meals I've had so far were Lebanese and Indian. Whenever I go into a bistro, it ends up being 7 language menu and poor service with high prices. No I do not want spaghetti bolognaise!!!

Alas, I have to spend one last day passing through Paris on our way home from our Lille-Leuven-Rouen trip and would like to know if anyone out there can recommend something worth visiting on our last night.

Preferably withing walking distance of Notre Dame, as we'll be staying just on the left bank near the Seine.

Thanks so much!

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  1. While in Lille give L'Huiterie a shot, l enjoyed it a lot last year. Near ND on the left bank, if you like offal, a charming restaurant called Ribouldingue is 100 yards from Notre Dame on Rue St Julien le Pauvre. Chez Denise on Rue Prouvaires in Les Halles is a longer walk but a wonderful bistro, certainly still walking distance, about 800 meters.

    1. Whilst it is impossible to find a place in central Paris that doesn't hasn't been discovered by at least one tourist, it is actually very simple to avoid the "tourist traps" with multi-lingual menus and poor food.

      This board is full of such recommendations, in-fact I would be surprised if any of the recommendations would be tourist traps. Do some searches there are lots and lots of great places within an easy walk of where you are staying, but do avoid the back lanes of the Latin Quarter at all costs, it is tourist food hell.

      28 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        Thanks! I'm researching now. Just FYI, I tend toward hearty, peasant type fare (boeuf Bourguignon, Cassoulet, etc) if that helps. I'm not a fan of offal though.

        1. re: currycue

          Rotisserie du Beaujolais, Chez Christophe, Chez René, l'AOC, Le Pré Verre, Le Pontoise, Fish, Le Comptoir Odéon, indeed Chez Denise are all nice bistrots within walking distance.

          By the way, thank you for making my point that you don't eat well in Paris unless you chose the places you go to well.

          1. re: souphie

            No, thank you so much!

            As I'm passing through, I'd like to give Paris another chance. Something that will make me reconsider my dislike for going there!

            For example: Stoufvlees in Antwerp (carbonnade a la flamande), Canelones con brandade de bacalao (in Barcelona) Tapas at Casa Alberto (Madrid) are some of the great surprises I've had so far.

            Hoping for something Parisian that will compete. Fortunately (or unfortunately) we have access to a lot here in Toronto, so wheras someone from small town USA might be impressed by a patisserie, I can walk to mine from my house. I want true local specialties that I either can't get at home, or would be much cheaper than at home.

            I will certainly report back on what I had!

            1. re: currycue

              <By the way, thank you for making my point that you don't eat well in Paris unless you choose the places you go to well.>

              I quite agree. And that means not leaving your meals to chance and "drop-ins." Paris is not about "drop-In" dining. We always make a reservation at least a few hours ahead, and never at multi-lingual menu places. ;-O

              1. re: ChefJune

                La Ferrandaise excellent and just by the Luxembourg Gardens. Stunning food and not too hideously expensive either. Also for something pretty authentic and not too touristy and about a 20 minutes walk from where you will be staying L'Auberge de Saint Roch (just off the Rue St Honore) very good, and very reasonable.

                1. re: ChefJune

                  That's too bad it's come to that, but I suppose it's to be expected if "everyone in the world" wants to go to Paris. I really hope my home town never gets like that. I'd move immediately.

                  1. re: currycue

                    Funny you should say that, currycue, because some friends went to Toronto this spring and thought the food was just awful.

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      Lol, don't get me wrong. There's some god awful crap in town. You really have to go looking for the good stuff, but it's there.

                      If I were going to NYC, for example, I wouldn't eat in Times Square and judge the food in NYC by that standard.

                      Toronto's strength is in it's hearty, authentic "ethnic" cuisines and you get very good value for money here.

                      Unfortunately chain restaurants dominate over here, but you often find really good stuff when going to independent restaurants.

                      Recently came back from Rome, and although we did eat in some touristy spots, you wouldn't know it from what we ate. I really resent feeling like a target or sucker when travelling abroad, and it's happened to me one too many times in Paris I guess.

                      The last place that comes to mind was a very beautiful Art nouveau cafe, I believe on the boul. St. Germain, north side, just before you get to the church and Deux Magots, etc. Awful service, staff seemed amused by us. Mediocre brochette and rice, 90 euro. I should have cussed their mother, lol.

                      1. re: currycue

                        <it's happened to me one too many times in Paris I guess.>

                        and it will continue to happen if you stay in the touristy center, around the usual tourist attractions. You just won't find a great bistro across from Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, or on the Champs Elysee. OTOH, I have never had a bad meal in Paris. not even mediocre. But I choose my reference sources with care.

                        1. re: currycue

                          "Lol, don't get me wrong. There's some god awful crap in town. You really have to go looking for the good stuff, but it's there."

                          So, Paris is really no different to Toronto then? You eat well at home because you know the good places and avoid the bad. The same is true in Paris, the problem you are having is a lack of research. Paris has 45 million tourists each year, most are not discriminating diners and so there are lots of cheap, average to bad restaurants catering for them, and they proliferate in the tourist hotspots like the 5eme.

                          I guess you are referring to the Art Deco "Café de Flore" on Bld St Germain, well you chose a very expensive, very high end tourist restaurant that has a pretty poor reputation for food, it is the old hangout of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir and so is a tourist mecca. Most Parisians simply go there for a (very expensive) drink as it is the middle of a very wealthy area. There are quite a few restaurants in the streets around here that are good, simply do some research. I would do the same when I visit any city. Often the best restaurants are not on main streets, especially if you are looking for cheaper options, and some of the better new openings are in out of the way places (like the 15eme) or obscure streets (Frenchie at 5 rue du Nil).

                          Paris is a city that repays a visitor who researches and books ahead, good restaurants will fill up (with locals as well as tourists) and so taking pot luck is very risky. It is also a very expensive city (that is simply demand/supply economics) so don't expect bargains for great food.

                          1. re: PhilD

                            No it wasn't Cafe De Flore, it was before the church. I believe the name started with a "V" From the outside it appeared to be the real deal. Anyway, The rotisserie and L'AOC look nice, so I may give either of them a shot for sure. I've had lots of wonderful pastries, ice cream and snacks in Paris, it's just the meal portion I've had difficulty with. I'm sure you can get some great meals at higher priced restaurants, but with my track record so far, I'm a little nervous about spending too much to be disappointed again.

                            As for Toronto, it's really hard to compare cities. We get so much less tourism than Paris that there are much less tourist traps here. If someone at a French bistro here treated customers like that, the food critics would "rip them a new one" in the paper and they'd be out of business very quickly.

                            1. re: currycue

                              If you head east along Bld St Germain from the church you hit 2 or 3 bar/cafe's which are popular drinking spots for young Parisians but I wouldn't recommend them, I suspect you stumbled upon "Restaurant Vagenende" which I have walked past many times but never gone in (I lived in the area).

                              A good rule of thumb in Paris (and many big cities) is to avoid eating on the main tourist streets: Bld St Germain, Champs Élysées, Rue de Rivoli etc. I wouldn't be nervous about following recommendations from the board especially if they are frequently mentioned (I am always suspicious of one off mentions).

                              1. re: PhilD

                                IMHO, it is certainly possible to find that special something in Paris which you'd dream about later. It's just that discovering your own Paris is a rather arduous process and for those of us who earn in ever declining dollar, it gets expensive fast. I am in Paris every other month or so but it hasn't been easy finding restaurants we like. After a year of trial and error though, I finally feel like I am quite happily situated in Paris and no longer (not so) secretly wishing that I were in Italy.

                                What makes this board great is that you can tap into the knowledge base of posters who had many years of trial and error. :)

                                1. re: kikisakura

                                  Thanks for that kikisakura! I've only spent a total of about two weeks in Paris over the past few years and although I still maintain that the city just isn't for me, I can't help but wonder if maybe I'm missing something. I've stayed in the 12th, in Barbes and in central Paris and still, I don't really see the big deal. After I saw the monuments I wanted to see, the daily Paris experience just doesn't do it for me I guess. Whereas some people see the city as perfectly beautiful, I see it as bourgeois, sterile and lacking soul. Possibly the result of Baron Hausmann's work in the late 1800s or the final insult, the destruction of Les Halles. Here's hoping I can either find something worth hanging my hat on or maybe just cementing it for me as a place I'd rather not be.

                                  France is a large country where I can enjoy a marvellous meal and experience (looking forward to La Couronne in Rouen) without staying in the capital.

                                  1. re: currycue

                                    Well, if you haven't had good food in Paris, then indeed there are fewer reasons to enjoy the city, , especially if you're not into museums and history and more interested in the way people live --- people live less and less in Paris. That said, I wouldn't disagree with your assessment of Paris. Nevertheless you seem to have some kind of prejudice here. Paris is fancy and aristocratic, it is the spirit of the city and has been for centuries. The current frenzy for bistrots is just a different sort of snobism.

                                    We have some of the best food in the world and that is a major appeal of the city -- the major appeal for many. You need to put in the effort to find the good place and have the right experience, or you'll keep thinking Toronto is the food capital of the world.

                                    So my suggestion is -- get yourself a good food programme, preferrably with friends, and start again from scratch. There are some excellent food tours out there.

                                    1. re: souphie

                                      That's not a bad idea, thanks! I do have a prejudice I guess. Paris was the first place I visited in Europe and if it wasn't for visiting Amsterdam and then Barcelona, it might have been the last. That said I'm willing to give it another try. I certainly don't think Toronto is a food capital. We are improving daily, but have a very long way to go! I'd say it's up there in North American terms, but that's about it.

                                      1. re: currycue

                                        Funny, not trying to start an argument, but l lived in Toronto for 5 months a few years ago, and IMHO it doesn't hold a food candle even in Canada, let alone the USA. Vancouver and Montreal were far superior in almost every regard, eventough they are smaller cities. Loved the shopping in Chinatown in Toronto and a few of the restos there, but for the rest, did not ring my bell. Then again, l am very prejudiced in favor of Paris for most things. Today read for an hour or so in the Palais Royale, how much more beautiful can you get;

                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                          Talk about hidden treasure. No one told currycue about the wonders of sitting at the Palais Royal on a nice day, did they?

                                            1. re: ChefJune

                                              Thanks again all of you! I promise to research carefully and will report back on Oct 12. Souphie, thanks for your frankness and honesty regarding Paris. Most people I speak to seem to see it through rose coloured glasses. It's true that no place is entirely good or bad. Delucacheesemonger, I suggest in terms of beauty, going down to the Graslei in Ghent at sunset with an ice cold Kriek and a few slices of oude Brugge cheese.

                                              1. re: currycue

                                                Agreed Ghent is a lovely city, did it on a beer tour many years ago, so?

                                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                            No argument really, it's just a preference thing I guess. Personally, I like French cusine but can't say it's my favourite. That means a lot seeing as it's the basis for many cooks' training. I'd take a good, fresh Masaman Thai curry any day over a steak frites.

                                            That said, I LOVE my pastries, cheeses and quiches and good coffee. This city is big on variety. That's what I miss the most when abroad. So far, I haven't found anywhere that tops Spain for me in terms of food. However, they're sorely lacking in variety.

                                            1. re: currycue

                                              It's not only the city that is aristocratic, the food is as well. Average French food is plain bad. When they talk about French cuisine, they don't mean everyday food, like they do when they talk about Thai or Italian or many others. Good food is available in France and in Paris, but not ubiquitous by any standard.

                                              1. re: souphie

                                                Ah, so you're saying it is worth it to spend a little more for that experience. Keeping that in mind, is there anywhere within a ride on the Metro that would be a good, safe bet to go to for something otherthan standard bistro fare, say around 150 EUR for two (or less) with wine? I don't mind a trip if it's worth it. (I do it all the time at home, in fact, last year, I made a pit stop in Antwerp on the way back to Amsterdam from Ghent, just to have the Carbonnade a la Flamande at "In De Gloria" once again. And it was totally worth it!)

                                                1. re: currycue

                                                  You might consider one of my favs in the wilds of the 14th. Le Grand Pan essentially serves three things, a wonderous Cotes du Boeuf, Cotes du Veau, and Cotes du Porc all for two and all with 20 wines served from cask.

                                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                    Ditto. Or Chez l'Ami Jean, La Régalade, Joséphine, Le Quincy, Le Sévero.

                                      2. re: currycue

                                        Going to Rouen, currycue? One of the best meals I ever had was at the restaurant Gill in Rouen, about 5 years ago I think.

                                        I agree that some of Paris might appear bourgeois and sterile to some people (parts of the 8th and 16th spring to mind), but IMO the city is so varied that it has something for everyone. If you've only spent two weeks there, aren't there a lot of areas you haven't visited?

                                        1. re: fanoffrance

                                          Of course there will be. But coming from where I live, that's a big trek across the ocean just to spend more time in a place that didn't really do it for me in the first place. There are many other cities I'd also like to visit. I will say though, my favourite part of Paris was the marche along Rue Mouffetard. Lots of local character!

              2. I’ve been watching this thread for about 24 hours or so. When I first saw Ribouldingue mentioned by Delucacheesemonger, I felt an urge to second it. (Although certainly not for everyone, this past June we very much enjoyed this little place.) Then I noticed currycue’s post, noting “I'm not a fan of offal.” Well, I’ll hold off, I thought. And then I saw souphie’s post listing a number of other worthy places in the targeted area, and I thought, what can I add to that? As usual, not much. So I sat. But still later I saw PhilD’s comment: “I wouldn't be nervous about following recommendations from the board especially if they are frequently mentioned.” That put me over the line.

                For future readers of this thread who may be open to offal, I’ll say: I still recall the lamb’s brains at Ribouldingue. And the fellow behind me ordered a great looking bone marrow dish. Aside from us, no English was spoken all night. We had to resist mightily the urge to return in the short week we were in the city -- and yet we have resolved to book again when we will next be there in February.

                Also note: Even for the non-offal eaters at your table, Ribouldingue might remain a possibility. My wife, Mo, ordered the beef cheeks (excellent) -- and that’s not really offal, is it? On top of that, there was even a fish dish (not that this is a place for fish). But now I feel better.

                Jake Dear

                1. After reading through all the back and forth, I am perplexed about why you are staying in Paris near Notre Dame for a day before your departure. Unless it's a friend's apartment or something?

                  Depending on whether you are flying out of CDG or Orly, perhaps it makes more sense for you to stay and eat somewhere north or south of central Paris? When you say central Paris, I am assuming that you mean within the confines of the peripherique, or you mean?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: souvenir

                    Yes, actually I am leaving early enough on a Monday morning that the direct Rouen-CDG train leaves too late for me, so I decided to train into Paris on Sunday, so I can leave early enough. As I still haven't seen the Sainte Chappelle yet, I figured I'd slip it in.

                  2. I have 2 recommendations that meet your criteria and are walking distance from Notre Dame. The first is Le Comptoir du Relais on the Left Bank very close to the Odeon metro station. It's a very small restaurant getting rave reviews, and I had quite a delicious meal there a couple weeks ago. The only down side to it is that it only takes reservations if you are staying at the Relais St.-Germain Hotel. Otherwise, it is first come first served. I know, you're thinking "I said 'not touristy' and he recommends a place in a hotel". Trust me - this is authentic food in the best possible manner for discerning palates.

                    The second recommendation is Mon Vieil Ami on the Ile St. Louis. Very rustic, hearty French fare in a very old and scenic building.

                    Both are walking distance to/from Notre Dame and on the left bank.

                    If you're willing to invest a litte more time and take a taxi, I can heartily recommend Le Pre Catalan, in the Bois de Boulougne. Had one of the best meals of my life there, also a couple weeks ago.

                    Let us knwo where you end up going and what you think of it.

                    16 Replies
                    1. re: edwardspk

                      Just returned from Paris & enjoyed fabulous food!

                      Le Perraudin, 157 rue Saint Jacques, 5th, was FABULOUS! BEST pasta entree (appetiz.) of tiny cheese ravilois in frommage blanc--DIVINE & should be split. This is my favorite bistro in Paris with excellent food, wine & service.

                      Chez Julien, 16 rue Mabillon,6th, tiny restaurant w/incredible food. BEST onion soup, entree of "pastry stuffed w/eggplant,tom,mozz & herbs" comes as a terrine with no pastry & it is heavenly.

                      La Cremerie, 9 rue des Quartre Vents, 6th,cool/tiny wine bar w/food,reserve.

                      Le 24, 59-61 cour du commerce Saint-Andre (allee off St Andre),6th, Guillame,waiter, BEST coq au vin w/garlic potatoes.

                      Josephine Chez Dumont, 117 rue du Cherche-Midi, order "le demi" half-orders on everything, endive/roquefort salad,artichoke,boeuf bourguignon,Grand Manier souffle (order 1 for 2 pp


                      Pizza Positano, 15 rue des Canettes (off rue du four), 6th,closed Sunday; BEST pasta dishes.Locals.

                      Willi's Wine Bar, 13 rue des Petits-Champs, Mark, closed Sun., great for drinks, lunch & buying one of their collectable posters.
                      Exit Willi's to the right & turn left on next street for restaurant Grand Colbert on right featured in "As Good as it Gets" scene w/Nicholson & Keaton.

                      AVOID Casa Bini, rue Gregoire du Tours, expensive & mediocre food...(even if Deneuve is supposed to be a regular) Pasta was infinitely better at Pizza Positano.

                      BEST MACARONS: Pierre Herme, 72 rue Bonaparte,6th.

                      WORST meals: Le Comptoir du Relais, resting on Yves laurels. AVOID.
                      Ditto for Atelier Maitre Albert, one of Guy Savoy's, AVOID.

                      1. re: RomeAddict

                        Voilà an addict who has done her homework.
                        And therefore has a wonderful experience to show…

                        1. re: Parigi

                          Merci beaucoup, Parigi. My only disappointment was that Daniel Rose's Spring was not open when I was there in September, so next time! Is it as wonderful as I'm expecting??

                          1. re: RomeAddict

                            Well I went by the new spot yesterday (Pix at
                   and it'll be a while, but it'll be worth waiting for.

                            1. re: John Talbott

                              Wonderful! I've been devouring every word of your website in anticipation of my next trip. Thank you for such an immensely enjoyable & edifying site.
                              So I'm assuming the new Daniel Rose Spring will be larger?

                              1. re: RomeAddict

                                Talking to Daniel re his new eatery, my husband joked: 'will it have 20 seats?"
                                Daniel: "no, 18."
                                (Pulling our jambe?)
                                I also asked him what he thought of the saying that Frenchie was the new Spring. Daniel graciously said: no it's better.
                                I love Frenchie but have slight preference for Spring. As I said on another site (and have told Daniel), Daniel Rose is the Jimi Hendrix of food.

                                1. re: Parigi

                                  Frenchie vs Spring is a bit like red vs white wine. They are both good, but are different. But Frenchie has the edge at the moment because it is open!

                                  It will be interesting to see what the new Spring brings, from my conversation with Daniel (some time ago) I got the impression it would be very different with more staff. But I suspect his plans are a little fluid given how long it is taking to get it off the ground. The food at Spring was good, but I wonder how much of our fondness for the place is based on the way it is executed i.e. everyone served the same meal at the same time like a dinner party; Daniel's character; and, being in the select group that were lucky enough to get a table.

                                  1. re: PhilD

                                    PhilD, in my opinion, much of Spring's charm is about the place, the concept, the guy. To me, Spring is exemplary of the narcissistic school of cooking: some cookings are about ingredients, some are about techniques and skills, and some are about the chef. To me Spring belong to the third category, and while the food is good, it is nothing to write home about, unlike the happy life Daniel Rose built for himself.

                                    1. re: souphie

                                      I agree with you and PhilD about Spring. It reminded me of Chez Panisse in Berkeley in the late 1970's before it evolved into a world class restaurant. Daniel Rose has managed, with an acute sense of publicity, to transport that concept into a nice life in Paris. To me, it is not really a restaurant; the food is fine but why all the clamoring for a seat.

                                      1. re: PBSF

                                        Precisely because he's a nice accessible guy who works his ass off and cooks pretty good chow at reasonable prices.

                                  2. re: Parigi

                                    Tell Daniel I once flambeed my menu at Spiaggia in his former town, Chicago. People across held their plastic-coated epistles high, I went low, and the candle went "ignite".

                                  3. re: RomeAddict

                                    "So I'm assuming the new Daniel Rose Spring will be larger?"

                                    Yes, however, my look inside Monday was unrevealing since construction hadn't really begun enough to tell me the number of covers (also if he continues with the plan for a wine bar and wine shop in the caves below that will expand the number of persons accomodated in one way or another.)

                                    As for "Frenchie was the new Spring."

                                    But then last year, Bigarrade was.

                                    John Talbott

                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                      As for "Frenchie was the new Spring", WADR, I thought the quote originated from you, John.

                                      1. re: Parigi

                                        "As for "Frenchie was the new Spring", WADR, I thought the quote originated from you, John." Ohmagawd, what goes around, comes around.

                                        1. re: John Talbott

                                          Hey all, wanted to thank you all again for your generous recommendations. I really had planned to visit Le Quincy. It came across as my kind of thing. Rustic, country and down home. The kind of place that M. Petitrenaud would visit. Alas, our plane departure was delayed and our short cab ride through Paris on the way to Rouen was hectic to say the least, we decided at the station to skip Paris and head straight to CDG airport from Rouen. Maybe next time?

                                          As for Rouen. Wow! Really love this place. Had the best French meal I've ever had to date at La Couronne. Green gazpacho with beignets of chevre, a cut of Canard a la Rouennaise in a rich citrus sauce with fried apples, a Normandy cheese tray, wine, tarte tatin and all for 90 Euro for two! Couldn't ask for better. I hope to maybe visit Toulouse in the near future so I will visit your recommendations again!

                                          1. re: currycue

                                            Hi Currycue, lots of excellent suggestions here (including some we'll use, too) but just wanted to add that we've lived in central Paris, about three blocks from Notre Dame and on the Left Bank, for nearly eight years. The place is jammed with tourist places, yes. But PLENTY of great restaurants too.