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Oct 4, 2009 04:46 AM

Paris: Looking for an old-fashioned, traditional experience

Set for my 34th trip to Europe next month (95% included at least a few days in Paris). I find that I am happiest in restaurants there where I can have a more "foreign," 1950s or 1960's style experience and am least satisfied eating 'hip," with loads of Americans in attendence. If I wanted that, I could stay at home.
I am seeking more places where I will find mostly middle to upper class French customers who still "dress" properly for dinner (this means TIES!) and who enjoy good food, in at least moderate to somewhat more elegant places. This means that I want to avoid anything by Ducasse, Robuchon, Savoy, the 10th, 11th or 12th, jeans, untucked or black silk shirts on men, tables without tablecloths, etc.
I have found that Chez George (in the 17th) is what I am looking for, and at least to some degree, Drouant, Josephine and Les Balloon de Ternes. This time I plan on trying Le Petit Retro, L'Arome, La Rotonde and Garnier. Any other suggestions?

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  1. Grand Véfour?
    Btw, it is impossible to avoid your fellow Americans. Why? Because of the website you are using right now perhaps. If you want and get an information about a restaurant in Paris, everybody in Amlerica also does. Why not reduce your expectation and aversion and just hope they not wear shorts and - worse, in my opinion - hold on to their own mineral water bottle as they walk in. -- When o when has the right to carry mineral water bottle become a human right? Is there a drought in the US?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Guys, there's a better reason why you can't avoid fellow Americans. French people can't afford to dine out in Paris. Obviously, some can. But if you're looking for the legendary good bistrots where real French people go, go at their place or go to a 7€ couscous in a distant suburb. Nice little bistrots, and high-end restaurants for that matters, have tourists as their main clientele.

      In that regard, the referenece to the 50s is to one where the price of bistrots was more in connection with the actual purchasing power of the middle class.

      As for finding places where men wear ties that are not Ducasse or Taillevent, all I have to say is: "good luck". Or have lunch anywhere in a district with lawyers and financiers, since they are the last people on earth who still wear ties. For instance there's a neighborhood Chinese on bd de Courcelles where I guarantee there will be ties. Any place in the deep 16th, by Ranelagh or something will do as well.

      1. re: souphie

        Soup: Much as I love and respect you, I must dispute.
        First, the two places I named (the Cartouche Cafe and Le Petit Marguery) had zero Americans and 100% French except for us so some French people (you for instance, can afford to eat out).
        Second, if one eats (as we did) at le Jardin d'Ampere or Les Etangs de Corot this week, 100% (except for Colette and yours truly) were French and had grey suits and white shirts and ties - and I had on a grey suit and cool, non-tee, shirt.
        Jerrysfriend: To find what you want go to places where business-folk (Le Grand Vefour, Chez Catherine), banking-folk (Drouant, le Meurice), politician-folk (Restaurant le Club Maison des Polytechniciens - a place no one will go to but in which you see everyone but Sarko), insurance-folk (Clocher-Perieire), etc., go to and you'll be back in Paris of the 1970's, coats, ties and good manners. I'm with you: today (as opposed to after the War) men dress like schlumpfs, women are elegant, just take photos of couples walking down the Rue St Honore and you'll see.

        John Talbott

        1. re: souphie

          Well, I have practiced law for 43 years and have about 1,700 ties (doubt this? check me out on, or When you have that many, you need to wear them daily.
          I tried Chez Catherine last year and was not much impressed, but i will try Le Petit Marguery, as what i read about it remnds me of Galatoires of new Orleans.
          Someone needs to write more about well-dressed, chic women and their sleeze-bag dates, as this appears to be a recent, but world-wide situation.

      2. Interesting question:
        I've just written two articles, one on the Perfect Bistro (Cartouche Cafe) and Perfect Restaurant (Petit Marguery) that while great and typical for Americans are undiscovered by them - no Ami Louis or Vieil Ami (that Francois Simon noted "speaks American") here.

        John Talbott

        1. I did not go to 'touristy' areas last week, but I found myself almost always sitting next to someone American wherever I ate. The statement about cost being a factor is probably very accurate. U don't remember ever feeling before like I did on this trip. Prices were higher - exchange rates to blame.

          A French friend and I had a very nice (but not mind-blowing) meal at La Ferrandaise. It was casual but I thought it had an old-fashioned feel to it. As we left, an American couple were seated to our right. I had a very good lunch at Sud on Rue Grenelle. Next to me were two Texans. Most of the clientele were definitely French, even parents with their children... same for L'Heures des Gourmandes in the 6th (tart there was almost burnt).

          I don't mind sitting next to Americans as I am one but now live in England. I didn't see any carrying in their own water. Maybe you'll be lucky and most will have moved on by November.