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Paris Restaurants for Beginners

I am hoping for recommendations for restaurants for our first three nights in France (a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday). We have no opportunities for adventurous eating in our small town, so we'd like to start out with some relatively simple but delicious meals (one of which -- Monday -- is our 30th anniversary). We'll probably be staying in the 7th.

To provide some context, we'll be in France for 3 weeks. We'll be in Paris for a week at the end of the trip, by which time we'll be more adventurous. Our list of places to try then includes La Regalade St Honoré, Le Reminet, Le Gaigne, and Petite Marguery.

We just added 3 days in Paris to the beginning of our itinerary, so now we need for suggestions for jet-lagged beginners. We generally don't order seafood and I'm not a fan of communal tables. I'd prefer to keep the total tab under 125 Euros (less would be fine) except perhaps for the anniversary dinner.

I hope this makes sense and appreciate your suggestions!

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  1. Here are three that fit your bill, all will be less than your total tab figure. Chez Denise near Les Halles, Chez George near Place Victoire, and Le Grand Pan in the middle on nowhere near Porte Des Vanves. All are very typical, not fussy, and the first have a partylike atmosphere.

    1. I just returned from 2 weeks in France, the last 3 days in Paris. If you're going to get a Metro pass (3 days for 20 Euros) I'd suggest Jadis. It's a few blocks from a Metro stop in a nice neighborhood. Small restaurant with no tablecloths, great food and a decent wine selection. This will be a 1 star Michelin restaurant in the 2011 book!

      3 Replies
      1. re: bucksguy14

        Since you are in the 7th why don't you try Violon d'Ingres which already has a star and tablecloths; if you are judicious with your wine selection it will meet your stated budget. They have a "simple but delicious" cassoulet and this is one of the less pretentious starred places in Paris.

        1. re: Laidback

          I agree, and Violon is also open on Mondays, so this might be great for your anniversary.

          1. re: Laidback

            Why pay the price of a 1 star w/tablecloths when you can get equal or better at a "gonna be" 1 star w/tablecloths?

        2. Once again I'll suggest Les Papilles. No choice but very approachable food: a wonderful soup followed by some kind of braise (think "the best stew you ever ate"), cheese if you want it, then a simple but rich panna cotta dessert. With a bottle of wine, you are still out the door under 100€.

          (On rue St. Dominique in the 7th, you can catch the 69 bus to Pont du Caroussel and transfer to a 27 bus which will let you off 25 yards from Les Papilles' front door (St. Jacques/Guy Lussac stop). We often walk home to our hotel which is just over the border in the 7th.)


          4 Replies
          1. re: mangeur

            The poster said they would be there three nights, "a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday." Les Papilles is "Open Tue-Sat 12pm-10pm," so that would work for Tuesday.

            They still need some help for Sunday night, which is tough (I'd suggest Dernier Au Metro, but maybe they want MORE). And, they need help for Monday, which is also tough.

            1. re: hychka

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6955... is a good place to start your search for Sunday and Monday places.

              1. re: hychka

                Our old workhorse Machon d'Henri on busy and touristy rue Guisarde is open 7/7 and is packed every night with both locals and tourists. The long, long menu guarantees that there will be something for everyone. The 7 hour lamb is a house tradition, but there is roast chicken and simply cooked fish also. And steak, lamb and pork chops, and several simple sausages with boiled potatoes. If you like scalloped potatoes, their pommes dauphinoise are fine. House made tartes or chocolate mousse for dessert. Wine by the glass, bottle or 50cl "pot" of house wine.


                If you enjoyed it, you could eat here twice and not repeat yourself.

                1. re: mangeur

                  In Paris now for our visit and had lunch yesterday at Le Reminet. Keep this on your list . Our lunch was a 14 euro menu that would have cost $40 in the Napa Valley where I live. Started out meal with some of the best oysters I ever had. The quality and presentation of our meal was excellent. The father and son who run the place were so personable and warm in spite of my poor French and their lack of English. I would be happy to go back many times. Tomorrow night we go to Josephine Chez Dumonet and Tuesday to Les Papilles for dinner so I'll let you know about those. But I do recommend Le Reminet.

            2. Thanks for all the great suggestions! I think we will try Violon d'Ingres for the anniversary dinner on Monday. It sounds perfect and it has the added benefit of being very close to our hotel.

              We might not make a reservation for Sunday. Since that is our arrival day, we may want to eat early or maybe late. We have several good choices: Cafe Constant is also near our hotel, Au Dernier Metro is open late, and Machon d'Henri also sounds good for Sunday (but I haven't found information about its hours).

              Any of the other recommendations will work for Tuesday, or for our full week in Paris. We really appreciate the advice.

              3 Replies
              1. re: ardithl

                I had a delicious dinner at Cafe Constant in September, also on our first night in Paris. I liked my dinner that night better than the one I had a few days later at La Regalade. I thought the flavors at Constant were more precise.

                1. re: ardithl

                  I believe Machon d'Henri keeps to bistro hours , even on the weekends. If you want traditional Sunday Brunch hours, the luxe hotels and brasseries may be a better bet. Give them a call. FYI, they have another bistro nearby.

                  1. re: Oakglen

                    Md'H's dinner hour seems to vary a tad by season. Essentially, they open the door immediately after staff dinner, usually 7h30 to 8h. They take phone reservations from around 6pm on.

                2. Where in France (other than Paris) will you be going? We live in Provence (between Aix-en-Provence & Avignon) for half the year, and can make recommendations....

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: boredough

                    We are also going to Lyon and the Loire Valley. We're staying at the Bon Laboureur in Chenonceaux and will eat there one night, but don't have any other plans.

                    1. re: ardithl

                      Lyon is my favorite city, and there is so much really good food there, and at much more affordable prices than Paris.

                      I would be glad to send you my Lyon recs if you email me. But there are several recent threads here in the France Forum on Lyon, specifically. I suggest you check them out. There are great recommendations in them from bouchons to 3-stars. :)

                      1. re: ardithl

                        ok then I can't help, but wish you a great trip just the same. Stayed at Bon Laboureur twice but don't remember much about the food (long time ago). Hope you're staying at Cour des Loges in Lyon...

                        1. re: boredough

                          Cour des Loges is over the top, to be sure, but I wouldn't spend that kind of money on hotels. There are so many nice small hotels in the Centre Ville that cost lots less, and leave more to spend on all the good eats!

                    2. Cafe du Marche & Tribeca on Rue Cler are good basic places - not fancy and not destination dining, but serve good food in the 7th. Don't expect happy, smiley service (at least at du Marche), but it will be helpful if you are patient and don't expect what your would here in the States in terms of time the waiter spends with you. Also, while not meaning this to be offensive, but realizing it might come across that way - these two places could be good for those who may not be as adventurous in eating as others.

                      While I haven't tried it, LaVaranque is also supposed to be a good starter place in the 7th. http://lavarangue.fr/accueil.php

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: DaTulip

                        Thanks for the suggestions. I'm not at all offended -- I recognize that we are not as adventurous as others. I'm hoping we'll expand our horizons but it will be a gradual process.

                        1. re: ardithl

                          Another thought (and I'm sure the true foodies will cringe) is to check out Rick Steves books (France & Paris). He is an American with a tour company and typically I find his recommendations solid - not cutting edge or the best of the best, but very good and friendly. Website - www.ricksteves.com

                          1. re: DaTulip

                            You mean the guy who recommends Polidor, etc.?

                      2. Just back from a spectacular trip in Paris! We dined at Chez l'Ami Jean, La Regalade St. Honore, Chez Georges, Cafe Constant, Le Meurice, and Astier.

                        Of these my two favorites were La Regalade St. Honore (lunch) and Chez Georges (dinner). I heartily recommend both and I feel certain that you will enjoy the food and the ambiance at both.

                        In brief:

                        Chez L'Ami Jean: Very rustic, small bistro serving excellent food in a convivial ambiance. Many Americans. We enjoyed an appetizer of roasted mushrooms--piping hot and flavorful. Our mains were the Wild Boar stew (average, not particularly memorable) and the dorade (moist and beautifully presented). Funnily enough my favorite part of the main course were the pureed potatoes--I asked for, and received, seconds. The rice pudding capped off the meal. And it was superb--creamy pudding offset by salted caramel and house made granola. I'd go back in a flash for the rice pudding alone. The only puzzling aspect of Chez L'Ami Jean was the cost. While most of the other places mentioned above hovered around 90E for two, the bill at Chez l'Ami Jean was 160E. It was our first night and I didn't know what to expect, but in retrospect and comparison it seems high.

                        Astier: We had lunch here on a cold, windy Sunday and it was perfect. The food was likely the weakest of the above named group but something about the cozy atmosphere and friendly service made it special. The room was entirely French when we dined there and the offerings were solid and well prepared. I loved the cheese tray and, like L'Ami Jean's rice pudding, would go back for that alone. As an American I never have had the opportunity to dig into a wide variety of cheeses on my own in a restaurant--I am used to the formal presentation of the cheese cart and the careful slivers proffered therefrom. In sum, for a cozy lunch or dinner on a cold day, Astier does the trick.

                        Cafe Constant: This feels like a "go to" spot. We wandered in late on Sunday night and, after a short wait at the bar, were lucky enough to get a table at this friendly, casual canteen that takes no reservations. The foie gras was flavorful, the langoustines fried in wonton wrappers and served over basmati were finger-licking good, and the flan was the best I had tasted in a while. All this in a buzzy, convivial atmosphere. I would definitely recommend it for a tasty meal in a casual, comfortable environment.

                        La Regalade St. Honore: My favorite! My husband and I enjoyed the Prix Fixe lunch menu at 33E each. The house pate de campagne (offered in a communal loaf dish to every table) was some of the best I've ever tasted. My husband's tuna tart was fresh and flavorful as was his veal and my fish. The restaurant was filled with Parisians--work lunches, ladies lunches, couples--and the vibe was convivial, chatty, upbeat. The desserts were superb--and neither of us ordered the acclaimed Grand Marnier souffle! He had the rice pudding--excellent but a shade less revelatory that L'Ami Jean's--and I had the chocolate praline cake. I also had the wonderful pot de creme, thanks to our lovely, generous, and full neighbors! I would go back here in a flash and I heartily recommend it.

                        Chez Georges: From the warm welcome, to the handwritten menu, to the last drop of dark chocolate on the profiteroles, Chez Georges is a winner. Offering the classics (steak frites, sole, hareng, baba, profiteroles . ..) with style and old fashioned panache, Chez Georges offers an idyllic bistro experience. Reserve and go!

                        We had a celebratory lunch at Le Meurice. A gorgeous room, flawless service, an extraordinarily knowledgeable and friendly sommelier, and inventive cuisine made lunch at the Meurice a highly memorable experience. For this type of haute cuisine, however, my heart, and taste buds, belong to Taillevent.

                        Enjoy! And ride the Velibs! We did all over town--truly putting meaning into the phrase, "It's not about the destination but about the journey."

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: planetjanet

                          Thanks planet or janet. Nice to have confirmation.