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Overwhelmed-- where to start in search for charming, classic Parisian restaurants?

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I am sure there must be posts on this somewhere, but I am overwhelmed as there seem to be so many great spots in Paris, I'm not even sure what to search for! My boyfriend and I are looking for spots for dinner for three nights in Paris (Thur-Sat) in late November. We love french food and often cook the classic dishes ourselves (beef daube, coq au vin, profiteroles, etc) so it would be great fun to try the classics in their country of origin. Definitely prefer simple, charming spots-- (in my mind this would be the little spot down a side street with wood tables, stone walls, low lighting). Nothing too formal or fusion, and well-priced is a plus (no Guy Savoy on this trip!). I speak French (or used to, hope it comes back) so I don't require english speaking waiters/menus.

Also-- excuse my ignorance as we just booked and I am not sure where anything is in relation to anything else-- but does the particular androssiment matter or is comparable to Manhattan-- where everything is a quick cab/subway ride or possibly long-ish walk away (which we are fine with). That said, if it does make a difference, we are staying at the Westin Vendome. Thanks!

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  1. "everything is a quick cab/subway ride or possibly long-ish walk away (which we are fine with)." Yes, everything is reachable by buses & Metro

    1. Do a google search of paris arrondissements and you will see that it is laid out like a snail shell, with the 1st being in the centre, then going to the second and third to the East and wrapping around, so the first is near the second, but also the ninth. You have to look at it and then it makes sense. Patricia Wells has a book that is out of print, I think it is called Food Lover's Guide to Paris, or something like that. We have worked our way through many of the old classic bistros in it, although we did find some were closed, so you need to check before walking there after an already long day of walking! One place that I have been to many times, and can't imagine a trip to Paris without going to is Chez Denise. It is either in the 1st or 2nd Arr. They have all the classics, including cerveille (sp) which is lamb's brains. I had always wondered about it, after seeing it on menus, but didn't want to commit to it as a main. Our Belgian friend ordered it and let me try: think grey, mushy, and fishy tasting: not to my taste, but happy to try and cross it off the list. I always order a frisee salad with croutons (one is enough for two), then the steak. I've usually been there in the spring and ordered the white asparagus (again, enough for two) so I don't have a recommendation for a side. You need to order a carafe (1 litre) of Brouilly, their house red, which they have barrels of in the front of the house. One time a friend who got headaches from red tried to order a white, and this charming older gent told her (she speaks quite good French so she understood him) that ici, c'est Brouilly, vin rouge. You are packed in, cheek by jowl, with a combination of tourists and Parisians. It's not smokey like the old days anymore, but for me this is a quintessential Parisian experience!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Albertagirl

        "One time a friend who got headaches from red tried to order a white, and this charming older gent told her (she speaks quite good French so she understood him) that ici, c'est Brouilly, vin rouge."

        He was woofing her. While Brouilly is the house wine, they also feature Ruilly sauvignon blanc and others for those who prefer a white wine.

      2. "androssiment" um, you may want to do a touch up on your French. Albertagirl gives excellent pointers on the arrangement of the districts they sort of spiral clockwise from the Marais (Place Henri IV or Notre Dame IIRC). I found as a largely non-French speaker to start off with an apology that I don't speak French (in French) and then launch into my own fractured version, I was received with softened mood and almost everyone was very accommodating as long as I acknowledged it wasn't really French that I was speaking. central Paris is very walkable, and some of the fun is just popping in to a neighborhood cafe for a croque madame, or hitting a sidewalk stand for a sandwich Jambon.

        Vendome, that's near the Bourse right? there's an excellent new and used cookware store near there.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hill food

          The Westin Vendome is not in the Place Vendome* but opposite the Tuileries and a good way from either Bourse and the cooking shops that are nearer St Eustache and Etienne Marcel. (*Paris hotels have the charming habit of calling themselves easily recognized names like Opera or Etoile or Montmartre even though they're nowhere near such sights).

        2. Thanks for the excellent tips so far-- aha, spiral, now it makes sense! @Hill food-- no doubt I will start by excusing my french (ca fait longtemps qu je n'ai pas parle francais)-- my summer spent living with a french family in Lyon was quite some time ago--I am hoping some auto pilot function kicks in, as I cannot recall specific vocab if I think about it, but usually it pops out somehow in conversation.
          Yes, during the day I hope to stumble across little cafes for frisee aux lardons or a croque madame-- I guess the same rule holds, look for a busy spot?
          Thanks for the Chez Denise recommendation, sounds right on point!
          Other restaurant recs, or other threads here that I should look at?
          @John Talbot-- are there cookware shops you recommend? When I bought my pans here in nyc several years ago from a restaurant supply like shop, they all came from France-- cheaper and better than all-clad, would love to check out the source!

          6 Replies
          1. re: Kikim

            "@John Talbot-- are there cookware shops you recommend? When I bought my pans here in nyc several years ago from a restaurant supply like shop, they all came from France-- cheaper and better than all-clad, would love to check out the source!"

            Others are far more savvy than I on this subject (there's a ton of info here and elsewhere on the web); 30 years ago we shopped at Dehillerin but found it terribly expensive as we got on; later we got some cool plates and other stuff at Simon; now I must say we buy most of our eqpt at BHV, the Galeries and our local Monoprix (our everyday dishes/etc. come from Chez IKEA).

            1. re: John Talbott

              "(our everyday dishes/etc. come from Chez IKEA)"

              Here's a little inside secret just between us thousands of Chowhounders: Porcelaines Samie offers three floors of discount Limoges et al: ground level = all white; first floor = patterns; AND the basement is floor to ceiling dirt-cheap markdowns. Latest restaurant styles as well as classics. Unfortunately for most of us, they don't ship. But we've been known to haul home some good sized cartons!

              Porcelaines SAMIE
              45, Avenue General Leclerc
              Closed Sundays; open 10:30 - 7pm

               
              1. re: mangeur

                Rats, you just gave away the Ali Baba's cave of every Parisian food stylist!!! °o°

                1. re: Ptipois

                  I know, I know. I should be ashamed of myself. But this place is so huge and so brilliantly stocked that there really is enough to go around.

                  1. re: mangeur

                    There's actually enough china there to bury the whole food stylist population under a 300-foot-tall pyramid for archaeologists to sort it out centuries later.

                    1. re: Ptipois

                      that might be the place I was thinking of, I remember a basement being dingy and cheap, but a lot of cool stuff to pore through.

          2. The Westin is in an area favored by International business types; that is actually good news, as it is not your typical tourist spot, and there are many reasonably priced restaurants in the vicinity. so here are some options nearby:

            Croques: Chez Flottes, in the bar area
            High-end Cafes: Le Castiglione
            Souffles: Le Souffle, three course souffle prix-fixe
            Hotel bars: Meurice, great for a light meal (expensive)
            L'Ardoise: Quality bistro for a quick meal (multiple turns)
            Wine bars: Le Rubis; see other posts for pros & cons
            Starred restaurants: Most have lunch specials

            All are just a few blocks away, plus maybe 50 or 60 other restaurants in this part of the first.