HOME > Chowhound > France >


Paris - suggestions for excellant dining-in meals

  • b

Our family of four will be staying in Paris (St Germain -- rue du Vieux Colombier) in an apartment for a week. We have brought up our children, now teenagers, to appreciate fine food. More by home cooking than fine dining to be honest. We all appreciate great food. And I would love for us to be able to eat great local cuisine every meal and have a very memorable foodie experience.

Paris will be our final destination of a 4 week Europe trip. We are renting apartments where possible on this trip, except for southern France (Nice and the Luberon) where we will be in BBs. I expect to dine out more in southern France because we will not have a kitchen and we will budget for that. But sadly the Paris budget will be constrained and I don’t plan on being able to frequent many restaurants/bistros. Realistically, we will likely eat lunch out quite a bit while touring Paris, and I know there are many threads here with valuable information that I will be reading. For dinner, the apartment location makes it easy to return to for a rest, freshen up, dine and then out again in the evening.

My goal seems impossible, but maybe not. I would like to eat as well as a meal in great restaurant but by dining in, not out. But I don’t want to cook! I do love to cook and we will have a well equipped kitchen, but I don’t want to spend the time cooking because I would rather be out and about as much as possible.

So I am hoping for some suggestions please. Idea’s for menu planning. Shopping. Markets. Close to rue du Vieux Colombier. I suspect how I might accomplish this in Paris would be different compared to what I would do at home and I’d love to get some insider tips. All I know at this point is there are going to be plenty of great places to purchase food that might make up a picnic lunch or appetizers. Cheese and meats. And I can get fresh produce for salads and those are easy enough to make in the apartment. But it would be nice to have some hot meal entrees that don’t require much cooking effort. Pasta and sauce seems like an easy choice, but that seems to be too much like what I’d do at home, and not very Parisian either. Another option I thought of is getting hot entrée’s to-go from a bistro, if that is possible. And I should add I could splurge on these meals. Feeding a family of four on 50 euros should result in a great meal at a fraction of what it would cost in a restaurant.

I have to admit I have not searched the boards for threads on this subject specifically. I have read a lot of restaurant threads. People’s lists to critique are great reads. And I know about some of the blogs on restaurants, such as Mr. Talbots (which I will use to select on restaurant dinner meal on the left bank and also places for lunch). If anyone knows of a posts/threads that cover my subject, please let me know.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You will be near Bon Marché - the Grand Epicerie has many options for take out. Also near the Raspail market (Tues, Fri and Sat) where you can buy rotisserie chicken and amazing roasted potatoes. There also seem to be a ton of take out chinese/vietnamese places in that area - not very French but good in a pinch.

    1 Reply
    1. re: florence

      Most takeout food ranges from ok to good, never really that good...
      unless you go to the top caterers like Constant, etc., in which case you must be prepared to pay more or less the same prices as restos if not more.
      Your best bet is to research on simple recipes like omelette with cèpe, veal shank, etc., that allows you to take full use of the fabulous markets yet does not stick you in the kitchen all day.

    2. Thank you both. Searching on Grand Epicerie resulted in a hit on a similar thread.


      And Spring Boutique sounds promising.

      Sure have lots to work with now.

      4 Replies
      1. re: b.mac

        You are also a block or so from an excellent Monoprix which carries many of the same shelf goods as Bon Marche slightly cheaper. Also not bad produce. Good alternatives when your market supplies run short.

        1. re: mangeur

          Thank you for informing me about Monoprix. Slightly cheaper for the same stuff and close location is perfect. I need to scope out some bakeries and cafes too. I think the apartment owners can help with that but will search the archives too.

        2. re: b.mac

          "And Spring Boutique sounds promising." yes but selective in ways that Bon Marche & the Galeries are not and so are more comprehensive, ie Bellotta-Bellotta, foie gras, Aoki, etc.

          1. re: b.mac

            Bon Marche as it is close is a good starting point. It is a good one stop shop where you can basics and treats. They have a good selection of fresh vegetables and salads, they have and good butchery counter, also fresh fish, and all the dairy/milk you need. They also have a great set of deli counters that include all the usual pates, cheeses etc for picnics as well as lots of ready made dishes that can be bought by portion/weight. They also have pre-packed goods so you can pick things up rather than negotiate the ordering process.

            We shopped their for two years, and also tried Monoprix etc. Whilst Monoprix may seem slightly cheaper it wasn't what we found especially on basics. I suspect Bon Marche is actually thought of as more expensive because it has a broader choice and some better quality items.

            Down from Bon Marche you have rue du Bac which has a good fish shop (tried their carved to order smoked salmon), some local bakeries and Barthelemy which is one of the better cheese shops in Paris. In the other direction you have Marche St Germain which is (to be frank) a bit dull. You are in the middle of a fashion shopping area so fewer food shops than some other residential areas.

          2. where will you be in the Lubéron?

            4 Replies
            1. re: boredough

              We are staying just outside Saint Saturnin les Apt at a BB. I have lots of restaurant rec's for the area. And the owners also offer table d'hôte dining for 24 euros per person. And I hope they have some recommendations for foodie shopping in Saint Saturnin les Apt and bakery and cafes too. What I don't have yet is a restaurant rec for Cassis (or maybe surrounding area like Bandol). We'll be spending a full day in Cassis as one day trip.

              1. re: b.mac

                "Saint Saturnin les Apt at a BB"

                Are you stay at Mas Perréal? Say a big hello to Kevin for me.
                My fave resto down there is Bartavelle in Goult which is very near St Sat, but must reserve.

                1. re: Parigi

                  Kevin didn't have the right accommodation for my family at the period we will be there. He recommended another BB who's owners he is friends with. He was very adamant the BB itself and the owners will not disappoint. It's not an old house which means less charm, but there plenty of upside. I will be interested to see how it goes. Bartavelle terrasse looks classy and charming... thank you.

                2. re: b.mac

                  Is Le Castelas in Sivèrgues one of the recommendations (not far from the 'real' Apt)? If not, you should put it on your list....

              2. This might not be as close as you'd like but around 83 Rue de Seine there's a grocery store, Champion. Next to it is a place to get rotisserie chicken, prepared meat things and foie gras. One store down is an outlet of the ubiquitous bakery, Paul. If you go to google maps and use the street level view, you can walk by them.

                Those stores saved us a TON of money a couple of years ago and we hit the foie gras pretty hard. At cafes a small coke cost about five or six dollars. At the supermarket, we could get 2L bottles of coke for two bucks or so.

                From Paris we went on to Provence (St Remy de Provence) and found a largish supermarket, Intermarche. It was a lot of fun running around that store.

                1. For breakfast I suggest that you send someone out for baguette and croissants. You will quickly find an acceptable bakery near your apartment. From your shopping stores, take out some cheese, fruit preserves and blood orange juice...add coffee... and you have breakfast. Add a fried egg or two for the big eater.

                  For lunch my best advice is a picnic near where you are sightseeing. Most of the bakeries sell acceptable sandwiches or bring your own along in a sack.

                  For supper we are big on opening a bottle or two of an interesting wine (always buy several different ones because you never know how the pairing will go and learn from mistakes and surprise victories) and eating from little cartons of deli like treats you can find in open air markets and some bakeries such as olives, relishes, meatballs, couscous, grape leaves, humus and many other little specialties. Add cheese and maybe some sliced meat and more baguette. Finish with a special pastry chosen special just for each of you.

                  The legendary street side roasted chicken is another instant supper if you have been buying "sides" in the stores or markets. Another instant supper is a quiche or two along with sides.

                  I also like to bring home a falafel to munch on with wine and cheese.

                  See? Except for brewing coffee and maybe frying an egg, you cooked at home without turning on your stove. And, everyone will love it!

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: hychka

                    We also stayed once at an apartment on the same street. It is a wonderful area and you are right around the corner from Poilane. Perfect place to get wonderful bread.

                    1. re: hychka

                      "The legendary street side roasted chicken is another instant supper if you have been buying "sides" in the stores or markets."

                      And don't forget to buy an embarrassing quantity of the potatoes roasted underneath. These were not only fabulous at dinner, but leftovers were cut up and re-fried for breakfast with those wonderful extra-fresh farm eggs fried sunny-side-up on top.

                      1. re: mangeur

                        Where did you buy the eggs? I bought eggs at President Wilson market in the 16th, but they didn't seem as "just hatched" as the ones I can get at Union Square Market her in NYC.

                        1. re: Nancy S.

                          Yes, the bucolic, bustling French market with farmers travelling into Paris to sell their wares fresh from the field or barn is, I am afraid, often an illusion. Yes they are well used by locals but this is simply because of convenience - think about how many supermarkets and greengrocers you see in Paris - the twice weekly local market is for regular shopping.

                          Many of the stalls are simply sell the same produce from Rungis as normal shops. To find the gems from markets (and those food streets like rue Cler) you need to be very circumspect about what you choose. Just because it is from a market doesn't make it good, doesn't make it cheaper, nor does it make it better than an established shop.

                          1. re: PhilD

                            Agreed. This is why I seek out Joel T. for vegetables at the two markets in the 16th. The eggs I bought were the most expensive ultra fresh, but they did not seem just out of the hen. Any suggestions as to where I might find some?

                          2. re: Nancy S.

                            I've lost the precise designation, but by law in France, eggs are labeled by freshness. They start out, and as I say I forget the precise wording, as "extra fresh". If they are not sold in several days or during the prescribed time that qualifies this designation, they must be relabeled to the next level. We've bought them at markets and also at premium shops such as Bon Marche, although you should be able to find this labeling at any good store.

                            I compare this with the premium eggs we brought home yesterday from Trader Joe's that have a "good through" date of December 1. =:0

                      2. What strikes me in your request and lodging conditions is that the location deserves to be taken into account.

                        It happens that you will be staying in an area of Paris where buying food for eating in - especially if you do not wish to cook - will cost you nearly as much as eating out. Except if you stick to the more democratic sources of supply like Monoprix and Champion (everything there is the same price from one store to the other), you'll find yourself spending as much for take-out food and good-quality cheeses, charcuterie, etc., than if you simply sit down at a bistrot. Only if you decide to transform raw matter - i.e. cook - will you be likely to balance your budget. Besides, cheeses, charcuteries, cured fish and lots of bread are delicious but you might tire of that for one whole week on a daily basis. Most take-out "Chinese" are disappointing.

                        Yes you do have La Grande Epicerie du Bon Marché, Barthélemy's cheeses, Pierre Hermé and the Marché Saint-Germain nearby, but shopping there will not result in a balanced budget any more than eating at some little restaurants along the rue du Cherche-Midi in the direction of Montparnasse. And these are not particularly cheap. Fortunately there is, as has been said here, Monoprix on rue de Rennes and the Champion on rue de Buci but most of what you'll find there requires cooking. The ready-made stuff (carton soup, smoked salmon and pâtés wrapped in plastic, sous-vide charcuterie and cooked dishes, and salads in sachets) is the same kind as you'll find in any other supermarket and I'm not sure they're worth coming to France for.

                        So in my opinion you have several sensible options:
                        - Do not rely entirely on the very expensive food stores you'll find in the area.
                        - Allow yourself to do a bit of simple cooking in order to make the most of some lovely products you'll come across (i.e. roast a chicken instead of buying an overcooked, end-of-shelf-life roasted chicken on a market).
                        - Get out of the neighborhood a few times to eat out at a reasonable-priced restaurant (actually there are lunch bargains at many places — at Le Pré Verre rue Thénard, Gilles Choukroun at MBC (Porte Maillot), Le Bouchon et l'Assiette rue Cardinet, etc.
                        - Once or twice, go Japanese in the rue Sainte-Anne (home to cheap, yummy, simple food), Chinese/Laotian/Cambodian/Vietnamese in the Ivry-Choisy Golden Triangle down South, try lovely Turkish kebab and çorba between the Porte Saint-Denis and the Gare de l'Est, and last but not least dare to push the door of the simple neighborhood couscous, that is an absolute must-do in Paris.
                        - Do not forget that many corner cafés and brasseries that don't look like much and will never find their way to travel or restaurant guides serve real food in real plates, as they have always done. I never see them mentioned but I do see their chalkboards around lunchtime and glancing into plates through the bay windows I sometimes see interesting stuff in there.
                        Anyway, even an average blanquette de veau in one of those places will always be better and cheaper than pseudo-Thai chicken and stale champignons à la grecque from a caterer.

                        Oh, and if you decide to buy fresh products for cooking at home: stick to Monoprix and avoid La Grande Epicerie. That is because LGE and Monoprix share the same suppliers for 'ordinary' stuff (fresh meat, vegetables and fruit) and you'll get the very same quality with distinctly lower prices at Monoprix.
                        Big stores like La Grande Epicerie and Lafayette Gourmet are interesting for hard-to-find stuff, which they have in abundance. For more common stuff, they're no better than other Paris supermarkets. And the wine selection at Franprix is better than at La Grande Epicerie and Monoprix. (The wine selection at Lafayette Gourmet is awesome.)
                        The Marché Saint-Germain is fun to visit but way overpriced.
                        Spring Boutique is lovely but it is a tiny, highly specialized little shop, which can't be considered something to rely on on a daily basis. Wine selection is awesome, though, and they do pick the best (and sometimes weirdest) charcuteries.

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: Ptipois

                          I agree and have already pointed out earlier that buying prepared dishes is not going to be cheaper than going out.
                          And I have also said here and previously that all traiteur food and roast chicken look good but they are not all gpod. Most of them are not that good. Traiteurs, which always look good, are the worst - or best? - example of form-over-content kind of visual marketing.
                          Good traiteurs exist, and are listed by Pti. They will cost the same if not more than dining out.

                          In my first reply, and in agreement once again with Pti, I recommend that the OP do some simple cooking, whichi makes the best use of the fabulous market ingredients.
                          Eating mediocre and not that cheap traiteur food in Paris when one has a kitchen? why bother?

                          1. re: Parigi

                            "Eating mediocre and not that cheap traiteur food in Paris when one has a kitchen? why bother?"
                            Exactly, and why bother coming to Paris in these conditions?
                            Indeed you did. I read your recommendations after sending my post. Not surprised we're in agreement.

                            1. re: Ptipois

                              I was slightly shocked about the comments about why visit Paris under these conditions. It seems harsh at first, but I did say in my original post that I am looking for memorable food experiences in Paris so this seems fair. And the way this thread has gone is actually the kind of direction and content I was hoping for. Ptipois, you really provide some great advice and get to the point, as does Parigi (not too difficult to ID as Americana in Parigi on ST - very savvy one) and all the others who suggest shopping suggestions and meal planning strategies.

                              It sounds like to do this right (memorable and well budgeted) I need a plan for different types of situations.

                              Home cooking - simple to cook using good market ingredients. Avoid unreliable and expensive take out meals (advice taken -- thank you for steering me right). I can find a way to manage that even though it might take a bit out of time from our days and requires recipe planning. I love to cook so this could make for some fond memories from the shopping to the cooking to the eating.

                              Dining out - Bistro and other affordable options across the city. Should be easy enough to come up with options, and it's fun to plan. I do want this to be something that makes me really feel like when I was in Paris I dined in places that can't be found any where else and the food and atmosphere and service was special. I see doing this a couple of times, and would do it more often if the budget allows. I realize lunch fixed menu's are the way to go. And I also now realize there are some affordable possibilities that will be cheaper than gourmet products bought from the high end stores in St Germain.

                              Dining out - to go places like falafals, Vietnamese subs etc. A backup when the day is busy and we're not near the apartment and didn't pack a lunch. Just another list of options to compile.

                              And finally, and not least, picnics - I have read statements from people have very fond memories of picnics, sometimes the fondest of all. I'd like to plan many picnics. From lunch while touring during the day to night time dinner picnics along the Seine near Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower etc. To me this sounds more attractive than any of the other scenarios, except for bistro and restaurants. With the right food (I'd splurge a bit for this) and locations, the idea of it sounds really enticing. I'm already researching places to picnic, supplies to bring from home etc.

                              1. re: b.mac

                                Picnics can be great hits.

                                One of our strategies for picnics is to visit an open air market and have everyone pickout something they would really like and then go to a nearby park, or interesting place, like Pont de Arts, and share. We did this on our last trip in Bois de Boulogne and everyone talks about fond memories of that picnic. We even ate in the rain at Bois de Vincennes and that picnic was a hit! And, a falafel from Rosiers carries quite well over to the pont to Ile de St Louis.

                                Good luck on your trip!

                                1. re: b.mac

                                  I love to cook, and in Paris often choose to cook myself instead of dining in restaurants. (Typically, I eat out every other night and cook in the others.) What I like to do is get to the markets (President Wilson and Saxe Breteuil are my favorites) early, around 8am or so, buy my provisions (usually lots of vegetables, potatoes, eggs, and salad ingredients) and then return to the apartment for breakfast (having picked up croissants on the way back). In the afternoon, after a full day of museums, galleries, etc., I make a circuitous route to gather the balance of dinner, e.g., Derniere Goutte for wine, Gosselin for baguettes de tradition, Hugo & Victor for dessert, and Dubois for cheese. I end up back in the apartment between 6 and 7 to prepare and assemble my feast. For me, this is one of the great pleasures of Paris, both the shopping and consuming.

                                  1. re: Nancy S.

                                    With a few variations on shopping spots, my wife agrees.

                                    1. re: hychka

                                      Actually, I have a rotating list of my favorite 6 or so boulangeries and 6 or so patisseries. We are planning our next trip for March -- for 2 weeks. I can hardly wait.

                                  2. re: b.mac

                                    "Ptipois, you really provide some great advice and get to the point, as does Parigi"

                                    "Picard. French frozen food with a lot of delicious options."

                                    Ditto both.

                              2. re: Ptipois

                                "stick to Monoprix and avoid La Grande Epicerie. That is because LGE and Monoprix share the same suppliers for 'ordinary' stuff (fresh meat, vegetables and fruit) and you'll get the very same quality with distinctly lower prices at Monoprix." - I must disagree, we shopped in the neighbourhoood for a good two years and found the opposite to be true. We started off thinking MP would be cheaper than BM but if it was it was so margininal as not to be significant in the weekly shop. However, the biggest difference is the quality of the produce, the same source is only part of the story, how the produce is kept, and displayed makes a lot of difference. I found the veggies in MP tired and past their best, but at BM the display was well maintained with any less than perfect stock removed.

                                I do agree that take-away and pre-prepared food isn't going to be a saving (unless it is Picard) but it is quite simple to grill some meat and serve some simple veggies or serve a salad with cheese or pate - don't buy pre-packed (unless it is foie gras). One of the great things in Paris is the seasonality of the vegetables and the varieties on offer. In season produce is always a winner.

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  It is true that the fruit and vegetable display is better kept at the BM and thus looks fresher (it has a higher turnover than the Monoprix one).
                                  My point is that, aside from the exotic, rare stuff (often a bit stale too) displayed on the stall nearer to the bottom end of the hall (right before the candy-spice-coffee department), the bulk fruit and vegetables sold at the BM are exactly the same as the ones you'll find at any Paris Monoprix, and they're not great quality, with an emphasis on look rather than taste.
                                  If one expects to find better fresh stuff at another luxury 'grande surface' I've got bad news, the story is pretty much the same at Lafayette Gourmet. Getting decent fresh vegetable stuff seems to be a difficulty in that kind of distribution. For that, nothing beats weekly markets. These big fancy stores are really interesting for packaged products and rare groceries. Though I must admit that Lafayette Gourmet is doing pretty well in the meat and poultry department.

                                  The Casino supermarket brand is normally absent from Paris (it is more banlieue and provincial than parisian), but there is a large one on boulevard Vincent-Auriol in the 13e, corner of rue Jeanne-d'Arc. A bit off-center, but going there once can tell a lot on how a supermarket brand tries hard to provide the best vegetable and fruit possible, with good results. The stuff does not look so shiny and plump as at the Monoprix/BM, but it does have more taste.

                                  1. re: Ptipois

                                    I agree the best stuff is often found at selected market stalls. However, after a long day in the office I much preferred picking up some supplies at BM for that days dinner. Markets are fine but they close at lunchtimes and BM and MP are usually open until at least 7:00pm. And of course in good French tradition it would be wrong not to buy food fresh each day!

                                    Interesting comment on the taste of the BM/MP veggies etc. Compared to British (and other countries) supermarkets I find them to be far superior in quality (taste). I suspect this has much to do with the French focus on seasonal produce rather than the British supermarket requirement to stock the same produce 365 days a year.

                                    1. re: PhilD

                                      About markets: I was addressing the OP's requests, they'll have all the time they need, and no office hours.
                                      We're dealing with Paris and the OP's questions, and if we compare to British supermarkets, even Franprix is better. And Franprix is the worst for fresh stuff. Monoprix/BM vegs and fruit look better than Franprix's, but despite what seems to be a policy of big-and-shiny they often lack in taste and are less interesting, cookwise, than Casino's. The Auchan/Champion/Carrefour network also fares better re. fruit and vegs.

                                      Things may be changing and recently I have found the vegetables at the boulevard de l'Hôpital Monoprix (facing the Salpêtrière hospital) to be better than usual. To the point that they had brown button mushrooms from the Loire valley (which had almost disappeared, most mushrooms in Paris being big watery spongy things from Poland) and they were delicious. Food distribution in those big chains should be checked every few months or so, of course some things do improve sometimes.

                                      1. re: Ptipois

                                        "And Franprix is the worst for fresh stuff."
                                        Pti, I'm not sure Colette would agree re our street.

                                        1. re: John Talbott

                                          Your particular Franprix must be run by fairies. Unfortunately it is too far away from my area. The fresh stuff in Franprix (or Leader Price which is the same thing) is pretty dire all over Paris

                                          1. re: Ptipois

                                            "Your particular Franprix must be run by fairies."
                                            Well, they sure make a lot of noise at 5:30 AM loading all the stuff off the trucks.

                              3. One word: Picard. French frozen food with a lot of delicious options. There's a store near you on rue du Dragon. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

                                1. http://www.dalloyau.fr/Anglais/boutiq...
                                  Above is a link to Dalloyau. My fiance's aunt is always purchasing their food for those meals in which she doesn't feel like cooking when we are at her place in Paris. Not only are their pastries and desserts terrific--but their catering is excellent.
                                  As the others have mentioned, Bon Marche is great as well for pre-made food. You can always get a nice baguette, cheese, ham, wine and do the jambon thing! You can also go to the open air markets and pick up a chicken and some veggies, tapanade........

                                  1. I have to disagree with the comment that buying prepared dishes to eat at home costs as much as eating out. There are ways around this. First of all, it is much easier to share food when you take it home than it is to order one dish for two in a restaurant. Second, there are many restaurants which give discounts for takeaway.

                                    My favorite takeout in cooler weather is the choucroute from Bofinger, near the Bastille. Not so close to you, but also not far on the métro. I think the restaurant price is around 22€, plus or minus a bit depending on the particular variety. If you take it out, it is 3€ less. The portions are gigantic. Unless the 3rd and 4th in your family are famished teenagers, two orders should feed you all. Even with the teenagers, only order three! Just add some bread and make a salad.

                                    I have had similar experiences with couscous. Today at the marché des Enfants Rouges, I had a tagine for lunch. It cost 7€50 and was too much for me. The takeaway version was for the same price, but was even larger.

                                    As for bringing a hot dish home from a bistro, even those that don't normally do takeaway may do it if you to bring your own containers. It isn't typical, but I have had it happen to me.