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Jun 20, 2011 11:43 AM

Trip Report a Tourist’s Perspective (Part 5: HIndsight and Misc food experiences)

All the same caveats and personal insights from “Part 1 -4” hold true for “Part 5” . . .

General Thoughts from an American Tourist

If I had to do it all over again . . . . .

We again were only in Paris for 3 nights, so this was a very quick trip but what I came to learn that as much as I am a foodie, when traveling abroad, the feel of the restaurant is almost just as important as the food. There are a tremendous number of excellent restaurants in Paris – and I’m sure an equally number of bad ones.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have planned maybe 1, maybe 2 of our meals at “foodie” restaurants and left the remaining meals to chance. I am a firm believer when traveling that if the place is busy then its good, if it is empty keep moving. It is easy to tell when traveling (anywhere in the world I find) the difference. One café is packed, the one across the street is empty. This was true in Paris as well. I think one night I would have liked to find the really busy place that you know nothing about and enjoy the ambiance of the restaurant and enjoy the “romantic” emotional connection of thinking that you found this place all by yourself.

If you’re in the mood to experience that – we found two streets that are not “secret” by any means but were insanely busy, packed restaurants, and we heard very little English (unlike where we had planned to eat).

One – rue Montorgueil – which I know of from the food shops/Les Halles/etc – but Thursday night after eating at Spring we walked down the street and it was all hustle and bustle with café/restaurants that were packed and had a kind of frenetic energy about it. It could be a place worth taking a gamble – again thinking of the balance of ambiance and food when traveling around the world. I have no idea if they are any good but it certainly had an energetic, lively feel that I emotionally associate Paris (as an American – and yes I know Paris has many sides, as does every city).

The other was rue de Buci – just a block or two north of Le Comptoir. It is one block north of Blvd. Saint Germain, tucked up a little bit – and the two blocks had several restaurants that were very busy both Friday and Saturday night and we didn’t hear any English as we were walking by. Again – who knows about the food but . . . as a tourist I would have been happy with the ambiance (I think – again these are just gut feelings). Hey if you try Le Comptoir and it is too crowded you can walk past these on the way to L’Entrecote and see what happens.


We did a LOT of other eating along the way. Some of the ones that come to mind . . . .

(Even a bad macaron is good for me) that said I loved both Pierre Herme and Laduree – the two have very different ambiances as well. I had them a few times as they have several shops around town and so yes, I would walk a few blocks out of my way and just buy one or two to eat as I was walking.

Patrick Roger – wow are these good. Again stopped by a few of his shops because we had some on our way to Pre Verre (he has a shop at 108 Blv St Germain – not far from Le Comptoir either). They were so good, so we stopped by another shop later in the day to get more.

(I don’t think there is a bad baguette in Paris) That said we tried them at Au Levain d’Antan (winner of best baguette 2011), Le Fournil du village (5th place), and Cherrier (4th place). All of these are out by Montmarte (Sacre Coeur). My favorite was Le Fournil du village – though it didn’t hurt that it was still warm. They are all very easy walks from Sacre Coeur if you are out there. (Next time I might try lunch at Cherrier – not a super charming place but they had interesting looking sandwiches on some of their more interesting breads – I think he has a squid ink bread that I would have been willing to try).

Loved Pozzetto (39 rue Roi de Sicile) – excellent
Didn’t try Grom (near Le Comptoir as well) – I was just too full but line was out the door

Wine Bars
Le Rubis (10 rue du Marche Saint Honore) - a few tables, a walk up bar, and a few wine barrels outside. Very cute little place for a glass of wine if you're in the neighborhood. You can tell it has been there for a long time. Prices are a little more expensive I think if you sit at a table as opposed to standing at a wine barrel (that was our impression, we were there a few times) but it is fun watching everyone walk by.
Le Garde Robe - (41 rue del l'Arbre) - very cute little place. was packed Thursday night, crowded Saturday night. But nice people, good charcuterie, and worth a stop by if you're in the neighborhood. It recently got press in Bon Appetit so will likely get more and more Americans (didn't seem like that many the nights we were there).

In the end – I wish I wouldn’t have worried so much about making the “right” choices – I just love Paris and the food was wonderful.

Thanks everyone for all your help – hope my comments can help a fellow ChowHounder

Pierre Herme
72 Rue Bonaparte, Paris, Île-de-France 75006, FR

75 Champs-Élysées, Paris, Île-de-France 75008, FR

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  1. Once again, well perceived and evaluated. It is probably sensible to get advice before travel, but you are right in concluding that what is "best", what will be memorable, is that which delighted you the most, very often the serandipitous discovery of your own.

    1. "....we walked down the street and it was all hustle and bustle with café/restaurants that were packed and had a kind of frenetic energy about it. It could be a place worth taking a gamble.." - you will find the food in these two areas to be OK but not great. The hustle and bustle results from all the people coming out for a few glasses of wine and to catch up with friends and maybe have a snack or two. They are not really great eating areas but fun and great to grab a table and relax.

      The "Buci" area is really very touristy but remember only some tourists speak English lots of tourists are from other non-English speaking countries: Spanish, Italian, Russian, German, Japanese, Chinese etc etc

      5 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        rue Buci is great fun, realy bustling with a good vibe. We often stay at Hotel Artus on rue Buci and know the area quite well.

        I'm not sure why hearing any language other than French in Paris is of such a concern. Paris is a major tourist destination and there are English speaking people everywhere. I'm just glad to be in Paris when I'm there and couldn't give a toss what language people are speaking close by me.

        1. re: jeremyholmes

          I'm a fan of Da Rosa on rue Buci -- great place to buy Bordier butter and Christine Ferber jam. I also like Grom across the street -- it's leagues tastier than my local Grom here in New York.

          1. re: jeremyholmes

            "I'm not sure why hearing any language other than French in Paris is of such a concern." - simply picking up on the OP's comment "they didn't hear English" I assumed they assumed it was a local area because of that, when in fact it is a very touristy area.

            1. re: PhilD

              I get the "language" thing and after reading your replies I'm not 100% sure what I mean when I say that. I guess it goes back to that dichotomy of trying to balance being a tourist and not wanting to feel like a tourist. (Trust me I get that I am what I am as I travel). I guess I use the languages I hear as a sort of litmus test to gauge that feeling when i have no real other way to do so.

              I certainly didn't think either of these were local areas (and as I speak Spanish and Italian - am tourist level in German - I could at least tell that on the night I was passing by I was hearing 80% French at least - just to clarify that). It was just that as I was walking these streets I didn't "feel" like I was on the American "circuit".

              In general this was a very interesting trip for me personally. I am very much a foodie but this was the first trip I "planned" to this level as a foodie trip and I think while researching online I fell into a bit of an "American Circuit" (you know the ones - like when a cruise ship docks in a town and all the tour buses go to the same stores, down the same roads, and to the same attractions - okay a little more severe that what actually happened but . . . ).

              And as you could tell I loved the food in all the places I ate and everyone's insights and posts were very helpful. If I had more time i certainly would have tried more places everyone recommended!

              So my choices were no one's fault but my own (I'm not saying I regret any of them) and I am not sure how I would have researched differently to make different choices. So I was just trying to rely my experiences - however half-baked. Sometimes I find hind-sight posts and thoughts interesting - so that was what I was trying to include for others who relate.

              1. re: thimes

                thimes, like others, I'm really enjoying your thoughtful and candid posts. -- Jake

        2. caution against assuming because a place is full it is good, remember dumps like Olive Garden and Applebee's would seem to be good candidates for a night out if following that logic in the US, same applies in France, every place that is full is for sure not good.