Paris lunch dining with toddler - need advice
We have just booked a 3 week stay in Paris for December. We will be traveling with our 3 year old toddler and staying in an apartment. We plan to do a mix of cooking at home, charcuterie and cheese, takeaways and some lunches out at casual bistros and brasseries (i.e. Chez Denise, Polidor). Our daughter is used to dining out (at average restaurants in the U.S.) and we are hyper-vigilant about her behavior in restaurants - she has a restaurant voice, is very polite to the waitstaff, and understands that we will immediately leave if we have to...
Since we are on a limited budget, my question is really about ordering at lunch. If there is a lunch special (entree, plat, etc..) my husband and I will most definitely be getting the prix fixe. I don't think my daughter can eat all of that on most days - but on some days she might! Do we order her a la carte? Is it ok to ask for an extra plate and give her some of our food? I don't want to be tacky but I also don't want to spend $20-25 on food that may be untouched. Any suggestions would be most helpful - many thanks.
When we dined with friends with children, the parents usually ask the waiter what to do. Usually the waiter suggests a single dish, either a starter or a main, and leaves a plate for the child for the rest of the meal.
Another thing to consider is that many of the better restaurants are market-driven and have an exceedingly short menu. If your child has a limited palette, she won't be happy.
Instead of Polidor, which is mediocre student food, may I suggest Dans Les Landes, also in the Latin Quarter. The whole family can share 6, 7, 8 - or any number of - tapas dishes. This style of dining offers flexibility for a group with varying appetite. In my experience, children also like having the rich variety of many smaller dishes before them. Last but not least, the food is very good.
"she has a restaurant voice, is very polite to the waitstaff, and understands that we will immediately leave if we have to..."
Bravo. Resto parenting is admirable. I want to dine with you ! :-)
One problem that I would like to point out is that in the better restaurants, there is no such thing as a quick meal. All meals will be 2 hours or longer. Many children who do start out being utterly charming angels are defeated by the meal duration.
Once I saw a Japanese family who brought a coloring book or some kind of notebook that kept their 3-year old studious and zen-like quiet throughout a long dinner at La Régalade St Honoré. Dunno if this works for your child...
and most restos are more than willing to help you out -- I can't remember a single place we've ever eaten that couldn't put together a plate of spaghetti and a slice of ham or something simple or a smaller portion of anything for ours, whether it was "on the menu" or not.
Ours ate like a bird at that age, but was pretty adventurous, so usually had something from our plates, but the flexibility was a welcome feature.
Just a heads-up, too -- many very young kids will go on a "food strike" when traveling -- they get overloaded with new flavors and textures far more quickly and easily than we do, and every few days we needed to find something simple and familiar to give ours a break. Most of our friends have experienced the same thing -- so just file that one in your head and find her something familiar if and as it rears its head.
"I can't remember a single place we've ever eaten that couldn't put together a plate of spaghetti and a slice of ham or something simple or a smaller portion of anything for ours, whether it was "on the menu" or not."
Justement, we were at Le Reminet once with friends whose child only ate spaguetti, and the restaurant with its very short menu did not serve it, and the child would not eat anything else. In an understatement, it was not a success.
That is why in my reply I mentioned that the smaller, market-driven bistros with a short menu may not be suitable.
I don't remember Le Reminet, because I've never been there.
If the child will eat one and one thing only, then yes, it could create a problem...thankfully, even when mine were on strike, they'd eat rice, fries, steamed vegetables, ham -- and I don't remember a single place that couldn't help us out on the rough days.
If we had any doubts, we'd ask before we were seated...and were never refused.
I have only had good experiences taking my 3 yr. old to french restaurants. To be honest they may only eat bread and get an apple juice but as long as they are quiet why not? Not sure about making things off the menu but they have simplified dishes for us (i.e. fish without sauces, for example). I don't think it is considered tacky to let your child share if they are under four.