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Mar 24, 2012 04:10 AM

First lunch in Paris - outdoor seating & decent food near Madeleine/Louvre?

Friends of ours are arriving this Thursday. We'll be meeting up for lunch that day near my office. I'd like to take them somewhere with a nice terrace to the enjoy the spring weather and also so they can "see Paris" (for one friend it's his first visit to the city).

- tasty food & prompt service
- has distinct "you're in Paris" feel
- outdoor seating
- non-meat options (both friends are vegetarians but they do eat eggs, fish and seafood.)
~ 25 euros per person

My thinking so far:

- The Saut du Loup has the perfect location, but rotten everything else. Ditto for Cafe Marly.
- The Place du Marché St Honoré meets the 'parisian terrace' requirement but I don't know if any of the many restos on the place are actually any good.
- Get take-out from Cojean (which while take out, is definitely not like your typical N. American self-serve!) across from the Louvre and eat on Pont des Arts or in Tuileries. Can't really beat that for ambiance!
- Le Fumoir, which has a crap terrace but the inside is at least bright with big windows, and food & service are correct

Would love to hear your two centimes!

thanks in advance

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  1. Cross the river and go to Le Voltaire or Le Frigate on Quai Voltaire? Sit outside and with direct view of the Seine and Louvre.

    4 Replies
    1. re: mangeur

      L'Absinthe, on the charming place St Honoré.

        1. re: Parigi

          And an emphatic ditto from me too. But, oops, the 25 € ceiling might have to be raised at l'Absinthe.

          A second-hand rec. The cool kids in the office are muttering that the Bistrot Saint-Honoré on the rue Gamboust side of the place du Marché Saint-Honoré is quite the place for a cheap-ish lunch these days. But it's on a side-street so the terrace is rather small. And heavy Burgundian cuisine.

          1. re: Parnassien

            L'absinthe sounds wonderful, but with the price &menu looks like the type of place to linger so might make more sense for dinner when my friends won't be itching to play tourist.

            Burgundian cuisine is generally not great for veg options, but for me personally this is a great tip - affordable & tasty lunch spots are hard to find in this neighborhood!

      1. Eating the workers lunch in the basement of Madeline is unforgettable, but not outdoors, not pretty, and I don't remember if there were vegetarian options. Definitely fast and tasty and "Paris".

        7 Replies
        1. re: Betty

          Betty, I had never heard of this! What a hoot!

          From Wikipedia: "In the basement of the Church (entrance on the Flower Market side) is The Foyer de la Madeleine. Typical of various foyers run by religious and civic groups throughout France the Madeleine is the home of a restaurant open from Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 2:00 pm except holidays, school vacations and the month of August. For a yearly subscription fee of 3 Euros one can dine under the vaulted ceilings on a three course French meal served by volunteers for the price of 7.50 Euros. After dining one can take coffee in a lounge at the far end of the foyer for one of the cheapest espressos in Paris, 70 centimes. The walls of the Foyer are often decorated by local artists."

          1. re: mangeur

            Haha, my office literally looks onto the door that leads to that little restaurant. A great suggestion (I keep forgetting it exists), but perahps not for the first day because I know my friends will want to see some sunshine!

            1. re: mangeur

              fyi mangeur,
              on a lark i went to this resto/cafeteria (Foyer de la Madeleine) a couple of weeks ago.
              its quirky all right. and crowded.
              the scene is fellniesque with the volunteer church ladies waiting on regulars as well as looky-loos like me. you can sit at a commmunal table or at a two-top.the 'regulars' are clearly nearby office dwellers, retirees and parisioners.
              you are offered a 'membership' for 12 euros which entitles you to roughly 50% off the food. 'sure' i said and took my shiny new 'member card' and sat down. i was brought a platter with representatives of the entrees to choose from (grated carrots with some sort of dressing splashed on it, a mass of lentils that had been exposed to the air for too long, and i can't even remember the 3rd.) then i was presented with another platter of entrees to choose from.
              i could not finish my lunch
              it was awful. industrial food. think u.s. public school cafeteria. maybe i went on a bad day but i don't think so.
              at least its cheap. and the people are friendly.
              if you are anthro-socio minded, like me, its fun for people-watching.
              but i won't go back unless i'm with a bunch of backpacking hostelers who have no palate. and even then i'll just plead that i'm not hungry and order a coffee.
              i don't know what i'll do with my membership card ;-)

              1. re: parispicnics

                Thanks for this! So sorry! My husband balked and wouldn't go when I suggested it during our last visit. He said he felt he would be stealing lunch from a starving shop-girl from the quartier. The gods work in mysterious ways....

                1. re: mangeur

                  Your husband is a fine gentleman.

                  1. re: mangeur

                    oh goodness mangeur, i hope you aren't saying 'sorry' on my account! it was a place that has been on my list for quite some time, so i was happy to tick it off (i still haven't: sipped champagne on the terrace at Hotel Raphael or eaten oysters off a car hood at Le Baron Rouge for that matter). I just randomly came across your reference and thought i'd add my experience.
                    and, the fact that the place is crowded proves that plenty of people like it.
                    bref, no need for an apology.
                    p.s. your husband does sound kind

                  2. re: parispicnics

                    I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it. I loved the gigantic raspberries and it is the only time I've ever tried salsify. I really enjoy the experience but to each his own. We went again this summer.

              2. The terrace of the Grand Palais-called the Mini-Palais. I was just there last weekend. a magnificent interior space plus an elegant outdoor terrace. beautiful ! And a very passable meal. we were there for a Sunday night dinner and had a look at the sparkling Eiffel tower just a few steps away at the Pont Alexandre III

                2 Replies
                1. re: pammi

                  Ooh, have never actually been to the Grand Palais. This could be a good excuse....

                  1. re: limegimlet08

                    Would rue Montorgeuil be too far from your office? If not, there a great little cafe, Les Petits Carreaux on the top end of Montorgeuil, near Reaumur. Nice terrace right on this great market street and lots of great salad options. We've had lunch there 4 times now and it's never disappointed.

                2. Great, food, no -- but very good salads and quiches, without breaking the bank - nice outdoor seating facing the reasonably quiet Place Collette , and a front row view of the oddly enchanting Metro entrance there...

                  Cafe de la Comedie 157 rue St Honore

                  1. Reporting back, a few months later:

                    We ended up following Parigi's recommendation of Absinthe, but for dinner rather than lunch. I checked the site, and I liked the creative-sounding dishes. On the phone, the welcome was not great. I was told quite brusquely that the only option was upstairs. It looked OK on the website, so i said sure.

                    The reception was significantly warmer when we showed up in person, but then I found out the "catch" of being upstairs: it's the foreigner ghetto - even ones who speak decent French, evidently - with a decor and layout more reminiscent of a suburban Olive Garden than a restaurant in the 1st arrondissement. Fortunately, the friends didn't know this. And the patient, English-speaking waiter was indeed helpful for the one person at our 4-person table who didn't understand French.

                    Service was polite but very slow and not as responsive as I'm used to here (i.e. we had to ask several times for another carafe d'eau, or waiting at least 20 min for our plates to be taken away). They seemed severely short-staffed.

                    Foodwise, it reminded me of dining when i go back to Vancouver: creative dishes, often with an Asian influence, and attractive presentation. But the dishes seemed overly "busy" and the execution was sometimes sloppy. I took the deep-fried softshell crab and iceberg lettuce salad for entree. The crab crust was heavy and greasy, the sauce had the consistency of store-bought mayo, and the wasabi flavour overpowered the rest of the dish. My husband ordered the escargot and mushrooms, which was heavy on the latter and light on the former, served on a tough little sliver of waffle. He wasn't impressed.

                    The next morning, we asked our friends what they thought. They were happy, they found it much better quality than what they claim they can find in Toronto. But by the end of their visit, two weeks later, my friend said that after having dined at so many other restaurants in Paris and Provence, from ranging form gastronomique to creperies and pizzerias, in retrospect the meal at Absinthe was pretty mediocre.

                    A few weeks later I decided to go there for aperos with a friend. It was convenient, and remembering the friendly accueil, I decided to give them a second chance. Unfortunately, none of the apero nibblies were available, as they were short one cook in the kitchen. Perhaps this explains the slow service when we dined there.

                    thanks to all for the suggestions.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: limegimlet08

                      Sorriest about the notso-hotso experience at l'Absinthe.
                      It sounds as though being short-staffed is its major problem, but not only.
                      I like your attitude as a responsible epicurean (can you tell I hate the word foodie?). You would actually go back to a restaurant that gave you a mixed-bag experience, to test whether the trend is upward or downward. Absolutely admirable. (I don't mean the restaurant; I mean you.)

                      1. re: Parigi

                        aw shucks <blush>. I like this "responsible epicurean" label - much more flattering than "greedy and hungry".