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Apr 3, 2012 09:19 AM

First time in Paris - need help choosing restaurants (can't read menus!)

Hi everyone,

Thanks for reading this! I'm going to Paris for the first time in June and am a huge foodie. Usually my vacations center around eating, so making dinner reservations is key to this trip!

I have tons of recommendations, but every time I go to the website to look at the restaurant, I can never read the menu and am left not knowing if I'll enjoy the food!

Am looking for moderately priced restaurants (maybe one or two on the higher end). I eat chicken, duck, steak, and some fish (white flakey fish only!).

Can anyone recommend restaurants that have the above? I will be there for 3 nights and 3 days (so lunch recommendations are welcome as well).

Also, when making a reservation, do you recommend emailing or going through our hotel? I'd like to make this trip as non-touristy as possible.


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  1. Oh! And I'll be in Nice for two nights, too! Recommendations welcome!

    1. Before we can make useful recommendations, remember that Paris bistros change their menu weekly if not daily. It is not much use to include menus in your restaurant research.
      Another important factor is the days of the week when you will be in Paris for your very short trip. Many good restaurants will be closed Sundays and Mondays. Pickin will be silm.
      Also please specify budget. Moderate price in US$-pegged economies is not the same as moderate price in Switzerland or Scandinavia.
      White flaky fish. Hmm... No crab shrimp mussels oysters?

      "when making a reservation, do you recommend emailing or going through our hotel? I'd like to make this trip as non-touristy as possible."

      Paris restaurants are not known to respond in email. The best is to call. A real pain, I know.
      The best way to avoid tourist-frequented places is to consult French sites instead of English-language sites. All recommendations given here are shared by countless English-speaking visitors who are - my wild guess - probably not French. :-)

      34 Replies
      1. re: Parigi

        Ah! Had no idea! Thanks for letting me know. I will be in Paris from Monday during the day through Thursday night. So figure dinners for Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, and flying to Nice Thursday night.

        I should've also said that I eat all shrimp, lobster, crab and scallops.

        Moderately priced, meaning, no more than $50 a person, NOT including drinks!

        1. re: Rikkles270

          Good dinners around your price range with no tourist (well, English-speakers):
          Dans Les Landes (in the 5th)
          Albion (10th)
          Chez Casimir (10th, open Monday)
          Les Saison.

          Chez l'Ami Jean has a very good lunch deal - a 35 euro menu. The food is what I would miss most about Paris if I didn't live here. Another advantage for lunch (well for you; I don't mind this point so much): there are no English speakers.
          In fact, in general chez l'Ami Jean is not the only resto that has a concentration of locals at lunch and visitors at dinner. Café des Musées is like that too.

          Aonther good and fun lunch spot would be the food stalls at the Marché des Enfants Rouges, in northern Marais.

          1. re: Parigi

            Sorry to disappoint anyone but both we and our neighbors were speaking English at CAJ at lunch ;)

            1. re: PattyC

              No problem with me.
              I was just trying to be polite with hounds who request recommendations from people whom they specify they do not want to see or hear in the said restos.

            2. re: Parigi

              What are some of your favorites in Marche des Enfantes Rouges? Any places for croissants/pain du chocolat? We arrive in Paris around 4pm on a Monday and will want to grab a quick bite near our hotel in the upper Marais.

              1. re: jssLA

                I think most, probably all,of the market places will be closed Monday afternoon. Markets in France are closed Sunday afternoon and all day Monday.

                In the marché, I like the rôtisserie and the couscous place. But look around and see what appeals to you most (or which stand has the longest queue, always a good sign).

                Right outside the small market on rue de Bretagne there are several good bakeries. I like La Fougasse and also nearby Le Levain du Marais on rue Turenne.

              2. re: Parigi

                A word on Albion
                My first dinner chez Albion was wonderful. The food and service were both great.
                My second dinner there was much less so. The service was still great. The kitchen seemed to have a major breakdown, with looooooong waits between notso-hotso executed dishes. Especially my Saint Pierre, a fish I normally love. It was cooked until all dried, astoundingly under-seasoned, on a bed of over-salted spinach mash. I could not finish it although I was quite hungry.
                Luckily the company was great and made the evening great. One sign of great dinner company is that I did not notice the wait until we walked out of the restaurant and looked at my watch to find that we had spent more than 3 hours over a 3-course dinner.

              3. re: Rikkles270

                For Monday, try Neva Cuisine (2 courses at €29.50 and 3 courses at €37, no useful website and menu changes weekly) or Bistro Volnay (3 courses at €38 There are enough choices on the menu that you shouldn't have a problem at either.

                For one of the other days, we really liked Les Saisons this last trip (dinner 3 course at €31 with 2 choices per course and also a la carte Their carte is fairly extensive so you should be able to find something to your liking.

                Do you mean you can't read the menu because it's not on the website or because you don't read French? Neva Cuisine and Bistro Volnay will be able to translate for you. Less English is spoken at Les Saisons but enough to answer any questions.

                Calling is better than emailing so I would have the hotel concierge do it if you have access to one.

                1. re: PattyC

                  Thanks so much for your reply! I'm having trouble choosing restaurants because I can't read the menu or the website, so it's hard to know if I'd like the food. I'll look at the restaurants you listed below. And Parigi, I don't have a problem with English speakers :-) I just meant that I don't want to go where "all the Americans go" hahaha

                  1. re: Rikkles270

                    In that case, take a look at John Talbott's blog for pictures and descriptions to see if you'll like the food

                    Second all of Parigi's recs. Keep in mind the Chez l'Ami Jean lunch deal is I believe no choice but it looks like the only things you don't eat are pork and offal? Other options at CAJ will be slightly to more than slightly above your budget.

                    1. re: PattyC

                      Check out the Dr. T recent review of Reed, English menu included.

                    2. re: Rikkles270

                      It completely slipped my mind earlier, but Les Saisons does have an English translation of their menu at the restaurant. If you email them, they may email it to you. They seemed like the kind of place that would be receptive to emails.

                      1. re: Rikkles270

                        Try using Google Chrome - it can auto- translate most on-line menus. Badly sometimes, but well enough to get an idea of what to expect.

                    3. re: Rikkles270

                      Not having been yet myself, but, being a regular fan of his blog, David Lebovitz, is an American living in Paris; who might still have a list of recommended spots on his site.

                      1. re: Nocturnalbill

                        I went to Les Saisons a few weeks ago,and although I've had many excellent dinners with Dr. T's choices ( like Neva ) Les Saisons wasn't one of them. au Fil des Saisons was another,more successful option.

                        1. re: Nocturnalbill

                          Thanks everyone for replying! This is all so helpful. Figured what might also be helpful is if I give you all the list of places I was looking at. They all came recommended but would love to hear your opinions!

                          Jean-Georges MARKET
                          La Palette
                          Café de Flore
                          Les Deux Magots
                          La Societe
                          Creperie Suzette
                          Le Bistrot Des Comperes
                          Restaurant Mariette
                          Le Petit Fernand
                          Café L'Absinthe
                          l'Os a Moelle
                          La Butte Chaillot

                          Thanks again everyone!

                          1. re: Rikkles270

                            La Palette
                            Café de Flore
                            Les Deux Magots

                            the above are cafés, not restos.
                            La Palette is very nice and hip. Owner Jean-François has a trademark attitude.
                            The Flore is nice too, the 1st floor.
                            Deux Margots is like the kind of rock star to whose mention you ask: what? He's not dead?

                            L'Entrecôte. Are you sure that is the full name of the restaurant?

                            Le Petit Fernand. Nice little bistro. Not destination resto?

                            Café L'Absinthe. Good food. Nice location.

                            La Butte Chaillot. Are you sure it's not closed ?

                            1. re: Parigi

                              What's the difference there between a "cafe" and a "resto"? One's more of a light lunch and the other is a dinner?

                              Not sure if L'Entrecote is the full name of the restaurant - got that one from a friend of a friend of a friend!

                              I think we'll definitely do La Palette for lunch one day, and I heard the Creperie place, Suzette, is amazing.

                              I also think I want to do Georges' MARKET. And judging from your above nod, I'll do CAfe L'Absinthe too!

                              1. re: Rikkles270

                                La Palatte is more of a bar than cafe. I think it does cheese and charcuterie as snacks to accompany drinks but not meals.

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  I am ashamed to admit I have lunched at La Palette. Intensely forgettable salads and omelette stuff.
                                  Definitely no place for a "huge foodie".

                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    I suppose I only went for a pre-dinner warm up, not certain it does much food in the evening.

                                    1. re: PhilD

                                      That is the best use of La Palette, a pre-dinner drink. I did say I was ashamed to have lunched there.

                                      1. re: Parigi

                                        Ha, okay, no lunch at La Palette then! Good thing I asked! Is there a good place around there to get dinner then? I'd do pre-drinks and then head somewhere close for dinner.

                                        A few other restaurants I've heard about are below. Any ones that stand out?

                                        Le Derriere
                                        Chez Diep
                                        Chez Denis
                                        L'Hotel Costes restaurant

                                        1. re: Rikkles270

                                          There's a great little creperie nearby called Little Breizh They're closed on Monday.

                                          1. re: Rikkles270

                                            Phoebe. I have never heard of this restaurant. Could you provide an address and lindk?

                                            Le Derriere. You probably mean Derrière. Excuse me there is a big difference between the name "Behind" and the name "The Behind".

                                            Frenchie. It is very good. Pain in ass to reserve.

                                            Chez Denis. I have not heard of Chez Denis but it does not mean it does not exist. Please give link or address.
                                            If you mean Chez Denise, it is very good and old-fashioned and copious. Has many meat-focused dishes, the kind you like.

                                            L'Hotel Costes restaurant. Another place that is not for serious eating. OK place for a drink, better than the Buddha bar. Who thought up the inane idea of drinking in front of the Buddha?

                                            None of the places on your list are particularly near La Palette. Near La Palette, Aux Fins Gourmets. Good traditional food.

                                            And what's wrong with the many very good recommendations that Patty made upthread?

                                            1. re: Parigi

                                              Absolutely nothing wrong with all the recommendations - only there for 3 nights so just want to make sure I pick the right places! These are all amazing and I so appreciate your help!

                                              Phoebe came from a friend of a friend who lives in Paris. She said:
                                              "Phoebe on place Perreire: great semi-casual small cozy restaurant that is a bit of a party on weekends"

                                              "Le Derriere ultra trendy very cool restaurant in le Marais with great food (I'm obsessed with this place)"

                                              1. re: Rikkles270

                                                There is a very trendy place in the Marais, a backroom behind the fashionable couscous place 404 on rue Gravilliers, called Derrière. It is more of a see&be seen place. Again the food is secondary. The place is indeed fun. If you are serious foodie and want to see well, this would not be your place. But I'm still not sure if this is the place you mean.
                                                And still can't find any resto called Phoebe on place Péreire or anywhere else in Paris.

                                              2. re: Parigi

                                                Fish and Chez Fernand are also nearby, While on rue du Seine, don't forget to check out Galerie Documents, a good source for posters and prints. Murielle is the owner. La Palette was her father's favorite hangout; I always knew where to find him at off hours.

                                              3. re: Rikkles270

                                                If you can't get a reservation at Frenchie, try their wine bar across the street. No reservations taken so get there just before 7:00pm to get a seat at one of the communal tables or stand at the bar.

                                                1. re: PattyC

                                                  Love this suggestion! Thank you!!

                                                  1. re: Rikkles270

                                                    when we go to paris we read the menu french or in english. if in french you can easily translate it with alittle work on line. You should try to figure it out on your own. that is the difference between a travler(who does that) and a tourist who thinks others should do it for them...

                                                    1. re: kevin25

                                                      " that is the difference between a travler(who does that) and a tourist who thinks others should do it for them..."
                                                      I'm stealing this line.

                                              4. re: Parigi

                                                Definitely worth popping by (La Palette) for a drink and a look at the art there. And a solid chance of seeing Jacques Chirac (not that that's a treat, mind).

                            2. All non-French-speaking visitors to France need this:


                              It's one of the most complete I've found, and can be downloaded in either Word or PDF format -- so it can be stored on a Kindle, iPod, or other smartphone, so it's right at your fingertips when you need it -- and reasonably discreetly.

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