Paris without reservations
The wife and I will be in paris the last weekend of May (Thu - Mon). We plan to do one fancy dinner (likely Sunday night) and dinner with some friends on Friday night where will have reservations. I was wondering for Thursday and Saturday night are reservations essential for a good restaurant? We don't need to go anywhere with a name (that will be the other two nights) but still want good parisian food.
We are usually pretty good at judging a menu and ambiance so like being able to walk up to a place and see if it looks good and with the wealth of restaurants in paris picking them out ahead of time is a bit daunting. If this is possible on a weekend, what neighborhood/street would be our best for walking around and popping in somewhere - even if that means sitting at a bar.
If this is not possible (at least not without an hour wait) that is fine but would be good to know...For example if you were visiting me in San Francisco I would say this would not be a good idea ;)
It is a very different restaurant culture than the US. People book and exect to be seated when they arrive, a few places do do first come first served but they are rare and don't do it uniformly i.e. Chateaubriand second sitting only. Some wine bars are "no booking" but many take reservations. As a result there isn't really a culture or the facilities to hang around for a table in the bar (if they have one). And yes Paris has lots and lots of restaurants, but Paris has millions of tourists (and a few residents) who all want to eat great French food. Unfortuantly only the top percentage of places are really good and worth it. So those are the ones that book out, and I guess they are the ones that book out. Just got back from SF and in comparison I think Paris is more competitive for a good table - so book! And given your trip is soon you may already be out of luck with many great places.
Some more advice. Lots of good places don't open Saturday or Sunday. If they do Saturday they won't do Monday. Sunday and Monday are really are with limited choice. Lunch on Sunday is better if you want a special meal but even then there a less options than a week day. Lots of research is required if you wish to avoid a "Fisherman's Wharf" dining experience.
In SF, I would probably not try to call a restaurant an hour before I wanted to arrive, to make a reservation. In Paris I would. It might not work, but it might.
In any case, your idea is a worse one in Paris than in SF.
Thank you for the feedback - spent the weekend emailing places and was able to secure a few good reservations so that is good. I'm crossing the fingers that our hotel will be able to get us into Frenchies or Yum 'tcha for one night...We were able to get Robouchon for Sunday night so hopefully that will a special "last night of vacation" meal...
I'm guessing that there is no paris version of OpenTable....
As an aside, is there a rationale for so many places being closed on Saturday? Sunday I can understand (though that is less common in the states now), but Saturday seems odd...I guess there is something to be said for a culture that isn't all about chasing the holy dollar (or euro)...