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May 14, 2012 01:52 PM

Where Paris' locals dine

So many posters ask for addresses where they will not hear English spoken. Well, they certainly exist but well below the NYT and maybe even Figaroscope radar. (Maybe even Paris by Mouth!) I thought we might share a few of these names with a few well behaved Chow readers who know to keep their voices down in order and not upset the local ambiance. I will start by giving up one of our old favorites that has been good for a decade.

Le Dirigeable in the 15e. Easily accessible on the #95 bus to Alleray stop. First, there is Guy, the superb front of house and wine guru. Patient and caring very much that you enjoy your evening. There are usually a half dozen interesting choices of each entrees, plats and desserts. St. Jacques are always a winner in season. Rosy calves liver has been divine. Pigeon, duck, veal, it's all good here on a menu that changes daily.

This is a place where you can actually talk across the table. Not boisterous. Dates, local couples in foursomes, multi-generational tables.

This blog description is pretty accurate. Tell Guy his old San Francisco friends sent you, and that they plan to get back there themselves soon. And remember, you promised to behave.

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  1. Thank you for your suggestion. My husband and I will be in Paris in September and will plan on going there.

    14 Replies
    1. re: CMichaelis

      But at that time it will be invaded by hordes of Americans tourists.

      In my experience, Ordinary french people do not eat at most of the restaurant reported here, they eat at crappy brasserie, ordinary bistro and fast-food joints

      (and all places that accept lunch tickets)


      1. re: Maximilien

        "Ordinary french people do not eat at most of the restaurant reported here, they eat at crappy brasserie, ordinary bistro and fast-food joints."

        Well, the ordinary people of most countries eat crap, except maybe Thailand, Vietnam, China. The ordinary people of Girona did not hang out at El Builli.

        I think it is often a matter of arrondissements.
        For example, no French friend of mine would go to Ile St Louis or the Champs for a meal.
        All the restaurants in those central arrondissements generally have more foreigners than French. And it has happened that hounds on this board refer to the 9th and 10th and 11th arrondissements as far-flung or outlying. In their mind it's all schlep-ville.

        1. re: Maximilien

          "In my experience, Ordinary french people.... eat at crappy brasserie, ordinary bistro and fast-food joints."

          I've not found that to be true. There are throughout the city many small restaurants with serious chefs, albeit perhaps without 5 o'clock shadow or oozing charisma, that are filled nightly with locals. I think of places like a Table d'Eugene (18e), La Clochere Pereire and Le Bouchon et l'Assiette (both 17e), Philou (10e), all mentioned on this board and all kept alive by locals rather than visitors.

          Reread some of Parnassien's posts. He almost daily suggests neighborhood spots that fill the bill.

          1. re: mangeur

            The thing to do is walk leisurely by and listen to the conversation, look at the people, if they are mostly French, you're in!

            1. re: bronwen

              I was hoping to get our own locals to ante-up an address or two. They have been extraordinarily helpful and giving in the ethnic category. And I guess that each has a hidden bistrot gem somewhere.

              Sharing shouldn't be problematic because, as Parigi pointed out, the average visitor won't travel beyond the inner circle except to well publicized places.

              1. re: mangeur

                (Sharing) :)
                Le Petel on the rue Pétel in the 15th
                Axuria near Boucicaut in the 15th
                l’Alcôve on the rue Didot in the 14th (but becoming too popular thanks to LeFooding)
                Les Zygomates on the rue Capri in the 12th

                1. re: Parnassien

                  Interesting group. And all within steps of transportation. The first two, bus #39, the third #58 and the last almost door to door on the #87.

                2. re: mangeur

                  I haven't seen other anglophones, except ones I referred at Le Court Bouillon or Gastroquet, both in the 15th, both serving well prepared traditional cuisine. Right around the corner from Le Bouchon et l'Assiette is Karl et Erick, the twins who formerly ran Les Jumeaux in the 11th. In the 9th, Le Bourgogne Sud is a nice, comfortable place and not well known to people out of the neighborhood.

                3. re: bronwen

                  Trouble is so many of the French-speakers in central Paris aren't locals either. Lots and lots of people from the suburbs and the provinces. Visitors from other parts of France can be just as clueless as foreign tourists.

                  1. re: Parnassien

                    "Visitors from other parts of France can be just as clueless as foreign tourists"
                    who don't read Chowhound France! :)

                    1. re: mangeur

                      and clueless foreign visitors would never ever include the bus-riding guinguette-going Mme Mangeur. :)

                      1. re: Parnassien

                        Are Axuria and Le Dirigeable different enough in style of food to enjoy them both on consecutive nights? And can someone do a caparison with either or both of these spots with the original La Regalade please?

                        1. re: plafield

                          I haven't tried Axuria. But Le Dirigeable is nothing like La Regalade. LD is not spacious, but tables are not crowded. The banquet seating is usually set aside for larger parties of, say, 6 or 8. The rest of the seating is at separate tables. The noise level at LD is multi-decibles lower than LR.

                          The food at LD is less rustic than LR; it is market-driven modern French. To be honest, we may be the only people in the world who gave up on LR because of noise, crowding, tourists-in-your-lap, curt waitstaff and, for us, forgettable food.

                          LD is a small restaurant rather than a bistrot, a civilized neighborhood enclave where locals anticipate (book) a pleasant night out.

                          1. re: plafield

                            I have a higher opinion of La Régalade than Mangeur. Certainly the noise level and bustle make it quite unsuitable for an intimate meal à deux. But the food is quite good. Nevetheless, after one hellish sweat-soaked evening there a few years ago, it is a restaurant that I now would never consider in the summer. BTW, bad ventilation is a common problem in many Paris restaurants and that's why in summer we migrate to restaurants with terraces or air-con but not necessarily great food.

                            If you do Axuria and Le Dirigeable on successive nights, there will be absolutely no sense of repetition. Axuria has a contemporary vibe both in decor and the culinary riffs (heavy on fish but the lamb is superb too) on a Basque theme. Seats are very comfortable. And, wheeeee, air-con. The immediate neighbourhood around Boucicault is nicely animated with a couple of popular cafés for an apéro or an after-dinner coffee. Le Dirigeable has more of a stereotypically parisien ambiance. At first sight, the menu seems quite traditional but, as Mangeur pointed out, the cuisine has modern notes and twists that make it far from clichéd. The setup, with the front completely openable, makes it a good summer choice. But closed, I seem to remember, in August. For me the only deficit is that Le Dirigeable is kinda isolated in a dull neighbourhood (especially at night). Both, at 40 € to 50 € a head, have great price/ quality ratios.

            2. Mangeur (and those who have contributed so far), thanks for this thread. We'll be near the 15th soon, speaking softly as usual, and much of this looks very useful. -- Jake

              8 Replies
              1. re: Jake Dear

                Hard choices. We've been to La Regalade numerous times and it's been one of our favorites, (not so much LRSH) despite the elbow to elbow. We have 1 dinner with friends who are in Paris for the first time and we planned to take them to LR and have a reservation for this Monday night. Tuesday evening is our last night before we leave and we were thinking of trying Le Dirigeable or Axuria, thus the question about consecutive nights. But now I'm thinking of trying to see if we can get inot Axuria this Saturday night. We have reserved at Reed but for some reason I haven't been excited about it. From the sounds of this thread, we could enjoy Axuria, La Regalade, and Le Dirigable in close succession, yes?

                1. re: plafield

                  Le Dirigeable and La Régalade have certain similarities in tone and style in that they live up to a foreigner's expectations of what a Paris bistro should look and feel like. Axuria is in the modern mode of how Parisiens prefer their restaurants to be. Personally, I like the food better at Axuria because it's less familiar. Except the deserts which turn me into a child again.

                  1. re: Parnassien

                    I'll report back. We have Axuria tonight, La Regalade (which we have been to many times and have loved. Sure do hope it's still as good!) on Monday night, and Le Dirigeable on Tuesday night.

                    1. re: plafield

                      Look forward to hearing about all 3! Thanks everyone for these new recommendations. Can't wait to try!

                      1. re: juliemarie8

                        I suddenly feel against the wall and need to re-trench somehow. Please know that my, and I suspect, others' recs are truly places where locals eat, not the temples of "what's happening now" that are covered by local and far-flung presses, and to some extent Chow France. What they serve is real and honest and often inspired, but most probably not eye-poppingly avant guard.

                        As is so often attached to a rec, "very good if you are in the neighborhood" or, I might add, if you cross town on a whim half dozen times a day as we do.

                        1. re: mangeur

                          I actually live in the 15th, so as boring as many find it to be, I'm excited to hear about some new spots - good honest cooking that I can hop on my bike and ride over to! I didn't at all get the impression that you were suggesting "must eats" for people who visit, but as exactly what you said - places the locals are eating, good food surrounded by French people! And happy to try new places, so thanks for the recs!

                          1. re: juliemarie8

                            Yes, Mangeur, I understood what to expect from these recs. We had a lovely dinner that was just as you say last night at Axuria. Honest, good food, not eye popping but great value in a comfortable setting. Not worth crossing town for but as we're living in the neighborhood, it was perfect and we thought a very good value. I'll write it up under it's own heading when I have a bit of time. I'm expecting the same from Le Dirigeable.

                      2. re: plafield

                        It occurs to me that you visited La Dirigeable last night. We'd love to read your report. It is important that we get honest feed-back, so please tell us what you experienced. There is no need to mince words if your evening was less than you expected. TIA...

                2. I'm not a local, but one of my favorite places in Paris is Le Belisaire in the 15me. It's approximately around the corner from Le Cordon Bleu school. While I was in school there we had 4 dinners at Le Belisaire. It's populated mostly by locals, and the food is always very good. I usually meet friends for lunch there when I'm in town.

                  It's a short walk from the Vaugirard metro stop.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ChefJune

                    We went to Dirigable Tuesday night with local friends and thoroughly enjoyed the food. As was said, it has that classic bistro feel and very good food but not necessarily worth crossing town for. For us it was perfect as a dinner on our last night as it was a short walk to our apartment (and not far for our friends either.)

                    It was a Tuesday night and while there were people dining it was far from full. For those who care about this sort of thing, we were the only ones there speaking English. The food, while delicious, was very slow to come out. Portions were just right for me but I think small for folks with real appetite.

                    Fortunately, they had foie gras on the menu for an entree so I got to indulge before leaving Paris. (La Regalade was out of the whole foie the night before!) LD's foie was a good sized portion, simply pan fried with a little carmelized, brown butter and served with a nice pile of well seasoned spinach. Very satisfying. Another really delicious entree was the pieds de porc. Yum.

                    I had steak tartare for my plat and it was delicious, very well seasoned, plenty of diced onion and good mustard. It came with lovely roasted potatoes and a nice green salad. My only complaint was that their bread was lousy. I a city (and neighborhood!) with so much great bread available, there really is no excuse for the tasteless, texture-less baguette served here.

                    For dessert we shared a tart tatin and rice pudding. I wasn't impressed by either but they were certainly more than passable. All in all the meal was really good and I'd go back if I lived in the neighborhood.

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      I would also recommend Le Belisaire in the 15th. I've always had great meals there. Also, I would recommend Je thèè-me-par... not far from Le Belisare. The owner Jacky is charming and it's located in a preserved early 20th century confectionery/tea shop. Their onion confit is amazing.

                    2. I dug this thread up after eating at a place, L'Aller-Retour, that has had no big press blasts but was absolutely full of local shop-women and salary-men from the Republique area. And with good reason for their meat-driven formulas at 11.40 E for one dish and a glass of wine or 12.50 E for one dish and coffee. Our bill ordering off the carte was 66E with a bottle of wine and 2 coffees.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: John Talbott

                        One very nice place where locals dine is Les Canailles. The last time I was there, the chef and I chuckled wondering whether it was because you panned it.

                        1. re: Parigi

                          You know the old joke - any publicity is good no matter how bad.

                        1. re: mangeur

                          Much as I love M. Lobrano, folks stopped reading NYMag when it became the voice of the celebrity spouse killer of the week vechicle. On the East Coast of America, it's the NYT.
                          Rest well tonite Mangeur.
                          The (venerable) Talbott

                          1. re: John Talbott

                            But NYMag is more likely to be in the hair salon in Des Moines and Santa Fe. I picked up the reference on TA from a woman in Vancouver.

                            1. re: mangeur

                              Not really true. The NYT is still the esteemed paper of record in NYC, but I've been working in the arts here for over a decade and most everyone I know also reads NYMag as part of their media diet.

                              1. re: chompchomp

                                " I've been working in the arts here "
                                Here is where?

                                1. re: chompchomp

                                  I don't believe that NYMag has a fraction of the readership or cachet that it enjoyed say 15 years ago . . .