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Good, Non-Chain Places in the 7th/6th arr. w/ Toddler?

Yes, I know... dining out in Paris with a toddler (shudder).

But alas, brave fools we are, so there you have it. We will be in Paris for a week in mid October. My parents will be accompanying my husband, myself, and our just-turned 2 year old son. On several nights we will be able to leave our son with my parents and enjoy the kind of places we've previously loved but which are clearly inappropriate for a toddler. (Le Clos des Gourmets, for example)

However, I'm looking for rec's for solid, decent places we could go as a family on maybe 3 or 4 nights. I've searched the archives here, but I haven't found much specific because so many other posters had children that were a little to a LOT older than our son will be. (We can bring books to read (quietly) with him while we wait in restaurants, but he has shown no interest in coloring, etc. Still a little too young for that.) Also, we really want to try to stick to the 7th and 6th for dinners, if possible. Nothing worse than schlepping halfway across town on public transport with a group of our size, when we are renting an apt in the 7th and have always enjoyed walking to dinners.

Of the restaurants my husband and I visited in our pre-baby days, I'd think that Cafe Constant might work if we show up right when they open at 7. It gets so loud in there anyway I'm not sure anyone would notice a kid. And it's certainly casual.

Fontaine de Mars has the lovely outdoor dining and I've actually seen very young kids there before, but I'm a little tired of their menu. I don't love that it's not prix fixe and I also don't love that it's been the same menu there for years and doesn't seem to vary with the seasons.

To give you an idea of what we like, we've previously enjoyed l'Epi Dupin, Le Florimond, and Le Petit Troquet - none of which I think are especially suited for our purposes this time, but they all have good, solid food and I'd love to find that this time around too.

Anyone?

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  1. Stick with cafes and bistros, or small mom-and-pop restaurants. A two-year-old simply doesn't have the ability to sit through several hours of restaurant service, no matter how angelic and well-behaved they are. They simply aren't wired to be capable of sitting quietly for that long yet.

    Bring small toys to keep them occupied.

    Do be aware that high chairs are sometimes not possible, just because the indoor space is small and cramped, and they simply don't have room for a high chair. Most restaurants have found a workaround, and in traveling when ours were little, Paris is one of the more kid-friendly cities around.

    If he's talking already, work on 'Merci' and/or 'bonjour' -- not only will it charm the socks off most people, it's sincerely appreciated.

    7 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      Thanks for your comment. We're working on "bonjour" in particular right now, which he can say quite well though he is shy and (currently) is not likely to say it to strangers.

      We have a booster seat for restaurants that looks like a shoulder-style diaper bag. Very unobtrusive, and he is getting to the point where he'd rather not be in a high chair anyway, so hopefully that part will be okay. We will still have an umbrella stroller with us but plan to fold it up and leave it out of the way when eating.

      Cafes and bistros are fine but if anyone has any recs for specific cafes/ bistros with especially good food, plmk. Eating well is half... no, more than half... the reason we love France best of all. Luckily our son is a very adventurous eater. No need for chicken fingers or fries here!

      -------

      As an aside to other parents who may one day find this thread in searches: Might I highly recommend a couple of books for this age group? Our son loves "Everybody Bonjours," "A Spree in Paree," and "La La Rose" (which takes place in the Lux Gardens). He gets very excited whenever he sees the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe in his books, so I'm hoping he'll get a thrill from seeing them in real life soon. These books have been a great help to introduce the idea of Paris to him - there are plenty of other books for somewhat older kids, but these are nice for toddlers.

      1. re: tara3056

        The 7th & 6th offer lots of terrasse seating. Admittedly it usually means a few tables on the sidewalk, with an umbrella if you are lucky. We don't have a problem with that. There are a few with large terrasse seating like Cafe D'esplanade or La palette; check out their sites. The French are good with kids, provided they are well behaved. Good luck.

        1. re: Oakglen

          just be aware that since France passed laws banning smoking in restaurants, the only place for smokers to puff and eat simultaneously is out on the terrasse.

          Not usually a problem, but it can be.

          1. re: Oakglen

            We ate with our 6 year old daughter at La Palette this past fall and it was perfect. We've always been there mostly as drinkers and were happily surprised by our meal. And I doubt anyone would be bothered there by a small child. We also ate at Cafe Constant, but that might just be a little too grown up for a 2 year old.

            1. re: LulusMom

              La Palette in St Germain, on rue de Seine? Very nice drinking place. Nice lunch spot too.

              1. re: Parigi

                Yes, that is the place. I've had some loving wine drinking times there, and it was a pleasure to have lunch there with Lulu too. Fun to introduce her to a favorite spot.

          2. re: tara3056

            While we were eating at le reminet last summer, the staff was very gracious and accommodating to a couple with two small children

        2. We went to Paris with our almost 2 year old last year http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/777183 and had a fabulous time. We found most places to be welcoming to children, but of course didn't attempt the ultra-formal restaurants.

          The discussion/link is not location specific but there was a fair amount of general discussion (and views) from regulars which you may find informative.

          tb

          2 Replies
          1. re: trueblu

            Thanks for the link - I enjoyed reading all the input you got on your thread and I'm glad your trip was a success!

            1. re: tara3056

              My pleasure. Hope you and your family have a great time, and look forward to reading a report back. I currently have the opposite dilemma: of eating _without_ my family in Paris in a couple of weeks.

              tb

          2. We had a great time for lunch at Little Breizh Cafe for crepes. Some sweet, some cheesy, some savory. All simple, but all delicious. The staff is extremely friendly.

            1. I've answered this question so many times before I have the equivalent of "donor fatigue". (I don't mean to sound short, as I was accused of today by another CHer, but people worry too much about the French waitfolks treatment of kids - my experience, with ones from 2 months to 92 years old, is that they love kids and fawn over them just like the Japanese and Italian staff do/does, worry less.)
              Go anywhere, just bring paper & crayons or stickers or I guess these days some game thing, and pick places where you can easily go outside and romp. The four restos around the Fontaine de Mars are fine as are a thousand others on squares, parks and big sidewalks (eg St Germain.)

              10 Replies
              1. re: John Talbott

                I have to agree with this assessment. Other than the very formal 'grand restaurants', I think mostly everywhere is going to be fine. The only caveats would be if there is only the option of degustation menu which is going to last 3-4 hrs, (which any sensible parent should know won't work) and if the service is so slow that one really can't get out under 3 hrs.

                However, I do think that part of the reason for the anxiety of posters (myself included, 18 months ago) is perhaps the impression to an outsider of the board is that parisian restaurants are a law unto themselves. And certainly the thread I started (linked in a post above) was initially met with responses of 'you need to get a sitter to dine in Paris'. Only some way into the thread did more positive attitudes emerge. And indeed, it was very easy to eat well with a child in paris, and feel very welcomed.

                tb

                1. re: John Talbott

                  "pick places where you can easily go outside and romp."
                  Oh boy have I a place for you I ate at today on a blocked off street (the Rue du Cigne, a block north of Les Halles. Pirouette, 5, rue Mondetour in the 1st, 01.40.26.47.81, closed Sundays, (Metro: Etienne Marcel). It serves superb food - I'd say it's tied for the third best place I've been to this year, it's not expensive (36 E for three coursesand wines fro 22 E a bottle up) and there must be 10 tables and 40 chairs outside on the paving stones.

                  1. re: John Talbott

                    John Talbott, I do understand your "donor fatigue" and I'm not offended by how you put it. The thing is, I came here looking for *specific* restaurant recommendations in a *specific* area of the city, but I got mostly general advice about how plenty of places should be fine. I appreciate that advice, but I suppose I was hoping that someone who had eaten at the restaurants I mentioned would tell me where to get food just as good, but someplace else. (I do appreciate your followup rec of Pirouette!) Everyone says to look for a bistro or a place with outdoor seating. But I've been to Paris 4 times in the last 6 years and have eaten at some bistros and cafes that had really mediocre food. I was hoping to be able to find better, and yet still bring the kid.

                    Furthermore, I may be able to bring crayons and paper, but that's about it, as our son is currently 23 months and has shown no interest in games/stickers/little puzzles. He hasn't the dexterity yet to be able to really use crayons well, but they do keep him occupied for a little while. If I had a 5 year old, I wouldn't have even asked the board for recs because I think bringing a 5 year old to most Paris restos would be quite easy (assuming you've raised them well). But my son is at an in-between stage where it's a bit more difficult.

                    Verbose post aside, my main point was: I want something *comfortable* for all of us, but I reeeallly want SOLID food, too. I'm not sure I'd travel to France so much if it weren't for the food, so I don't want to miss out on the good stuff this time.

                    1. re: tara3056

                      so substitute whatever little things that he likes -- at his age -- cars and trucks, maybe? (trying to remember what little things I kept in my purse when we were passing through the 2s)

                      Mine had a couple of international flights under their belts by the same age, and while the details escape me at the moment, I KNOW there were small things that occupied their time and attention at that age.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        Absolutely! I remember a place in Strasbourg that gave my (then 18 month old) daughter a little plastic octopus. She loved that thing, played with it through dinner and still has it (at 6). You'd be amazed at the fun a kid can have with 2 spoons (which you don't even have to pack - the restaurant will have them). A board book is fun for seeing the colors, gnawing on, etc.

                      2. re: tara3056

                        Tara - as nearly all restaurants are OK with well behaved kids (and responsible parents) you don't need recommendations for special "child friendly" places with good good. Simply use the board to select goid restaurants and assume kids are OK. Obviously use common sense and select a format that makes best sense for your family i.e. if they have short attention spans avoid long meals, if they are picky choose paces with flexible ALC menus (kids menus exist but are not common as most French kid eat adult food).

                        In very broad terms the French socialise their kids to adult restaurants and good table manners are very important across society. Thus the assummed standard of behaviour is high - hence they are child friendly. So no running around the restaurant, if their are tantrums parents take the kids ouside etc etc. If you fit into this model then 99% of Paris restaurants will welcome you....thus choose freely.

                        1. re: PhilD

                          Well said, French restaurants are child-friendly because the children whom the parents take to restaurants have been raised to be restaurant-friendly. When a child becomes loud (cries or has a meltdown), the parent takes the child out. The child calms down immediately, and other diners' eardrums are not broken.

                          Many hounds who have had extremely positive dining experience with a child, like Parisjo and Lulusmom, have designed their dining and touring plans around the child. And they prepare the child for the cultural diversity of traveling, from the monuments to the street scene to the lunch plate. Both Lulusmom and Parisjo are epicureans. You can easily look up their restaurant list from their recent trip.

                          And imso is also right. It will greatly help us help you if you give us a restaurant shortlist you are interested in, and we can give our opinion on whether the setting suits family dining, instead of naming all the restaurants possible, which would be a waste of your and our time.

                          One example is Le RĂ©minet.
                          Someone reported recently that his dining party, with a child, had a great time there, and the staff was wonderful with the child.
                          When I went with friends' child, she drew - not on a coloring book because the parents did not bring one - on the table, spit on the walls and ran around the narrow aisle of the small restaurant in front of the kitchen. Finally the waiter had to tell our table not to let the little one do that, because it was becoming dangerous for the child and inconvenient for the rest of the restaurant.
                          I, not the parent, finally took the bored child outside. In one second the child calmed down and was totally absorbed in my story about the Notre Dame de Paris which loomed before us.
                          I would say the restaurant was child-friendly. Unfortunately the child, whose limited food preference by the way meant she did not like anything on the menu, was not restaurant friendly.

                          The little one was not an antichrist, just an exhausted child who had been dragged to sightseeing all day and was eating late, and whom the parents had not prepared for socializing or for a wide choice of food preferences (I don't mean frog's legs or snails; I mean everything, anything that is not pasta).

                          Sometimes I wonder if some parents themselves are child-friendly...

                          1. re: Parigi

                            "Well said, French restaurants are child-friendly because the children whom the parents take to restaurants have been raised to be restaurant-friendly."
                            Well said doubled.
                            We have a saying in our house - "use your restaurant voice," we take kids and grandkids out from Day 1 and the biggest problem we've ever had is corraling them back if they're into jump-roping competitions with French neighbors on the sidewalk.

                            1. re: John Talbott

                              "Restaurant voice" and "sit bones down."

                        2. re: tara3056

                          You're still asking the wrong question. You should make up a list of places you'd like to eat, and ask if any of those are *not* child-friendly. Your question is just too open to be worth answering.

                    2. I feel for your predicament as I have spent the last month reading every conceivable Paris blog/website that offered advice on where and how to eat with kids. I am staying in the 1st district so I have been looking for places around the 6 and 7th as well. I am leaving for Paris this Sunday and should be able to give more feedback on my return.

                      Based on my research (blogs, tripadvisor, yelp) the following (in the 1st, 6th, and 7th) are considered "child-friendly" and "should" also have decent food:

                      Le Comptoir du Relais, La Regalade, Claus, Cafe inside Bonpoint Flagship store, Le pain Qoutidien, Cafe Musee, Le Cafe Suedois, La Baline (in Musee des Plantes), Bistrot des Comperes, La Tartine, BDJ Cafe, Cafe Panis, Creperie Beaubourg, Breizh, Le Pave, Au Diable Des Lombards, Zango Les Halles, L'autobus Imperial, Cafe Marly, Carette, La Fresque, La Fermette Marbeuf (have a kids menu), Brasserie Thormieux, and the restaurant inside Musee D'orsay (50 euro set for dinner but they have kids menu).

                      I didn't specifically look for places that had a kids menu but I figured that if they had one, then they must tolerate kids.:)

                      Finally, not sure how you feel about mobile devices but the Ipad or smart phones were great tools that entertained our daughter when she was a 2 year old toddler.

                      Good luck and happy eating in Paris!

                      1. On your previously trip without your toddler, you enjoyed L'Epi Dupin, Le Florimond and Le Petit Troquet. It might be helpful if you can explain why they are "not especially suited for your purposes this time". That will give some the board some ideas of what you consider "child friendly".

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: PBSF

                          Ok, I've got a shortlist going - would welcome any opinions about how appropriate these places are. But first: I can totally bring some little things in my handbag for my son to play with at the table. We're completely willing to get up and walk outside with him between courses if he gets fussy. He will not be allowed to get down from the table / scream / or generally wreck havoc. However, he just turned 2 last week. Sometimes kids that age are impossible despite your very best efforts (and that's when we'd take him outside). My main concern is just the way toddlers are generally fidgety after a little while.

                          Shortlist:

                          Fontaine de Mars. Why? Solid food, casual atmosphere on the terrace facing a little square where we can walk with Will and yet still keep an eye on the table to see when the next course comes out.

                          Cafe Constant: Yes, it's crowded. But we can get there right at 7-7:30, and it gets sooooo noisy in there that I really doubt anyone would hear Will even if he were being loud.

                          Astier: Nowhere near the 7th, kind of a long metro ride, but it's sentimental since my hubby and I have eaten there on each of our previous 3 trips to Paris. The food's not spectacular, but it is solid and the waitstaff have always been very friendly. Have heard they deal well with kids.

                          One of the bistros right by our rental apartment - Le Bosquet, maybe, or the one with the red awning right by the Ecole Militaire metro entrance.

                          Breizh Cafe: Really disliked my buckwheat crepe last time we ate there (the buckwheat is just too strong-tasting for me, I guess), but loved the cider, oysters, and dessert crepe, so I'm willing to give it another go.

                          WITHOUT our son (my Mom, who's coming along, will babysit)

                          Le Clos des Gourmets - Had the 2 best meals I've ever had in France here on previous visits. Have to go back!

                          Le Florimond - Another sentimental favorite, as it was the very first place we ever ate in Paris and we've revisited it on every visit since. Not as good as Le CdG but still pretty darn good.

                          On the nights my Mom is babysitting, I'm guessing that she and Will will either go to one of the bistros near our apartment, or more likely (b/c she will be highly intimidated to do that on her own), they may pick up some stuff from Rue Cler or Picard. (Hey, don't knock Picard - I was amazed at how good some of the things we had from there were... I once broke my toe in Paris and didn't feel like dining out for 2 meals per day, so Picard filled in some gaps. Hopefully it wasn't just the pain meds messing with my perception!)

                          So, what do you think? How do you (in french) indicate that you'd like to just share a plate with your toddler?

                          1. re: PBSF

                            Oh and as to why I don't think L'Epi Dupin, Florimond, and Petit Troquet are appropriate with a toddler: They are all TINY, they are fairly quiet, all the tables have nice tablecloths, stemware, etc. In the case of Florimond in particular, it's geared more to a romantic night out. Service is relatively slow.

                            My son JUST turned 2, so all of those factors just make that sort of place sound like a bad idea.

                          2. Please give me feedback on my other post with my shortlist, but I just had to add that you guys are the only ones saying that I'm worrying too much and that dining out with a kid (provided it's not *too* fancy of a place and that the kid is relatively "restaurant-friendly" - which mine is to the extent a just-turned-2 year old can be) is something done all the time by Parisians and with little fanfare..

                            If you look for similar topics on Fodors and Tripadvisor forums, the overwhelming majority of people state that toddlers have no place dining out in a restaurant in Paris at dinnertime and that French families do not often take such young kids out to eat (unless its Flunch/Hippopotamus) unless it's a very special treat. Most people said to stick to picnics / cooking your own meals / etc. I'm more inclined to trust you guys, but reading some of those other threads is enough to give anyone a complex!!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: tara3056

                              It is true that Lulu was often the only child we saw in places, but at the same time no one batted an eye at her being there. It sounds as if you have a good plan (bringing things to keep the little one/s entertained, taking a loud/offending child outside) so really, I do think you'll be fine. I'd be more worried about the length of meals than anything else.

                              We took Lulu to Cafe Constant last fall (when she was 5). It was our first day in town and we were all jet-lagged. She fell asleep. So it wasn't *that* loud the night we were there.

                              1. re: tara3056

                                Not true. You won't see kids at top-shelf restaurants, that's true -- but you wouldn't take Will to that sort of restaurant in your home town, either. The length of a full five-course meal becomes an issue, just like in your home town.

                                We traveled with a toddler, and had no issues whatsoever in cafes, bistros, and casual restaurants -- if anything, the waitstaff doted on ours and treated them like royalty.

                              2. Just got back 2 weeks ago and here's what we experienced while dining with a 3 year old and a 5 month old:
                                1. Had reservations for lunch and dinner for each day we spent in Paris and I had to cancel most of them as it was really hard to stick to a schedule with kids
                                2. Ate at the following places: Chez Denise, La Regalade (highly recommended), Pirouette (highly recommended), and Carpe Diem Cafe (highly recommended). These places are not "typical" family friendly restaurants but the staff made us feel welcome and even doted on the kids.
                                3. With that said, we ensured that the toddler would have something to keep her quiet and busy (an ipad) and the baby just slept. If she fussed, we took her outside until she settled down. Our older daughter just ate whatever we ordered from the regular menu.
                                Overall, I would agree with the other posters who say that in general, you can eat almost anywhere as long as your child can sit through the meal without being bothering others around them.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Audball001

                                  " I would agree with the other posters who say that in general, you can eat almost anywhere "
                                  Thanks for the report and endorsement that eating out with kids is not only easy, it's fun, you fussy childless fuss-budgets!

                                  1. re: John Talbott

                                    Not sure how I missed this thread, but as Parigi mentioned, we were in Paris in May with our 8 year old grandson. I did gear our food choices around Sebastian but we still managed to have a wonderful trip and eat at some really great places. I know your little one is much younger than Seb, but maybe my report from that trip can still help you:

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/851562

                                    Have a great trip.

                                    Jo