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4 Days in Paris and overwhelmed by choices. Please help!

Hi all,

My wife and I will be visiting your beautiful city in May. We will arrive on the 14th and leaving on the 17th.

I have tried to go through as many posts as I can and have gone through many fantastic blogs for resource mainly:

John Talbott
Paris by Mouth
David Lebovitz
Alexander Lobrano

At this time, it is getting a little overwhelming and I need some help to stay focused given the short amount of time I have in Paris.

I have made reservations to Spring for the 15th for lunch and a wine tasting at O'Chateau at 3pm on the 16th. Other than that, we are very open as far as our dining options are concerned.

We purchased a couple of Paris passes and hence we will be running around the city at all the major attractions. Hence we may not even be able to properly plan for our meals this far in advance. However, given the popularity of some of the restaurants I've checked out and liked and within our budget (Le 6 Paul Bert, Abri, Pirouette, La Papilles etc.), it seems like advance reservation is absolutely required.

My question for the board is:

1. If I can do just one dinner, which one of the restaurants I mentioned above would you go with? If we can squeeze in another lunch on the 16th before O'Chateau, which would you prefer? Seems like both Abri and Pirouette both have pretty affordable lunch prix fixes.

2. Would you recommend to have no plans and eat our way through Paris as we see/like while treking around town visiting all the major attractions? We are very open/adventurous eaters and would love to try a little of everything. So I'm sure we will be tempted to grab food as they come up (ice cream, macarons, pastry, falafel, oysters, baguette etc.)

3. What are some of your favourites that do not take/need reservations. I'm thinking I should keep a couple of those in mind just in case I wander into the neighbourhood. Something along the lines of Frenchie bar a Vins?

We are from Toronto and we are looking to stick to a reasonable budget with the exception of a couple of good meals (Spring and one good dinner $50pp). She is a non-drinker while I wouldn't mind a glass here and there.

Thanks all for your help in advance!

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  1. "Le 6 Paul Bert, Abri, Pirouette, La Papilles etc.)

    My question for the board is:

    1. If I can do just one dinner, which one of the restaurants I mentioned above would you go with?"

    Of the 4 restaurants you cited (did you list more? Sorriest I missed the rest), my fave would be Abri.
    But only lunch would be what you would call budget, and you should reserve now.

    "If we can squeeze in another lunch on the 16th before O'Chateau, which would you prefer?"

    Pirouette.

    "Would you recommend to have no plans"

    No I would not recommend that.

    "3. What are some of your favourites that do not take/need reservations."

    I have some faves that take less prior reservation, but none where I would just try my luck and go to the door risking being turned away. Esp if you are doing a lot of sightseeing, which means going to 'hoods that are heavily touristyn don't go down that self-defeating path.

    Good restos that are (1) near touristy spots (2) that you can reserve one or two days in advance and (3) do not break bank:
    - Dans Les Landes (very near the Arène de Lutèce and rue Mouffetard and Place Contrescarpe
    - Jeanne B rue Lepic (the right (as in correct) side of Montmartre)
    - Brasserie de L'Isle Saint-Louis (near Notre Dame, Latin Quarter, etc.)
    - Les Marches du Palais (right outside Palais de Tokyo, not far from Trocadero)
    - Le Mesturet or le Domaine de Lintillac (near the old Opera)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Parigi,

      Thank you for your quick and insightful reply. I will most definitely look into your recommendations beyond the ones I listed.

      My problem at the moment is we do not have an itinerary as we like to follow our eyes/noses/mouths when we travel, hence we got the Paris Pass and will just follow a map rather than a strict timeline. So your recommendations on places to try near the attractions are fantastic.

      1. re: Parigi

        Hi Parigi, if we are already at reservations, how is your expirience with mid-week lunch at Chez L'ami Jean ? Are you reserving weeks in advance for lunch, or it can be done a couple of days before ? Or not done at all ? Asking cause last time i was there, called about a month in advance, guy over the line was very nice but just took my name, didn't even bother with the phone number :-) And actually place was half full that lunch, so i guess it is a very good backup plan for midweek lunch if in the area, and if not, even without reservation..
        And for Pirouette dinner, how many days in advance do you suggest to call ? For some reason us the tourists here think that we have to reserve dinner at all "hot places" even months in advance :-)

      2. "I have tried to go through as many posts as I can and have gone through many fantastic blogs for resource mainly:
        John Talbott"

        I'm not sure if I get two votes here but hey It's Chicago, so here goes:
        Spring fantastic
        O'Chateau reported by others not a good prix-qualite value.
        1. Dinner "Le 6 Paul Bert, Abri, Pirouette, La Papilles" Come on Dude, you're dealing with micro-differences, flip a coin. Lunch ditto.
        2. Not a bad idea, not my idea, because I'm obsessive, but why not?
        3. Cafe Constant.
        Don't pull that "we're from Toronto" stuff, the loonie is King and you have better food there, my ancestral home-town, than most places in the USA.

        1 Reply
        1. re: John Talbott

          Thanks John, I've been enjoying your blog very much and you have given me some great inspiration.

          Haha...ya, us Torontonian have it pretty good here and half the people don't even know it. Even better food is only a 5 hour drive away in Montreal. We've also been to NYC and Chicago so we have been exposed to some pretty decent meals.

          We just want to leave Paris with some great memories and can look back to the pictures years down the road and still salivate.

        2. <2. Would you recommend to have no plans and eat our way through Paris as we see/like while treking around town visiting all the major attractions?>

          My $.02.... NO. I would not recommend that. As sad as it may be to realize, it is definitely possible to get bad meals in France. Taking chances with no reservations is the best way to ensure that happens to you. Make reservations for every meal you are sure you want to eat. You can always call and cancel them, even 30 minutes before scheduled, if you are full, sick, stuck in traffic, halfway across town in another museum... It is possible in Paris to get "museumed out." Not planning some special meals in a place that is famous for its food is as bad as planning everything around each meal (imho).

          You may also be surprised to learn that $50 per person is average for meals in France. Your best deals on great meals are always at lunch. If this is your first trip to Paris, be prepared for lunches to be much longer than what you're accustomed to on this side of the Atlantic. Also know that quite a few museums have evening hours.

          I would also plan for a few picnics. The weather should be lovely, (although the song says "April in Paris," it really speaks to May!) and there is so much great cheese and charcuterie, not to mention savory takeout at some of the top pattiseries, it would be a shame not to partake!

          Re O-Chateau, I don't know who John is referring to who didn't like it, but I have tasted with them several times and enjoyed it very much. They are young, personable and very knowledgeable.

          5 Replies
          1. re: ChefJune

            Thanks for your input Chef, my biggest fear is to not have enough time to visit some of the attractions. I know lunch often times gives better value, but I imagine we will be pretty busy going from attraction to attraction during the day.

            As for O'Chateau, my expectations are kept low given the fact that it is included in the Paris Pass. We are novice at best when it comes to wine and I'm sure it will be an informative hour/tasting and we look forward to it regardless.

            I will take yours and John's advice and book Abri and Parouette and hope for the best.

            1. re: ragged25

              ragged25: well, I hope you will slow down and enjoy your meals as well as your "attractions." Even if you do "run yourselves ragged" you will not be able to see all the sites you want to see. I've been visiting Paris for the past 21 years, and I've still not seen everything I wish to see there.

              It's so important to relax and have a good time. It is, after all, VACATION!

              1. re: ragged25

                "Abri and Parouette"
                Pirouette as in the classical dance step; if it's anything less than expected, I'll pay.

                1. re: John Talbott

                  I tried calling Abri all day today and its either busy or it just keeps ringing. I will try again tomorrow. I hope I can get through because I'm really excited the more I read about it.

                  My mistake with the typo, I think Pirouette will be our first lunch, so I hope it will start our trip well.

                  Chef, I totally get what you are saying and I will definitely try to be relaxed. Paris is our first leg of our European trek, we will then head to Athens, Santorini and Istanbul. So I will try to pace ourselves.

                  I think if I can do lunches at Pirouette and Spring and a dinner at Abri, I will be content. We will fill the rest of our trip with smaller snacks and goodies throughout.

                  One last thing, we are staying at Le Meridien Etoile on
                  81 Boulevard Gouvion-Saint-Cyr. Anything close by that is worthwhile that you would recommend? Anything from a good light dinner or good snack place/bakery/breakfast? Really anything that's inexpensive and good.

                  Thanks guys.

              2. re: ChefJune

                "Re O-Chateau, I don't know who John is referring to who didn't like it,"
                It wasn't not liking it but a critic at the time it opened said the wine was overpriced for what it was; I'm sorry to say I don't recall who that was.

              3. Re no plans/ eat as you go

                Obviously, 4 days in Paris is not long enough. If you lived in Paris, you could easily play-- and win-- restaurant roulette. But visitors are more or less confined to a deeply rutted tourist trail so crowded with mediocre and just plain bad restos that wandering about in the tourist zones looking for an impromptu meal or even snack is horrendously risky. I'd suggest creating your own google map and plot the recs found here and on other blogs so that you at least have a short list in a 10-minute walking radius of each of the major monuments. In some cases i.e. the horrible Champs Elysées you might have to extend the radius to 15 mins. Browsing rather than a proper sit-down meal is possible if you include the 2 or 3-times a week marchés volants/ roving outdoor street markets as well as the permanent rues commerçantes/ permanent market streets in your plans. For instance, the Marché Président Wilson (Wed + Sat until 1pm or so) on the avenue Président Wilson in the 16th is just across the river from the Eiffel Tower... you can get some oysters that the vendor will be happy to shuck for you and even provide a platter if the order is large enough or a roasted chicken from a rotisserie that can be consumed at a nearby bench (lots of napkins and wipes for fingers required)... and the Marché Maubert (Tue + Thu + Sat) on the place Maubert in the 5th for before or after Notre Dame. You can get a full ist of the markets, locations and times from the Ville de Paris website http://marches.equipements.paris.fr/ . The rues commerçantes are less easy to identify. Unfortunately, most are in the real-life quartiers rather than tourist zones but a few are in or near the tourist trail: rue Cler in the 7th (10 min walk from Eiffel Tower), a short stretch of rue Lourmel off the boulevard Grenelle in the 15th (10 mins from Eiffel Tower), rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter, rue Montorgueil in the 2nd, rue Abbesses/ rue Lepic in Montmartre/ 18th, rue Bretagne in the 3rd, etc. The sample of real-life hustle and bustle should, I think, be included in every tourist itinerary in any case.