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Whatever happened to............? The forgotten glories of yesterday.

Today, I ate with an old colleague-friend in the food biz at Le Griffonnier in the 8th; Why? Because at 11 AM he was sitting in the dentist's office with his iPhone battery on life-support and I knew I'd better agree to something or I'd go hungry. So, remembering it positively from the years before I had a blog, took pix and wrote detailed reports of meals, I made a rez with minimal enthusiasm and we went. And you know what? It was great.
So what's my point? It's that, in the rush to go to "the" hottest restaurant in Paris today, whether blessed by the NYT or CH or whatever, and the list is here for all to read: Spring, Septime, Frenchie, Chez L'Ami Jean, Chez Denise, the Paul Bert Three, The Christian Constant Trio and occasional outliers like Les Papilles or Maceo - we contribute to the sense that any other place is less worthy. What's shameful is that folks (arrogant Americans no doubt) make reservations at these hot spots and either never show or cancel at the last minute, which for a place with 20-40 covers, is killing when it's at a level of 10-20%.
So my question here folks, is, why aren't we touting places, like Le Griffonnier, or ..., or ...., or....?
Except for Ptipois and Parigi, who try to move us out of the comfort zone, the lists of "Where I should go" are pretty predictable.
Shouldn't we all spread the news and choices a little wider and move seekers of info on CH out of the hot top 5-10? Or, as they say, should I just shadup?

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  1. "or ..., or ...., or....?"

    Please don't "shadup"; I still occasionally mention some less popular favorites of mine, e.g., Le Gastroquet or Le Court Bouillon for those searching for traditional cuisine but their location in the non-touristy 15th arr. and lack of molecular-smecular, foam over substance, keeps them moderately obscure.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Laidback

      Keep it up Laidback, we need more voices here.

    2. Hey John Talbott: You bring up a great point. The first time we went to Frenchie, it was unbelievable..one of the greatest meals. The second time is was very good but not the experience of the first time. The third time was our last time--we won't be going back for a fourth. Instead, next trip we are going to check out some old-school French places (from my Frenchman's youth) that will be serving great dishes like kidneys and other offally great things!

      1. I think you may be preaching to the choir, John. You and I and he and she may enjoy hearing about, what should we call them, hidden treasures? Old languished friends? Neighborhood gems? Yes, Parn has done an extraordinary job of bringing these to light. And we all are the richer for it. But the typical OP wants "the church-of-what's-happening-now" as illustrated by how many start with statements of how they had searched the forum for rooms that fit their needs but wanted something more current. But you can dream. And, again, we'll be the richer for it.

        At the same time, food sites (le fooding, for example) and bloggers have put a premium on what's new, cutting edge, new kid on the block never reviewed before. And, of course, some of these new rooms hold up and become the next season/s' Frenchie until something better comes along.

        1. No! I love recommendations for off the CH beaten track places and am always interested in finding them. It's not really a secret place or anything, but every time I go to Paris I have at least one meal at L'Estaminet on rue Oberkampf. It has a special place in my heart and after all these years I still love the Salade L'Estaminet, a wonderful fatty dinner meal of lettuce, gesiers, lardons and goat cheesy goodness, washed down with some good cheap SW wine, and shared with friends. I feel so at home there. I know that some would turn their "place of the moment" noses up at the has been menu, but I could care less. I would love love love for all Paris regular chowhounders to share such overlooked, neighborhood gems and their special places with people who read this board and care - those who don't can remain happy snagging the reservation at Frenchie 2 months to the day they are in Paris.

          1. John, Maybe I'm selfish or churlish or something, but I'm somewhat reluctant to share my special restaurants with just anybody who comes onto the Chow Hound site.
            It seems to me that many of these people are just trying to collect bragging points. "I went to 87 starred restaurants while in Paris! In three days!" How many did you hit?
            I admire you, mangeur, pargi & others who have the patience to answer the same basic question time after time. I'm not that kind.
            To me one of the joys of visiting new places is the discovery of the local food scene in terms of restaurants, shops & whatnot. One of the joys of returning is to revisit places found and liked last time and to add a few new places to the list.
            I'm hoping (and expecting) that you lot do hold back on places and mainly give advice on the 'fashionable' and famous at the current moment.
            My hats off to you in any case.

            12 Replies
            1. re: Yank

              I'll let you supply whatever negative names you want to call yourself, but I think it is simply wrong to scarf up info from other people and then refuse to share in kind. Nobody says you have to answer posts you don't want to answer, but a food culture that likes to be exclusive is a food culture I hope will die an overdue death tomorrow afternoon, if not sooner. I think it does a lot of damage.

              1. re: barberinibee

                That was the funniest post on CH in decades.

                (The reason I never mentioned Le Griffonnier here is that it's too hit-and-miss. I do not recommend it, especially for people who have only a few days to spend in Paris.)

                1. re: barberinibee

                  Old curmudgeon?
                  What makes you think that I 'scarf up' information from other people without any return? If you'd care to read the majority of my posts on this & other food sites and/or my blog you'd see just how mistaken you are.
                  My point was anti-restaurant collectors. These people seem to only want to be sure they go to the 'hot' places. Those who come onto Chow asking intelligent questions get my full support. In particular those who ask about the customs & morays of the country they're visiting.
                  Note the words "just anybody" in my post. I'll share my special places, but only with those who IMHO show some intelligence and sensitivity in their questions.
                  I'd be surprised if you share everything with anybody who asks. Do you?

                  1. re: Yank

                    I don't mean to be snarky (ok, I suppose I do mean to be snarky), but do you also share with people who don't like eels?

                    1. re: bcc

                      I really must be getting old. Sorry, but I just don't understand your comment.
                      Therefore I can't tell if you're being snarky or not.

                      For what its worth I happen to love eels, but do understand that they're not for everybody.

                      Eel phobia wouldn't necessarily disqualify anyone from sharing, but I suspect that snarkyness might.

                      1. re: Yank

                        O tempora! O mores! Morays are eels.

                        1. re: bcc

                          My apologies. Really getting old & could never spell to begin with.
                          Where is my intelligent spell checker when I need it?

                          mores the pity!

                          1. re: Yank

                            The other day some CNN idiot was droning on about O TemPUra, o mores. Now it makes sense.

                        2. re: Yank

                          I think that bcc was referring to your mention of morays...eels instead of mores...societal customs.

                        3. re: bcc

                          The important thing in sharing is to make clear what options are available. Like, if the restaurant only serves eel or meat or small plates or no choice, readers need to know.

                    2. re: Yank

                      You went to 87 starred restaurants? I find that difficult to believe

                      1. re: adrian

                        There's a Latin phrase that I can't quite remember; something like:

                        'reductum ad absurdem'

                        I haven't counted, but possibly over the course of many years I've been to restaurants that collectively have 87 stars.

                    3. I think that the replies should also be based on the query. If this is a once in a life time trip, then they need a once in a life time itinerary. But for myself, who will be returning for the 15th or 20th time for only a week, definitely give me some comfort food.

                      So here is a now fond memory from a starving backpacker in 1975. My only splurge meal after a week of markets and bistros. Le Droute Restaurant on Rue Republique near the opera. A favorite in the guide book Europe on 5 and 10 Dollars a Day.

                      Walk up the stairs and enter a dining hall from the 1890's. Plaster work and mirrors, black jacketed waiters, butcher paper on the table, fast and courteous service, and tasty and substantial food. Plus as you ordered, the tab would be written on the butcher paper so those on a limited budget could keep track.

                      Shut down about a dozen years ago, but it was a required stop when I was in town and a respite from the nouveau, micro, or mystery preparation that was all the rage from the magazines and concierges. And I told everybody I could about Le Droute. And was thanked by many, sometimes by letter.

                      And so when I return, to live on my boat at Maritime Bastille through a winter, I will be more than happy to talk about the classic Paris cuisine in my area. Just don't ask for the ethnic cuisine of the moment. Unless the ethnicity is Normandie.

                      1. Firstly…
                        "Except for Ptipois and Parigi, who try to move us out of the comfort zone"

                        Something is very wrong. How did my name get in there? ...
                        I think we locals tend not to have a comfort zone. Every arrondissement, every cuisine genre, every clientele (except hipsters, no way no how) is our comfort zone.

                        It is hard to blame visitors who are coming to Paris for just few days to want to go for the virtuoso.

                        But in their quest for the virtuoso, indeed many visitors don't seem to be digesting the info well.
                        When I see the word "best" I cringe. People get a "best" list, from all of us guilty locals, and they go blindly for it. That is why they may at the last minute cancel at Spring without calling, because they have stuffed themselves at lunch in the crêpe place next to their hotel.

                        And how many times have we heard visiting hounds complain that a given recommended restaurant is no good because the menu has only a few dishes?

                        Yank, what I am going to tell you is going to make you apoplectic. I was. A visiting hound reported back that a certain recommended ferme-auberge was bi bgood because it offered only a couple of dishes. What o what does ferme-auberge mean ? They want a farm on earth that produces lamb and duck and St-Pierre and vegetarian chicken dishes and wagyu, I guess.

                        Therefore I am starting to think maybe the problem is not in WHAT we recommend, but how we do so.
                        Parnassien is very considerate in including a description of the context/usage in his recommendations. Maybe we should do more of that, instead of furnishing blind recommendations for the very blind.

                        And how visiting hounds can help us help themselves is to be specific specific specific. Don't say "best". Don't say "romantic". Don't say "quaint".

                        Lastly, I apologize. I should not use this distinction between "visiting hounds" and locals. We are all sharing info. I get tons of tips from Sistereurope, Mangeur, DCM and others.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Parigi

                          Excellent points (once again), Parigi. I would add that it is really necessary for OPs and responders to qualify the kinds of plates they are recommending and looking for. The range of food in so-called hot as well as old favorite restaurants ranges from zany veggies and not much protein to herculean slabs of beef, no choice menus to multi-offerings that cater to a tribe of idiosyncs, small plates to platters that beg the need for baggie dogs.

                          Winding up in the wrong place for the wrong reason is sad. Been there and done that. At other times, have dragged willing and unsuspecting friends to the wrong place. Really sad.

                          Details, not lists, help us all make good choices.

                          1. re: Parigi

                            You're right I am apoplectic- with laughter! Almost fell off my high horse.

                            I think the responses you & mangeur have made to my deliberately over stated post up thread are both intelligent and well thought out.
                            A major difficulty it seems to me is knowing enough about the person asking to give specific advice. Thus, I guess using the popular places that are also good is the best one can do.

                            1. re: Parigi

                              Sorriest I meant "was no good", not "was bi bgood"

                            2. Bravo to you John Talbott, but what made the eating at Le Griffonnier great? I agree with Parigi that descriptions of meals are the most helpful to people searching for a clue.

                              Regarding new posters or arrogant Americans, a lot of them would welcome some friendly advice before they book about the intrinsic challenge of combining travel with eating enjoyment, and the diminishing returns when it comes to eating in a restaurant twice a day, especially restaurants with complex food. People end up cancelling last minute or being no-shows because of the stress of travel and sightseeing. It just gets to them by the end of the day or their stomachs rebel from all the experimentation. Responders might ask some questions of the travelers before giving a green light to restaurant wish lists and then encouraging folks to reserve at all 8 restaurants.

                              Might be better if responders helped inquirers focus on one or two optimal experiences of Paris dining, likewise maybe an exemplary Paris lunch, brunch or breakfast, ditto late afternoon break, and then otherwise load them up with resources and addresses for good tables in relaxed settings with relatively uncomplicated food that don't need reservations beyond an hour or so (but which also don't mean queuing) especially places near their hotels.

                              There are of course a handful of people who travel to Paris mainly to eat one legendary restaurant meal after the other -- but most of those people aren't asking general questions anyway. They keep up with the chatter. Most other people simply don't want to leave Paris without hitting some high points gastronomically, since they do understand the importance of good food and restaurants to Paris and French culture. But otherwise they would just like to relax over some lovely meals as one element of visiting the city.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: barberinibee

                                Interesting and thoughtful post, barberinibee. What I think has not been introduced into this conversation is price/value. Ever since Camdeborde broke the green ceiling some 20+ years ago, most chatter about food has taken value into consideration. The dining public is savvy to this and it is at those places where all things come together to offer value that booking is close to mandatory today.

                                There are many places that fit your bill for "good tables in relaxed settings with relatively uncomplicated food that don't need reservations beyond an hour or so (but which also don't mean queuing) especially places near their hotels" and most of these places are well known and familiar names. But from my experience, they are expensive compared to the ones discussed here and where we book in advance. They may provide value if convenience is a major factor, but such convenience is largely the perception of the individual. I leave it to the hotel concierge to recommend such places.

                                1. re: barberinibee

                                  "People end up (...) being no-shows because of the stress of travel and sightseeing."

                                  And I thought that was just because they were jerks.

                                  1. re: barberinibee

                                    "what made the eating at Le Griffonnier great?"
                                    It wasn't great but it didn't deserve to be dumped (by me) into the great pile of forgotten places. It was a solid bistro meal which seems to be what a lot of visitors are looking for at least on CH and certainly what the staffs of the Elysee and Matignon want, judging from their presence the times I've eaten there.
                                    If my friend/colleague hadn't suggested it I probably wouldn't have gone for another ten years.
                                    I mentioned it to raise a point and give an example not because it will go on my Top Ten.

                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                      Fast question, John. Can you by chance recall roughly what the cost per diner was at Le Griffonnier, how many courses, wine, etc?

                                      1. re: mangeur

                                        John has just recently written it up on his blog...prices, photos, hours and his valiant attempt to maintain a numerical rating system.

                                        1. re: Laidback

                                          Thanks, laidback. So as I read him, he tells us that the bill came to 65€ per person including half a bottle of wine each. This is not inexpensive for lunch at a more or less modest place. This was my point above: that many ordinary, traditional places are rather cher compared to the newer rooms, ergo the excitement in press and blogs for the new kids and their exciting food. Today, tradition comes at a cost.

                                          1. re: mangeur

                                            "Can you by chance recall roughly what the cost per diner was at Le Griffonnier, how many courses, wine, etc?"
                                            Mangeur, partly because of your guidelines given 10 years ago, I list all dishes, wines and all prices every meal. And at Laidback and Bud Carlos's encouragement post photos of the wine and menus when feasible.
                                            "not inexpensive for lunch at a more or less modest place."
                                            No it wasn't. I'm not about to defend pricing in Paris, but consider, it's in the 8th, it's only open one night, serves guys (yes, sorry, they are guys) from the Matignon and Elysee and has wine prices that my friend and food writer colleague said were not for "normal people 'like us.'"
                                            But while i used to say that 100 E/2 was my price point, I've noticed my notes climbing into the 110's and 120's.
                                            But we're off the point again.
                                            I'm saying that we've forgotten places where there's nothing wrong except the New York Times doesn't think they're "in."
                                            But my meal the day before at Encore was 94.25 E/2; Bon Coin 139.50/3 a bit before,
                                            I continue to think that Paris prices are just fine, compared with San Francisco or New York, excepting places like M. Wells, which is in Queens and thus like Levallois or Issy, is seen as on another planet.

                                  2. I fear that John's original intent based upon the thread title is becoming a bit of a forgotten glory, perhaps a tad too ideational...interesting, but in keeping with the simplicity of mentioning old favorites rather than the "hot top 5-10", I could mention l'Entredgeu or the rebirth of another old favorite (Les Jumeaux) called Chez Karl et Erick.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: Laidback

                                      Thanks Laidback for getting us back on track.
                                      Good points.

                                      1. re: Laidback

                                        Okay. Good restart. But would you want to tell us about the food and prices at either?

                                        1. re: mangeur

                                          L'Entredgeu has a lunch pre-fix of about €23. I usually go on Sat. for lunch as it is only moderately crowded. The food is seasonal, well prepared with a hint of Southwest heartiness.

                                          Karl et Erick is maybe a tad more modern but still has a seasonal menu posted on the chalk board. The house terrine de lapin is a long standing favorite and the menu has something for all tastes...beef, chicken, fish. I seem to recall spending on average about €30 excluding wine, which I never do! There is usually a 2 choice menu, €26 for 2 plats; €33 for 3.

                                          1. re: Laidback

                                            Good choices both and illustrating my point.
                                            No longer "hot", no longer "in", no longer hound-worthy.

                                            1. re: John Talbott

                                              It's good to have updated, calibrated reviews on these old friends. We haven't been to L'Entredgeu for at least 5 years.

                                      2. Oh, I so agree with you!
                                        That having been said, we are returning to our favorite city once again (we go every 2-3 years) and really would like recommendations for the antithesis of a Chez L'Ami Jean or Frenchie. Good, neighborhood places, or even some a bit more upscale, without the hype. Staying in the 6th--know my metro.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: mausi7

                                          Given how this thread has evolved, I'd strongly advise you to post a new one with a title something like "We would like recommendations for the antithesis of a Chez L'Ami Jean or Frenchie". I like it - the Uncola.
                                          I'll think you'll get a great response.
                                          And meanwhile we'll continue this exercise.

                                          1. re: John Talbott

                                            OK. But you must have some favorites ---which I would appreciate since we are of like mind.
                                            Many thanks,

                                            1. re: mausi7

                                              "OK. But you must have some favorites ---which I would appreciate since we are of like mind."
                                              See, as Parnassien has pointedly pointed out I am venerable but implied in venerability is the fact that I simply don't remember all the great places I once went to and no longer do because..... why, there were new places, life moves on, I plain forgot them?
                                              I mean Saturne, how old is it? dropped off the radar screen; Galopin; Chez Les Anges, turned over too much; Les Enfants Rouges (the bistro, not market, although I've forgotten that to); Le Celadon, the list of forgot'ems as my Mother would say, goes on.
                                              Sorry I can come up with a list of the greats that still exist but it would require more brain power than I can muster. That's why I started this wonderful thread.

                                              1. re: John Talbott

                                                I can totally relate! I just went back to pictures from our last trip in 2011 to jog memory of a good place. I was able to match up our pictures to the website of "Les Fines Gueules."
                                                Perhaps that is the answer---be a tourist (horrors) and take a picture of the place.

                                        2. Back in Paris for a week and can start t reflect on old vs.new. So far (after 3 days) the new is winning. Staying on rue Jacob our old neighbourhood hence some of the less "chow" traditional choices.The old fond memories are definately fading and the game is changing....

                                          Deux Magots - for an expensive coffee and some wine. Was service here always so bad or has we acclimatised when we lived here? The coffee is so far the second worst in Paris.
                                          Fish - for a quick apero. Its been renovated and has lost its soul. The old bar has gone and the nice new just feels new.
                                          Le Comptoir - for a Sunday dinner, good in parts but dishes seemed less carefully put together. The mashed potato with the beef cheeks is replaced by paste in the sauce, and bread was hardening after beeing cut too early.
                                          La Palette - another apero, but its changed, a real tourist haunt, and prices up with the Deux Magots.
                                          Gerard Mulot - quick breakfast as good as ever and as busy as ever.
                                          Paul - very quick breakfast - they have gone fast food, nice warm croissants but dire coffee.
                                          Baron Rouge - timeless classic and a superb cheese with wonderfuly ripe cheese.

                                          New (to us)
                                          Semilla is wonderful
                                          La Saotico is a great casual place if close by - not a trip
                                          Thoumieux was a good, fun glam big night out place - full of locals. I will add more detail the these in another thread.

                                          1. What a great discussion !

                                            Having spent most of the last month on a multi-generational family vac in Italy practicing the European art of pleasing the senses (rather than collecting sensations), I certainly missed the variety and creativity of the Paris restaurant scene. But at the same time, I revelled in the spirit of time and place that made every meal in Italy a joy even if much of the cuisine was similar and repeated.

                                            I'm not a FOODIE, just a foodie. Certainly a very good meal is almost as good as good sex. But I cannot detach myself from context and narrowly focus on the quality of the cooking alone. I'm blessed to have born in and belong to Paris... she's an old whore of a city but is my one true love (cue Serge Reggiani singing "La femme qui est dans mon lit n'a plus vingt ans depuis longtemps...". Restaurants that I enjoy and recommend all represent Paris' very special flavour and lifestyle. Of course there are many restaurants, especially in the tourist zones, that pretend to be quintessentially parisien but are just hollow clichés with bad food, cutesy decor, few (if any) of us parigot(e)s, and a certain joylessness. Many tourists looking for Irma la Douce and stereotypes don't quite twig that the real Paris, although timeless, does include the here-and-now as well as the historic seamlessly merged.

                                            I don't really regret the loss or the drift to mediocrity of what used to be favourite restaurants. There are so many excellent eateries that none is irreplaceable. In any case, I'm not a tourist and my choices/ preferences are more determined by quartier, other plans, and the celebration of family and friends rather than the creative or aesthetic qualities of this or that cuisine. I also like to be with my "peeps" and most enjoy restaurants that fit in with my tribal and style allegiances... I'm a bit artsy-fartsy and so am a big fan of places like Le 104 in the 19th and Wanderlust in the 13th and, more generally, the Haut Marais, Oberkampf, Faubourg Saint-Antoine and Batignolles quartiers. And value... it's in my DNA to judge a restaurant on the basis of its price/ quality ratio.

                                            When I want to revel in history and tradition, I turn to Chez Denise or the Piano Bar at the Closerie des Lilas. When I want to indulge in that special Frenchness and humanness, a summer lunch in the garden of the Maison de l'Amérique Latine. For celebrating family and special occasions, Le Grand Véfour or la Grande Cascade. For enjoying the company of friends, Ober-Salé in the 11th. And the list could go on and on and on. Such is Paris.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Parnassien

                                              Another "oh my, I so agree" moment---I have always been a Parisien-at-heart, so I not sure that qualifies me to feel the same way. We have found some authentic places while wandering, but I aways feel the pressure of not squandering our dinner opportuities on chance. Although that's what we used to do years ago, it is more difficult now (quality-wise and also physical stamina!)
                                              In any case, CH'ers have always been helpful.

                                              We used to go to "Le Timbre" but now seems...?

                                              1. re: mausi7

                                                "I have always been a Parisien-at-heart," or as Gertrude Stein said in Paris France (1940)
                                                "....writers have to have two countries, the one where they belong and the one in which they live...."


                                                1. re: John Talbott

                                                  Ahh, c'est vrai.

                                                  And, my great American novel still has not been started.

                                                  If any other "forgotten places" come to mind, we are not leaving until November. Yes, I started research earlier than usual...must be an aging thing.

                                                  1. re: John Talbott

                                                    John, just found your blog...seems my research has just begun!

                                                2. re: Parnassien

                                                  Le 104's Grandes Tables is a perfect example of a "forgotten place." Only I can answer why I stopped going but it goes back on the list as does Ober-Salé and maybe the garden at the Maison de l'Amérique Latine next summer.
                                                  As a food site we don't talk much about art but the idea that Paris has Le 104 and the Docks as multi-purpose buildings with art and dining is refreshing.