HOME > Chowhound > France >


A formula for avoiding sitting next to those pesky fellow Yankees who whoop it up and disturb your meal in Paris and finding good food in “secret places.”.

OK. Based on two meals, yesterday and today, in very different places (Le BAT on the Grands Boulevards sited amongst the Hard Rocks and McDo’s and the Cercle Rouge in the 17th isolated among boring residential buildings and utilitarian shops) I have hit upon a strategy for those Americans who long to find places their fellow New York Times’ readers have not, where English is not spoken (especially loudly and nasally), has good food and where they will walk out texting their 1,000 best “friends” that they found a place no one else knows about.
What is it?:
1.Don’t just go back to the places you liked/loved last time, 10 or the Gods forbid, 50 years ago. I know, I know, “a bird in the hand is worth two you’ve never tried,” and I respect folks who use this method; it’s just that when I started considering Paris my home (much to one daughter’s amusement), I felt liberated, unshackled and free to try new, untried places.
2.Eat at lunch when the French not the Anglos eat.
3.Go outside the inner snail circle of Arrondissements 1-8.
So, “how John, how do you find these places?” I’m asked.
You listen to the tom-toms – X is rumored to be moving to Y Street to open a place. You read the blogs – in French (come on, you took it 40 years ago, some words are obvious) and English, written by people who aren’t New York Times/Travel & Leisure/Food & Wine reporters or stringers. You become a flaneur and listen to others who are flaneurs – “Hey, I saw this new place over near the VVV, check it out.” You enter places with fresh paint, look at the menu (posted by law) and setup, ask for a card and check it out with other nosy food-types. And, going against the grain of many folks, you eat with a diverse group of food-nuts, who let slip “secret information” known only to them (yah, sure.)
I guarantee this formula works, but only if you’re willing to take risks, encounter some odd lemons and be there when the wait-folks are having bad days or their first days.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. And don't go to any of the places you think John Talbott may go. He and his dining companions are known to have a good time and laugh their head off, and they don't laugh in French !

    2 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Cantonese is the preferred laugh language.

      1. re: John Talbott

        I will be the one laughing in Brooklynese. And not the new Brooklyn, the trendy one, but the old Brooklyn. Gottaproblemwiddat?

      1. re: jock

        Or lunch, when all the tourists are sightseeing.

      2. All great advice, John.

        re "pesky fellow Yankees who whoop it up and disturb your meal“, remember Gandhi's mandate, "You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

        5 Replies
        1. re: mangeur

          Because I eat at lunch I've never heard a single whoop. My inner Gandhi is calm, cool, zen-zen as the Guignols said about Sarko.

          1. re: John Talbott

            Not speaking of you, J, just noting a self-reminder. Every one of us is a potential whooper.

          2. My rule breaks down when eating where our fellow Americans live - for instance the 16th or around the Parc Monceau where I ate today -10 feet from pesky Yankee parents meeting their daughter's French BF and 100 feet from (American) football-throwing Dads.

            1 Reply
            1. re: John Talbott

              I think you would not normally choose that or similar area, John. Sometimes you take one for the team; sometimes you take one because a friend chooses the venue.

            2. A fine new addition to the list of places wherein there are no pesky fellow Yankees is Le Petit Matieu in the 10th - and it has a great price quality ratio too - two three-course meals and a bottle and glass of wine and one coffee for 72.90 E. More at http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/...

              7 Replies
              1. re: John Talbott

                JT dude, you know I am your N°1 groupie, but why o why anyone would try to find restaurants where no English would be heard, based on the recommendations of someone whose reviews - in English - are followed by thousands is beyond me.

                1. re: Parigi

                  One of the great paradoxes of life.

                    1. re: mangeur


                      your response terrifies me!

                        1. re: bcc

                          Moral: never post while trying to keep up with your 2 1/2 year old granddaughter who is racing through the house in her first tutu!

                          1. re: mangeur

                            Last November my wife and I stayed in La Cour St. Cathrine in Honfleur as per your recommendation. We thought it was a wonderful place to stay. I'm sure it would have been fantastic in June or July. Thanks for the posting!

                2. Go to the countryside - to the provinces ugly Americans hardly know about - the Auvergne, Charentes, Alsace, Jura, Savoie, and Roussillon (where I live).

                  You'll be glad you did.

                  3 Replies
                    1. re: John Talbott

                      Of course "we" are not ugly, says Sartre.

                    2. re: collioure

                      Or even some of the large cities outside Paris. Where there are tourists, most of them are Europeans.

                    3. It has been said that the French "lean in" when they talk whereas Americans sit back which makes their conversation loud. I live in America and love it but I must say I do wince when I see alot of Americans using their knives and forks in strange ways, they grip them very peculiarly!

                      86 Replies
                      1. re: bronwen

                        LOL. But those peculiar ways look and work far better than when they try to reverse the process and dine in the French manner.

                        1. re: bronwen

                          Born and raised in the USA but I have always, repeat, always used my knife and fork as the French do. I am sure I learned that from my parents, both American born.

                          IMO switching hands as the Americans do is cumbersome and silly.

                          1. re: bronwen

                            Re volume. As a Frenchman, I was trained by my parents and grandparents to make every conversation in public sound like a seduction or a conspiracy.

                            Re eating habits. The American way mesmerizes me. Like watching an accident. How in the world did such unnatural and showy use of knife and fork evolve ?

                            1. re: Parnassien

                              " How in the world did such unnatural and showy use of knife and fork evolve ?"

                              Probably to slow down the pace and prevent another less than admirable American habit of "shoveling it in."

                              1. re: Parnassien

                                "How in the world did such unnatural and showy use of knife and fork evolve ?"
                                We must have a historian here who can answer this, it's an interesting question.
                                I eat "norrnally" because my parents were Canadian in origin and of French stock long ago.
                                As for voice levels, a big problem is that the restaurateurs notion in the US and here that "young people like it lively" aka loud US music, no sound baffling, 90 degree wall/floor/ceilings, byebye velvet cushions, drapes and baffles. Once you pour some alcohol on 16 people's heads and turn up the music, you've got noise.

                                1. re: John Talbott

                                  Actually, the "cut and switch" or "zigzag" method of eating originated in France since the early 18th c., so the historians tell us. It was a pretension to put the knife down after cutting your meat, and then switch your fork to your right hand, usually the dominant one, which would offer more stability to transfer food delicately to your mouth. This style was adopted by the British and made its way to North America, who were also eager to adopt the French manners of style and grace.

                                  In the mid 1800's, it became trendy "not" to cut and switch
                                  in France, as convenience and efficiency were favoured, and this "European" style became the norm throughout the Continent.

                                  Globilization is probably increasing the European method of eating, as it is arguably a simpler and more elegant style.

                                  1. re: francaise

                                    To further this conversation with the goal to finally end this conversation that continues to crop up here, which answers the often asked question:

                                    "How in the world did such unnatural and showy use of knife and fork evolve?"

                                    The answer which I have already provided - It was the French who introduced this style to the world. So, for all those that delight in ridiculing this style, now you know the origin, and the why it evolved. I am Canadian, and eat Continental style, and although most other Canadians eat this way as well, I do observe both styles, including hybrid styles, which may be due to so many different cultures here.

                                    I guess it surprises me that this question keeps coming up because I assumed that food lovers/gastronomes, and those experienced or educated in culinary arts would already know the origin. Myself, I learned this in first year Gastronomy.

                                    Here is a recent article for additional reference:


                                    1. re: francaise

                                      "I guess it surprises me that this question keeps coming up because I assumed that food lovers/gastronomes, and those experienced or educated in culinary arts would already know the origin. Myself, I learned this in first year Gastronomy."
                                      Why do you want to end the conversation?
                                      This is what keeps CH alive.
                                      Can you give us a reference as to how this is French and not German or Central Europiean (I suspect my Romanian buddy might have another opinion?)
                                      BTW I'm Canadian in origin, and French before that (a few centuries ago) and in Toronto, no one said it was French.

                                      1. re: francaise

                                        "first year Gastronomy."
                                        There are years to capitalized gastronomy ? Wow.
                                        When are you graduating ? :)

                                    2. re: John Talbott

                                      ""How in the world did such unnatural and showy use of knife and fork evolve ?"

                                      I'm fairly certain Obama is to blame. ;)

                                      1. re: John Talbott

                                        Margaret Visser, the world's foremost authority on table manners, has written extensively about fork-switching. I remember her saying in "The Ritual of Dinner" that when forks were first introduced in America, everyone ate tines down in the English style. The switch seems to have started in mid-19th century.

                                        Visser is an interesting character. One of her main themes in all of her books that etiquette revolves, to a certain extent, around attempting to demonstrate to others that you are "civilized." Thus the more ornate and "unnatural" the ritual, the less practical the practice, the more "civilized" you are. It makes a lot of sense.

                                        She also has a long section describing what the diner is supposed to do with knife and fork when placing them on the plate. Not only is there no uniformity in Europe, but the same placement signify opposite things (e.g., "I'm finished" or "I'm not finished"). Obviously, there is nothing inherently superior in placing knife and fork parallel to each other as opposed to perpendicular, or tines up/down.

                                        I think she is stalking you, John. She was born in South Africa but was educated and started her professional career in Toronto and then made her way to France.

                                        1. re: Dave Feldman

                                          "I think she is stalking you, John"
                                          I prefer to think of her as a follower.

                                          1. re: Dave Feldman

                                            "Not only is there no uniformity in Europe, but the same placement signify opposite things (e.g., "I'm finished" or "I'm not finished"). "

                                            Indeed. After placing my utensils on my plate, I rely on eye-contact and subtle nod to the server. A short nod indicates "we're finished", while a prolonged eye-contact indicates "we need your attention". I made these up, but they work for me.

                                            1. re: mangeur

                                              OK I am completely confused by the subtlety of knife and fork placement at the end of the meal....is it really that difficult, and does it really vary from country to country...?

                                              My experience is that when you finish you put your knife and fork together side by side on the plate. If you have not finished you don't i.e. If you put your utensils down you keep them separated on their respective sides of the plate. Servers then clear the empty plates. Have I missed something?

                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                I do as Phil. I don't do the varying-duration eye contact at all. Have I been rude all my life ?

                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                  Not implying that at all. Just do as Phil does, as most of us do. The eye contact is just part of our repartee with our waiter.

                                                  1. re: mangeur

                                                    Your really flirting with the cute waitstaff aren't you ;-))

                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                      Hm. Never thought of it that way. But they are awfully cute... :)

                                                2. re: PhilD

                                                  Phil, I'd recommend reading Visser. I know she's discussed this in more than one book, but The Ritual of Dinner for sure.

                                                  1. re: Dave Feldman

                                                    She's quite the character. Her treatise on butter is also interesting.

                                          2. re: Parnassien

                                            "Re volume. As a Frenchman, I was trained by my parents and grandparents to make every conversation in public sound like a seduction or a conspiracy."


                                            1. re: Parnassien

                                              "Re volume. As a Frenchman, I was trained by my parents and grandparents to make every conversation in public sound like a seduction or a conspiracy."
                                              Ha, you shouda been with me today at Les Trois Garcons, where, the French kids were in full scream mode. Okay, so it's Sunday, end of School Break Week, but these kids put Yankee youngsters to shame. And the dogs were in full participation. 73 decibels.

                                              1. re: John Talbott

                                                John, I can only suppose the offending kids were the products of suburban or originally provincial parents. BTW, it is obligatory to blame everything that goes wrong in Paris on the "les banlieusards"/ suburbanites... even the word "banlieusard" must be pronounced with a sneer by every self-respecting Parisien(ne). Ok ? :) Anyway, give the brats to my gran for a week and they will be transformed into little lambs quietly browsing La Rochefoucauld maxims.

                                                1. re: Parnassien

                                                  Even at 2, my granddaughter understands the difference between inside and outside voice. ( I can't wait to teach her about seduction and conspiracy.)

                                                  1. re: Parnassien

                                                    In the banlieues (and that prominently includes the reputably 'worst' of the 9-3), I often see young men and teenagers leaving their seats for ladies or old people in the bus. In Paris "intra-muros", very rarely. I do not think Parisians are better educated than banlieusards, far from it.
                                                    (And to keep in chart, there are mighty good, cheap African restaurants in the North burbs.)

                                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                                      Pti, just for the record, I like many of my peers now exclude "la zone" when heaping scorn on les banlieusards.

                                                      I was primarily referring to the conservative and "respectable" southern and western suburbs. For "la zone" I have pity and guilt, not scorn. And a note for the non-locals: "la Zone" is the deprived (mostly) northern suburbs where the poor and immigrants are shamefully wharehoused.

                                                      1. re: Parnassien

                                                        southern and western suburbs.the "les banlieusards"/ suburbanites
                                                        The kids screaming Sunday were not from the southern and western suburbs nor the eastern ones, they were locals, Parnassien, the poussettes were not hauled out of boots of cars but were from the nabe.
                                                        If you give me a few business cards for your gran, I'll refer them for retraining.

                                                        1. re: John Talbott

                                                          John, I know. I was being tongue in cheek, playing the snooty Parisien and blaming French folks originally from elsewhere.

                                                          1. re: Parnassien

                                                            Sometimes I really want to nickname you Amélie Poulain.

                                                            1. re: Parnassien

                                                              "snooty Parisien"
                                                              Oh. I thought it was "awkward posturing", sorriest.

                                                              1. re: Parigi

                                                                One of the joys of Paris life is the posing and posturing that our culture encourages ... and, except for the awkward moments when our throw-away lines are retrieved and given misunderstood significance, we do it so well.

                                                          2. re: Parnassien

                                                            I see, but I disagree about guilt or pity. What you call "la zone" is not so deprived as you describe it, besides it is not so clear-cut as you make it appear. Getting closer, you realize that life there is far more interesting that it looks like from the other side of the Périphérique. Last but not least, there are some wondrous markets, shops, and restaurants.

                                                            1. re: Ptipois

                                                              While I cannot claim to be an expert on all of la Zone, I did spend many evenings and weekends for a decade in my younger and not so young years as a volunteer teaching literacy skills in Aubervilliers and Saint-Denis... and I continue to make regular visits for weddings or just maintain old friendships or sample the music scene. I agree there is a particular vibrancy and colour but, after a dozen run-ins with schizophrenics and a few brushes with violence, I no longer see it through rose-coloured lenses. As for restaurants, I do appreciate the little Taf et Maffe resto in Aubervilliers as a foodie and sociological experience and its residence-sociale catering in Saint-Denis as an inspiring example of public-private partnerships filling the gaps. But I must confess that, although I do try and try, I find that I don't have a real affinity for many authentic immigrant cuisines in la Zone, even at their best (and the quality places are rare).

                                                              And the guilt and pity is because we French have allowed, even engineered these pockets of deprivation in the suburbs to make sure that Paris has fewer slums to disquiet the tourists. Are Amélie's leftie petticoats showing ? :)

                                                              1. re: Parnassien

                                                                Yes somehow, but to each his own, and we have a different view of those places.

                                                                By the way I do not condone the term "we", not even in "we French", for the French are not a monolith and I do not include myself in what you describe when you talk about "the French" or "Parisians".

                                                                Besides, I do not share that guilt about the burbs for I do not consider myself separate or even remote from them; I think pity is patronizing, and I do not see "la zone" as one homogenous place but as a collection of pockets in a complex territory with all sorts of different lifestyles and options. Now there certainly is a difference between Paris and the suburbs, but the width of the gap is widely exaggerated.

                                                                As for the food, I suppose it all depends on your standards and affinities, as you say. Since I'll always prefer a good family maffé or poulet braisé sauce piment to a tasting menu by, say, David Toutain with plenty of technicity but no humanity, it is easy to guess why I see the area beyond the Périphérique as furiously interesting.

                                                                Actually, there may be something very Parisian at work there. NY Chowhounds for instance do not hesitate for one second to go sample some terrific Chinese, African, Mid-Eastern, etc., foods in the remotest, hardest-to-reach parts of Queens, Brooklyn and even farther, and to report enthusiastically about it. Nothing of the sort here, although similar gems could be found outside of the city. That refusal to consider the entire region as worthy of interest is caused, I'm afraid, by the touristy status of Paris threatening to make it a half-dead city, and by a certain tendency of Parisians to segregate themselves from what is around them (hardly anybody ever crosses the Périph' to eat out). It is not the tourists' fault - it is a Parisian quirk.

                                                                1. re: Ptipois

                                                                  "David Toutain with plenty of technicity but no humanity"

                                                                  This is a gratuitous blow to all of us that have been enjoying, and been touched (on an emotional level, hence the actual presence of humanity) by David Toutain's cooking.
                                                                  You have the right to defend the "zone", the suburbs, and family style cooking all you want, but I don't think Parnassien's comments called for this "pique gratuite" to us all...

                                                                  1. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                    That is only my opinion about Toutain's cooking understood as an example, not an attack on anyone who likes it. I hope that is still permitted. It is not a pique, all the less since Parnassien hasn't mentioned Toutain in the posts I am replying to.

                                                                  2. re: Ptipois

                                                                    I think the comparison between New York and Paris is unfair. We Parisiens (and in this case "we" = me and mes semblables) aren't as purpose-driven and sensation-addicted as Americans. The almost masochistic urge to seek out and vaunt esoteric foodie experiences seems to squarely contradict the very French and European notion of pleasing and savouring the senses rather than just collecting sensations, foodwise or otherwise.

                                                                    As for "la zone", I agree with most of what you say. But you Mme la Normande and me, le fils du 7e, can occasionally experience and even enjoy the life of la zone but we can never belong. We are and always will be outsiders there. Indeed it is easier for zonards with the right education and achievement to find acceptance in the 7th than for us to fit in in Clichy-sous-Bois. And for our less curious fellow Parisiens, what is the purpose of venturing into the suburbs ? Aren't there enough ethnic and occasionally very good restos in dreary neighbourhoods inside Paris ? Or does the inconvenience of getting to and from the suburbs for poulet braisé somehow make it taste better ... or confirm foodie street cred like those New Yorkers who take 5 trains to get to some "secret" source of authentic merguez or Yucatan delicacy in a distant borough ?

                                                                    I certainly agree with Yeti's point. And more generally think that there is great humanness in many Paris restaurants. After all, they are to a great extent extensions of our homes and where we celebrate our family ties and friendships. Admittedly some hard-core foodies are too fixed on the food alone to recognize the special joy and humanness that is the essential quality of any good restaurant in Paris.

                                                                    1. re: Parnassien

                                                                      As I have a visit to Paris coming up soon, I have been reading this board & have now stumbled upon this very interesting discussion. As one of those NY'ers who regularly travels out to Queens for the various ethnic foods & communities available (as well as trekking to various ethnic enclaves inside my home area of Brooklyn for others), I'm pretty sure that, if I were to spend a longer period of time in Paris, I would find myself in what you are calling "la zone" to find interesting cuisine from the varied folks there. In fact, finding out of the way gems (& taking the inevitable hits) is mostly why I joined CH many years ago, even though it has since also become a tool for guidance when in Paris, Florence or even Hawaii. So, I guess I agree with the thrust of Ptipois' comments. But, then again, I don't belong to a place with such a strong food culture and tradition of its own and I must find other cultures' creations in order to eat well and satisfy my soul and palate. Thanks for the discussion. Now, where do I go eat in Paris during my 5 days there? (joke).

                                                                      1. re: Steve R

                                                                        Last time I went to New York, Brooklyn looked more like the "Canal St. Martin area" than "Pantin"...

                                                                        1. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                          Absolutely correct, if you confine yourself to the now very trendy areas of a very geographically large borough. Just last night my wife and I ate at a very good newly reviewed NY Times 2 star restaurant (Dover) in my immediate neighborhood (Bklyn Heights/Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens) & sat at a table next to a couple who took the train to Brooklyn from Manhattan (the West Village) to eat there. What a turnaround! However, last week I ate at a pretty down home rustic Georgian restaurant (Lagidze) in the middle of Brooklyn, across the street from a great neighborhood family Turkish restaurant (Taci's Beyti), and the week before I was in Sunset Park, Brooklyn eating in a small hand pulled noodle Chinese place 10 blocks away from the new Mexican neighborhood with families galore eating tongue tacos. I have nothing against the new Williamsburg, Bushwick, Boerum Hill or other similar neighborhoods in Bklyn (well, part of me does wish they'd all leave again), but lots of Bklyn is still what it was, a haven for various ethnicities to establish a new home away from home. Come visit again…. I'll give you a tour.

                                                                            1. re: Steve R

                                                                              For one thing, I'd love a tour. I used to live in Park Slope in the mid-Eighties, when it was just about to start getting trendy. At that time the area was nothing to write home about, foodwise, but oh Lord once you got out of it and hiked or biked around, what incredible foods you were able to find in other, more remote parts of Brooklyn! A few streets down, there was an old Italian enclave where mozzarella was made afresh every morning. Come to think of it, that may be one of the reasons why I find the "ethnic" suburbs of Paris so fascinating.

                                                                              1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                You all know how to find me (my e-mail is on my CH "home page" & several of you already know it). I love taking folks around Brooklyn. Or even Queens. And retirement provides me with the time to do so.

                                                                              2. re: Steve R

                                                                                When I had graduated college and was living/working in Manhattan, those from Brooklyn were considered to be part of the great unwashed "bridge and tunnel" crowd. It would have been absolutely unheard of for someone from Manhattan to travel to Brooklyn to eat (unless it was at Peter Luger's steakhouse, perhaps? - I think that is in Bklyn?). How the times have changed!

                                                                          1. re: Parnassien

                                                                            "But you Mme la Normande and me, le fils du 7e, can occasionally experience and even enjoy the life of la zone but we can never belong."

                                                                            I am sorry, but as far as I'm concerned, you do not know anything about where I belong or not. I would be thankful to you not to include me in your social considerations.

                                                                            What a strange idea to think that one should "always be outsiders there". Just have a drastic change in one's fortune (which is nothing I wish for anybody) and then you might have to move there, and eventually belong as much as you can manage it. There's nothing genetic or essentialist about that.

                                                                            As for the "less curious fellow Parisians" I don't think they need to be excused through the use of a rather condescending rhetoric ("does the inconvenience of getting to and from the suburbs for poulet braisé somehow make it taste better") — all I'm saying is that there are wonders to be found outside of the city limits and it is no less true, or - okay - not much less true, of Paris than of New York. Now New Yorkers won't feel shy seeking them and most Parisians will. One does not need to depreciate the former to make one's point. All it boils down to is that some will go to some lengths to experience excellent food and some won't. And it sounds a bit preposterous to say New Yorkers will explore the taste offerings of their region more thoroughly because they are more masochistic and purpose-driven than Parisians.

                                                                            And I'm not depreciating Paris restaurants in any way, let that be clear. Only mentioning a style of cooking that strikes me as artificial and happens not to be my favorite. That I prefer traditional family cooking from all sorts of regions is only a taste, and does not require to be interpreted.

                                                                            1. re: Ptipois

                                                                              Pti.... Yes, there are a few wonders to be found outside of the city limits. But there are many, many more to be found inside. I just don't get the need to make forays into la zone for foodie kicks.

                                                                              I didn't intend to get into class warfare. All I'm saying that la zone has a certain and very interesting culture that excludes us from belonging. It is not me or you looking down on or rejecting les zonards but it's les zonards not accepting us as anything other than interlopers. It has nothing to do with class or income. It's just how "le bled" works. Certainly we can have moments of sharing and warmth but in the end we must all return "home".

                                                                              1. re: Parnassien

                                                                                Again, I wish you wouldn't use the pronoun "we" or "us" when you reply to one of my posts. Maybe you know where you belong, but you have no idea where I do or not, where is home to me and who excludes me or not.

                                                                                Particularly, I deeply disagree with your caricatural (not to use a harsher word) view of what you call "la zone" and "les zonards". What is that place and who are they? What parts of the territory and what types of population does your definition include? What is "it's just how le bled works" supposed to mean? (For the information of other posters, "le bled" is a term of Algerian origin which depicts the native village.)

                                                                                As a frequent visitor of families and friends living in the so-called "hot" suburbs, I can assure that you are totally mistaken in your description of their inhabitants' lifestyles, social standards and acceptance of others.

                                                                                Considering your frequent practice of posing as the quintessential "we the French" or "we Parisians" for the Yanks here, I would like to stress that this sort of statement is not typical of the French and does not represent them.

                                                                                However, we still have an ethnically interesting phenomenon at work there, and once again it is a good example of Parisian mental segregation: some people from inside the Périph will talk to no end about "la zone" without any idea of what's really there.

                                                                                1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                  Mme Ptipois.... Ouch! But I'm not sure what we are arguing about. I agree that "la zone" is a socio-economic and ethnic mosaic. I don't quite see where I caricatured the inhabitants other than implying, as central and local governments have clearly stated, that there is a common denominator of social and economic stresses. Maybe there is some confusion over vocabulary. "La zone" and "zonard" used to be pejoratives 20 years ago.... but not now... just the opposite (at least in current informal language). "Bled" originally one's home village in Algeria is now used by most younger residents of "la zone" as well as Oberkampf & Menilmontant hipsters to refer to their own particular neighbourhoods or communities. So maybe, just maybe by using terms and meanings in common currency in my generation but not yours I have offended your sensibilities. If so, I apologize.

                                                                                  And I have subsequently explained and re-explained my use of "belonging". It hardly contradicts your own notions of where you think or want to belong. Or we may be confusing each other with different definitions of "belonging" which to me is not the same as "affinity".

                                                                                  You and I both know, have an affinity for, and have explored "la zone" and have friendships with people who live there. It's not my idea of a culinary heaven while for you it's marvel of gastronomic oases. I certainly enjoy Paris more than the suburbs but that's only because the familiarity and the possibilities are more obvious. And I'm not that big a fan of esoteric ethnic cuisines. But that seems to be the crux of our disagreement. All the rest is just vinegar added to the wine.

                                                                                  As for the quibble over "we", it doesn't require much time and space. Whenever I write "we", just translate as "on"/ one. When I say "we Parisiens" etc it is simply a convenient generalization and does not obviously mean "all Parisiens". Language/ communication is impossible without such generalizations. You are certainly free to add your own modifications if you can figure out a understandable way to express all the exceptions to the generalizations in one or two words.

                                                                                  Can we kiss and make up ?

                                                                                  1. re: Parnassien

                                                                                    "As for the quibble over "we", it doesn't require much time and space. Whenever I write "we", just translate as "on"/ one."

                                                                                    This doesn't work when you clearly associate that "we" with "you and I" or "me or you", which you did twice in this thread and is precisely what I am reacting to.

                                                                                    "When I say "we Parisiens" etc it is simply a convenient generalization and does not obviously mean "all Parisiens"."

                                                                                    That is not clear at all, for you always make it sound like a general statement (hence my mention of Amélie Poulain), and most of the time I think it doesn't ring true.

                                                                                    "Language/ communication is impossible without such generalizations."

                                                                                    On the contrary I think that all these matters would require less vagueness.

                                                                                    "Can we kiss and make up ?"

                                                                                    Your arguments do not convince me (to be fair I failed to understand more than half of them), and we're not chummy enough to justify that expression.

                                                                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                      Ok, no kisses. But what about the making up ? :)

                                                                                      1. re: Parnassien

                                                                                        These things are of very little importance and not worth sombering a nice day. So I'll make up (and might I say kiss) à donf, obviously.

                                                                                      2. re: Ptipois

                                                                                        If I may interfere, not to add oil in the fire (don't know if it's an expression used in english...), but actually to steer the conversation back to a Chowhound one...

                                                                                        I live right near the suburbs (Porte de Pantin), and I have plenty of friends who live or have lived in the suburbs, even I had a part of my life (a few years of my childhood) living outside the périphérique... But although I can't say I ever explored the different neighborhoods in search of food, from an outside perspective I tend to agree with Parnassien about the fact that there doesn't seem to be a great deal of authentic restaurants doing amazing food... most of what I see are kebabs or small pizzerias... That is not to say that I doubt some gems exist, but let's be more specific : so Ptipois, do you have any recs for one said gem in the area of Pantin for instance ? If I can shlep all the way to the 7th for David Toutain (a neighborhood, where I definitely don't feel like I belong), then I can certainly cross the périph' for some great chow !

                                                                                          1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                            Ok, this side of the périph' it is then... (not that the food in this part of the hood is any better... next time I move, I'll choose more carefully...).
                                                                                            Thanks anyway.

                                                                                            1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                              I had an excellent Chinese meal, truly good Cantonese, at Pantin, lol. Wish I remembered the resto name.

                                                                                              1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                Ouch too bad, because I've really been in the mood for some dim sum lately, but never found the time to go all the way to Tricotin... Let me know if you get an eureka moment !

                                                                                                1. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                                                  The Chinese lady in the most unassuming stand in Marché St Quentin has very good home-made dimsum. She even invented a whole bunch. Try them all.

                                                                                                  1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                    Yes I saw you talk about it on another post, and made a mental note to myself, but that note disappeared with probably a dozen of other mental notes I make while reading this board... so thanks for reminding me !

                                                                                                    1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                      Yes! And thanks for the heads-up.

                                                                                                      1. re: Parigi


                                                                                                        Went monday... the marché St Quentin was closed...
                                                                                                        Went tuesday... the marché St Quentin was open, but the stand had a signed "closed until april the 18th"...
                                                                                                        Went today... finally ! I tried a bunch of different dim sum, all very good although I was a bit disappointed to see that she reheats them in the microwave, which dried out a few of their edges. (but since there is no place to sit down, I'm guessing she can't ask for her customers to wait for her to cook a fresh batch every time ...). I went to a spot with some tables and chairs inside the Marché St Quentinn, where I ate everything happily, not sure if I was squatting the tables of the "italian restaurant" that serves minestrone, but nobody told me anything...
                                                                                                        Definitely the best I had in Paris (but keep in mind that I haven't tried that many dim sum places), and very original (chicken and clementines dim sum !).

                                                                                                        Will return for sure, but where do you usually eat ? Or do you just buy the food and heat it back at your place ?

                                                                                                        Thank you !

                                                                                                        1. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                                                          You can pre-order dumsun from her uncooked. She actually prefers it that way. Of course, it tastes better.
                                                                                                          The next best thing is to re-steam it, which she cannot do there in the market.
                                                                                                          The Italian traiteur is also awesome.
                                                                                                          It gets ultra fresh fish from the neighbor poissonier who supplies Spring and Jeu de Quilles, etc., and makes amazing pasta vongole (but not every day, often on the weekends). Did you see her half dozen types of lasagna ? All good.
                                                                                                          The tables outside are for the whole market. The one table inside the "Mercato" is reserved for the Mercato's customers. So you were ok.

                                                                                                          1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                            So you buy them uncooked and you steam them yourself ? Ok, will do.

                                                                                                            No I didn't check the Italian traiteur... I'm ashamed to say it was the first time I entered this market, and it's a pretty weird place... Not much people, it almost looks abandoned, and yet most things I saw looked pretty great. Including the few poissonneries, and some places selling cheese and meat.
                                                                                                            I have a feeling I will start lurking around this place more often.

                                                                                                            1. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                                                              Indeed it is a great market, and there are never too many people. What's up with that.
                                                                                                              There is also a faaaabulous Portuguese lunch counter with a funky patronne who loves Chicago blues.

                                                                                                          2. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                                                            Re-steaming her dimsum at home also works very well. Which is what I'm having for my breakfast, with 鳳凰丹樅 Fenghuang Dancong tea.
                                                                                                            When you doing the steaming, put a leaf of lettuce underneath the various dumplings.That way they won't stick.

                                                                                                            1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                              Bon appétit :)

                                                                                                              Did she give you a number to call her the day before (when you want uncooked dimsum) ? And last question, is she open only morning/lunch ? Because I passed by saturday afternoon thinking I'd get a few dimsum to try and do at home, but she was closed.

                                                                                                              Thanks again, this spot really is a great find !

                                                                                                              1. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                                                                She is normally also open in the afternoon.
                                                                                                                I usually go there in person and place an order for a few days later or a week later. I love the marché St Quentin and go once or twice a week, although I live by Notre Dame de Lorette right in front of rue des Martyrs where the food shops are not shabby either.

                                                                                                                1. re: Parigi


                                                                                                                  Do you know Le Bistro Lorette? Someone told me it was good.

                                                                                                                  1. re: bcc

                                                                                                                    I haven't been, but the Laidbacks and JT have and liked. Good enough for me !

                                                                                                                  2. re: Parigi

                                                                                                                    Ok thanks, I guess I was just unlucky not finding her there a couple of times...

                                                                                                      2. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                                                        In America I believe the expression is "to throw oil on the fire" . . . although I haven't heard anyone say that in a long long time. I will also add as an American that I have found this thread to be immensely informative, even though it has veered away from food per se! Last year I watched a movie at home -- it was filmed as if it were a documentary, but it was a cinematic film -- about France's involvement/presence in Algeria and the Algerian uprising. I can't recall the name of the film, but it was a real eye-opener, and I thought it was very relevant to America's involvement today in Muslim countries. Anyway, I'm glad that everyone has "agreed to disagree" and to move on back to food . . . . .

                                                                                                        1. re: bauskern

                                                                                                          Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers ?

                                                                                                          1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                            Yes, that was it. An eye-opener! It was like I was watching a news story and not a movie.

                                                                                                              1. re: bauskern

                                                                                                                " I thought it was very relevant to America's involvement today in Muslim countries...."

                                                                                                                So relevant, in fact, that the Pentagon screened it back in 2003 for what it could teach about counter-insurgency operations in Iraq. (I'm not sure anybody learned anything.)

                                                                                                                But yeah, brilliant and essential film.

                                                                                                            1. re: bauskern

                                                                                                              It was probably Gilles Pontecorvo's "La Bataille d'Alger".

                                                                                                              (Posted before I saw Parigi's reply above.)

                                                                                                2. re: Parnassien

                                                                                                  "and me, le fils du 7e, "
                                                                                                  Ah, I see, tongue in cheek again…
                                                                                                  Les fils du 7e never say that.
                                                                                                  And those who say they are, …

                                                                                                  1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                    "Les fils du 7e never say that"
                                                                                                    Huh ? it's a perfectly ordinary way to declare one's geographic origins. Of course, when cherry picking, it can be shorn of context and deliberately misinterpreted. Very unworthy of Cixi, though.

                                                                                                  2. re: Parnassien

                                                                                                    Clichy-sous-Bois? Does Olivier Klein "belong".

                                                                                                  3. re: Ptipois

                                                                                                    "NY Chowhounds for instance do not hesitate for one second to go sample some terrific Chinese, African, Mid-Eastern, etc., foods in the remotest, hardest-to-reach parts of Queens, Brooklyn"
                                                                                                    I must say, as someone who lived in NY (Manhattan) for 25 years, that this is not only true now, it was almost 60 years ago; a most interesting point. Part of the answer, though may be that NYC doesn't have cités and the clusters of immigrants who settled in the other boroughs set the tone for good Greek, Indian, etc., food.
                                                                                                    I know I get ribbed a lot for eating in places like Levallois-Perret, Meudon and Puteaux but they are what, 10 minutes from the city?

                                                                                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                      I can't speak for "almost 60 years ago" (sorry John) but I clearly remember meeting folks from Manhattan in Queens for Indian/Pakistanian/Begladeshian or Latin American or Chinese way back at least 30 years ago. Having grown up in Brooklyn, I've always explored much of the borough and have pretty much always had to go to Manhattan regularly. Of course, I still have friends (including some on CH) who won't cross the river to Bklyn even now. Their loss.

                                                                                      3. re: Parnassien

                                                                                        <Re eating habits. The American way mesmerizes me. Like watching an accident. How in the world did such unnatural and showy use of knife and fork evolve ?>

                                                                                        Probably invented by John Hancock in Colonial times. Have you ever seen his tombstone (which he designed for himself)?

                                                                                        1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                          I have seen the tombstone, many times. Quite, quite amusing.

                                                                                          But getting back to New York. I was born there, in Manhattan, and lived there for a decent part of my life. Steve R hit it on the head as far as ethnic restaurants. Spot on.

                                                                                          The other restaurants... abysmal. Nothing more than a lot of very wealthy people chasing after nothing more than "faux." No matter what anyone says, on a scale of 1 to 10, New York restaurants, excluding the ethnic ones, are a 1. Paris is a 10. Even here in Italy, where, depending on what area we're talking about it, is only a 5 or 6. The "better" restaurants in New York, with a few exceptions, are a 1.

                                                                                          I saw a menu from one of the "hottest best" places in the city. The food was trying to be Toscana, Toscana, Toscana. Unfortunately, they didn't have a clue. They couldn't even get the wines right (250 dollars for an off year of Brunello from a minor producer; a wine that is 35 years old and God only knows how they got it and how it has been stored) But, the restaurant is famous because you have to spend a lot of money to eat and drink there. And people will buy that bottle, even though they couldn't tell sangiovese from nebbiolo, because it is from the 70s and is from Tuscany. And the people don't know anything. And only labels are drunk, not what is in the bottles. Really sad.

                                                                                          Chef June. Forget about the American way re eating habits. It's the mediocre food in New York's "better" restaurants that is the problem and the people who don't know the difference between good food and not good food.

                                                                                          Again, ethnic in New York or nothing.

                                                                                          1. re: allende

                                                                                            Allende... think you haven't been here in a while, maybe?

                                                                                            Quite a bit of tasty grub here in the Apple. Most of it quite pricy, tho. Diners get charged for the restaurateurs' rent...

                                                                                            1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                              Hi ChefJune

                                                                                              I'd like to know five of those French restaurants in New York that serve that tasty grub (even those that are quite pricey), that could compare in terms of both cooking AND taste and quality of ingredients, for example to Bacon (which you and I like a lot), or of any comparably priced restaurants in Paris or elsewhere in France.



                                                                                    2. What this extraordinary thread has brought home to me is that "soul" is ultimately and perhaps entirely a personal concept.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: mangeur

                                                                                        Completely agree, and what makes an ordinary extraordinary is when these entirely personal "souls" communicate: from small sample from the kitchen of an inquired ingredient as you are finishing up the meal, to observing glances and smiles from the "houses" we like to visit.

                                                                                      2. So, to get back to the business at hand, which is to avoid the enemy because he is us; today's meal at Sur Le Fil in the 14th was a standout from the young chef who came thru Itineraires. English was spoken but as a common language of the charming hostess and Italian couple with bambino. For more & pix http://www.typepad.com/site/blogs/6a0...

                                                                                        1. "Don’t just go back to the places you liked/loved last time"

                                                                                          This is a topical post for me because I was engrossed in a thread about Chez Denise (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3280...), not realizing how old the posts were: 2007! The discussion of indoor smoking should have tipped me off, but instead it tricked me into mentioning it in 2014 - I'd forgotten all the headlines printed even here across the ocean.

                                                                                          I got really excited about Chez Denise (and Chez Clovis, mentioned in the same post), but with so many years having passed I wonder if it is now completely out of date?

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: non sequitur

                                                                                            I started this thread in January 2014 and Chez Denise won the battle for best traditional bistro. We are looking forward to going there next month.


                                                                                            1. re: macdog

                                                                                              How did my search of "chez Denise" not pick this up? Much thanks Macdog! Look forward to your report!

                                                                                          2. I realized at my fantastic meal today at Le Servan that
                                                                                            - Eating at a well-tested, well-vetted and well-approved CH and maybe NYT resto and
                                                                                            - Eating without pesky fellow Yankees around
                                                                                            are incompatible wishes.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                              Might be because a big chunk of your readership is…

                                                                                            2. You shouldn't go to places where you go.

                                                                                              1. I visit France most years and have yet to come across a Yankee, pesky or otherwise.

                                                                                                But then, I doubt whether many Americans visit the departments of the Nord-Pas de Calais and Picardie.

                                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                                  I didn't see too many pesky Yankees, or any other types of pesky Americans (or pesky fellow Canadians) on my visit to Brittany, either.

                                                                                                  1. re: prima


                                                                                                    Now I have come across the occasional Canadian on my trips. Several at Vimy last year.

                                                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                                                      That is rather normal, non? It would be worse this year.

                                                                                                      1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                        Oui, lagatta.

                                                                                                        Few years back, we did a trip mainly to take photos for my first book. Called in to a small cemetery to take a photo of the grave of a guy I was mentioning in the narrative. As I always do, I left a message in the visitors book. Couple of weeks later, I got an email from a Canadian, who I only know under a username on another forum saying "Hey, we were at the cemetery the day after you". One heck of a co-incidence - some of the smaller ones can go months between visitors.

                                                                                                  2. re: Harters

                                                                                                    Yankee is just a metaphor for diners of any nationality who alter the ambiance of the dining room with their exuberance.

                                                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                                                      We're there. Just well-behaved and quiet. Same all over France and elsewhere and even at home. It's just the loud bores whom one hears.

                                                                                                      1. re: mangeur

                                                                                                        I have never heard loud or pesky Americans in all my trips to France, either. I have however, eavesdropped on several really interesting conversations in small restaurants with close together tables! The Comptoir Relais (outside) two weeks before the 2008 US election springs to mind (for those shocked at the idea of eavesdropping, we were all so close together that eventually, it all turned into one conversation anyway!).

                                                                                                    2. You'll recall the original reason for this thread: folks kept asking for places where "their [and my] fellow New York Times’ readers have not [been], where English is not spoken (especially loudly and nasally), [which] has good food and where they will walk out texting their 1,000 best “friends” that they found a place no one else knows about."
                                                                                                      Today I ate at the ideal such place, which it's safe to trumpet because no one here will go to - because it's too new, too "JT", has only been written up by my colleague Alian Fusion. Anyway, it's called L'Esquisse, in the 18th, and it's great. http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/...

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                        "folks kept asking for places where "their [and my] fellow New York Times’ readers have not [been], where English is not spoken (especially loudly and nasally)"
                                                                                                        And they keep asking YOU that question. They deserve to dine next to screechers of English.

                                                                                                      2. Since this seems to be a much read thread I thought I'd add a new resto (Sept 2) where pesky folks of all nations are not yet to be seen. It's called the Comptoir Tempero in the 13th and I'd originally ignored its mothership - Tempero - because it was described as run by a couple of Brazilian - Viet Namese - French persuasion. Too much, too busy, too fusion I thought; well maybe the mothership was/is, but hubby Olivier Montagne's food is inventive, innovative and incredible in many ways. 20 E for 3 courses, wine starting at 23 E; great bread and ground coffee-bean coffee. As Mangeur points out, one must follow one's mentor and tastes - so, if you liked Spring in the 9th, Frenchie when it first opened, Septime ditto, this is in their same vein - fresh products, brilliantly prepared, beautifully presented by the front-room staff and no pesky anybodies.
                                                                                                        More at http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/...

                                                                                                        9 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                          Excellent references, John. Good post.

                                                                                                          1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                            O Talbot le Vénérable, I've been touting mothership Tempero for a long time (without any success). My go-to before or after the MK2 Bibiothèque cinema. The "confusing" fusion isn't as confused as you imagine and much of the menu at Comptoir Tempero is very similar to the fare and prices at Tempero. Not sure what direction it will take now that the French-Vietnamese part of the equation is absorbed by the new Comptoir. But (exasperated) sigh, it doesn't really matter because so few Chowhounders other than the intrepid Mme Mangeur will actually be persuaded to make the trek to this otherwise unremarkable slice of Paris for Tempero or the Comptoir

                                                                                                            1. re: Parnassien

                                                                                                              It's less that we are intrepid and more that our friends are bored with hearing about our French adventures. We have no NYT or super-blogger check lists to address and therefore have dining opportunities to hit relatively unknown places. Works for us! :)

                                                                                                              1. re: Parnassien

                                                                                                                "I've been touting mothership Tempero"
                                                                                                                Oh Parnassien the Younger, I stand chastened.
                                                                                                                As I was exiting, my wonderful waitperson said "If you liked it so much here, do try the mothership. And I will.

                                                                                                                1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                                  That sounds great. Original, but not too "innovative for the sake of it". And I love fish.
                                                                                                                  I have friends in the 13th, but they live about 20 minutes' walk from there.

                                                                                                                2. re: Parnassien

                                                                                                                  While the address may be in the 13th, Comptoir Tempero is only a few minute walk from Place d'Italie, the #27 bus and others. Just head for Les Papilles or L'Agrume or L'Ourcine and stay on the bus! :)

                                                                                                                  1. re: mangeur

                                                                                                                    Ii had a really rather unpleasant evening at Comptoir Tempero. I was on my own. At 8.30pm there was only one other table occupied - I thought it might cheer up, later but it didn't. The first choice included an egg slow poached in some complex way which would have been better just poached, served on a watery aubergine puree - a nasty combination of textures. Boudin for the plat was proudly fait maison but would have been much better bought from any decent butcher. I was too depressed to have a dessert. The only good points were the delightful young woman front of house (she had plenty of time to chat as the place was so empty)and the fact that I had a John le Carre book with me.

                                                                                                                    1. re: J Sheridan

                                                                                                                      Sorry for the bum steer; at lunch it was packed and tasty.

                                                                                                                      1. re: J Sheridan

                                                                                                                        Thanks so much for this snapshot of a bad meal that cost a dining opportunity. Inventive cooking can be a mine field, working sometimes and not others, working for some people and not others. Your comments are bien noté.

                                                                                                                3. I hesitate to post anything on this "pesky" thread, especially concerning Septime/etc., but I'm here to report that today at lunch the only peskies were about to be fed local kids and whatever downhill slide Septime is on, Clamato is not in the same boat (no pun intended but mixed metaphor was). Our meal was inventive, tasty and reasonable (95 E a couple with wine). More at

                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                                    That was a great piece...and what beautiful looking food!!

                                                                                                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                                      I haven't found any problem with Clamato yet aside from it being overpriced.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                                                        94.66 E a couple with a bottle of wine, 3 courses and coffee (no bottled water of course)?
                                                                                                                        What's your price break/point Pti?

                                                                                                                        1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                                          Plates are really small. 3 courses is not a lot for a couple.

                                                                                                                    2. Once again, I'm eating outside of most visitors comfort and inner snail zone, but L'Esquisse in the 18th is a gem. Wonderful staff (Thomas), really good but not edgy food and affordable prices (98E a couple with wine.) Those who like Eugene, Rallonge & Maquis, take note, the new kid in the nabe is holding her own. http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/...

                                                                                                                      1. On this theme, we wanted to go to Le Pirouette, based in large part on references here. So, I went to their website and emailed for an 8:30 reservation. I was told they only had 7:30. I took it, but wasn't happy. Then the same thing happened to my cousin. I decided to test a theory. I asked a French colleague of mine to make the reservation (and my cousin asked the hotel to make her reservation) - 8:30, no problem. Apparently they have decided to tackle this problem on their own - don't let Americans eat at a reasonable hour.

                                                                                                                        36 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: JC2

                                                                                                                          Pirouette is not alone in this. We find that once we pass the "early bird" test, we are allowed to book at our preferred time. It's understandable if annoying.

                                                                                                                          eta, perhaps my imagination, but I think that we get better welcome when I call than when the hotel makes our reservations, i.e., integrated seating, welcomed in French, etc.

                                                                                                                          1. re: JC2

                                                                                                                            c'est vrai?!!! We have a 7:30 reservation on 11/20 and while we want to eat there, we don't want to eat so early. They emailed me back that they were happy to have us, but they could only offer 7;30pm. I will ask my concierge to change it to a more reasonable hour. Don't like that.

                                                                                                                            1. re: MRS

                                                                                                                              This entire thread is foolish, foppish and fallacious. See David Lebovitz's very good muse on all these dim-witted thoughts here on his most recent blog post: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2014/11/... He's too discreet to say so, but I don't doubt that he was 'inspired' by this comment stream.

                                                                                                                              Does anyone here think that they can publicly discuss which restaurants in which to avoid "pesky" fellow Yankees? The pretense is both ludicrous and offensive. Puh-Leeze! If you really don't want anyone to know about a Paris restaurant you love you'd never be talking about it in a public forum dedicated to good eating in Paris!

                                                                                                                              1. re: andaba

                                                                                                                                David knows his audience and panders to it - and that's sensible as it is the gateway to his business. All credit to him for doing so so successfully.

                                                                                                                                And no-one is worried about a few English speakers*, regulars on the board enjoy the mix and diversity. But the underlying idea of this thread is about restaurants that move past the tipping point. Those places that become exclusively anglophone, with not a local in sight. When this happens (and it does especially if the New York Times puts somewhere on its list) the characteristic of the place changes, it becomes a tourist destination, the business adapts to tourists, and in the worst examples it becomes a facsimile of a Paris restaurant rather than something totally Chow worthy.

                                                                                                                                David mentions he is equally a tourist in other cities, as we all are, but I bet he heads out to those nice local restaurants off the normal tourist beat. I am pretty confident he will equally avoid the places catering exclusively to tourists in all the places he gets to....in fact from memory he tends to head to the sort of places we recommend here.

                                                                                                                                Its wise to note that "pesky yankee" is used in this thread as a proxy for all English speakers not just those from the US.

                                                                                                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                  > the business adapts to tourists, and in the worst examples it becomes a facsimile of a Paris restaurant rather than something totally Chow worthy.

                                                                                                                                  Well, it's just a way of deluding yourself that all of central Paris isn't just a facsimile of itself.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Gargle

                                                                                                                                    As an ex-resident who lived there for a few years I know its not....so no not delusional.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                      How would you know when it has?

                                                                                                                                      It is a problem facing many touristy cities, especially ones like Paris or nyc with a clear center where the attractions and hotels are concentrated. As long as the economic factors continue their current trend, it is only going to keep getting worse for a very long time.

                                                                                                                                      I imagine at some point places will start building more elegant defense mechanisms, but right now they just seem to be handling this in crude and crass ways (like having an Anglo seating, cheating Anglos out of tips, and I can only imagine offering sub-par food to Anglos is next...)

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Gargle

                                                                                                                                        I think it helps to both work and live in a city to get under its skin. The rhythm of the daily routine, interacting with others at work, dealing with the day to day chores, etc etc helps ground you in the city.

                                                                                                                                        That said, the most important part of getting to know a city as a local is time, you need to spend a few years there to peel back the the layers. In the first months you see the city through the tourist lens, longer and you start to experience a different city, eventually locals realise you are there for the long haul and acceptance levels rise. I assume after a generation they may also think of you as a fellow local.

                                                                                                                                        And the "hidden Paris" is not a secret Paris its just that your experience and priorities change, people get to know you and treat you differently, they know you will be back, tips and recomendations are shared, its easier to get a table, etc etc.

                                                                                                                                        In my experience the "defence mechanisms" are not really there to defend instead they are mechanisms to efficiently handle tourists and cater to their needs. English (and Russian, Chinese, Japanese etc) menus, positioning toursists in sections with multilingual menus, simplifying dishes, eliminating scary food (offal) etc etc may be seen as defensive but they are mechanisms based on experience. It makes life far easier for both the restaurant and visitor.....and too be frank most tourists are time poor, poorly researched, and have a list to tick off......so they probably appreciate this.

                                                                                                                                        If you can get beyond being processed by the tourist industry in any city you get a different exoerience. To me its a better one, but I have friends who prefer to tick off their Top 10 lists and then move to the next place.....each to their own.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Gargle

                                                                                                                                          But Paris and New York are also very large cities, so they don't become Disneyfied nearly to the extent of smaller touristy cities such as Venice (almost bereft of native Venetians, who have almost all moved to Mestre or suburban areas nearby) or Florence. There is a large population and a lot of business being done; Paris is also a seat of national government.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: andaba

                                                                                                                                    "This entire thread is foolish, foppish and fallacious. "

                                                                                                                                    John started this thread because of the avalanche of repetitious requests, often addressed to him specifically, for the gem of a virgin bistro where not a word in their own language can be heard.

                                                                                                                                    That kind of recurrent requests is punishment, sabotage, Groundhog Day. John started the thread as because he is, as usual, because he is pathologically helpful and patient, and tongue firmly in cheek.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: andaba

                                                                                                                                      As a local, I was scratching my head over this thread right from the beginning.

                                                                                                                                      I mean, English-speaking people trying to find restaurants where they won't hear English spoken at the next table but not concerned that the people at the next table will hear their own English... Acting as if they were not English speakers themselves... Or travellers, no to say tourists, or "pesky fellow Yankees". Like - I'm a pesky Yankee but I don't want to eat with the likes of me, to verge into the caricature a wee bit for the sake of explanation. I am still trying to see the logic in that.

                                                                                                                                      Not to mention the fact that such places advertised here will no doubt fill with English-speaking people before long.

                                                                                                                                      Look at Spring, honestly one of the best restaurants in Paris, and half the clientele if not more = Anglophones.
                                                                                                                                      That for one thing never deterred me from going there.

                                                                                                                                      And David Lebowitz's article is spot on.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                                                                        DL's good points aside, in the long run many restaurants that do not have an expectation of repeat business, and that largely cater to an uninformed crowd, behave differently than ones catering to locals or to a very specific group.

                                                                                                                                        They have less of an incentive to change their menus or offer options (Spring, or see l'Ami Jean's push towards a fixed tasting menu), they have to deal with unimaginable degrees of cluelessness and unintentional bad behavior and there's much more of an incentive to do the wrong thing. That is why we have the idiom "tourist trap" and not the idiom "local folks trap".

                                                                                                                                        I don't think it's a tragedy or even particularly bothersome (unless Wendy Lyn happens to have parked a pair of incredibly loud and obnoxious clients of hers next to you!) but it's also not great.

                                                                                                                                        Of course the best advice to Anglos wishing to avoid themselves is not to go in the summer (that continues to amaze me - how many times have you had a request for restaurants from someone you think should know better but is still going to Paris on July 14?)

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                                                                          Pti - i agree with your comments. But isn't it a matter of degrees, or whether a place has reached "the tipping point" of moving from a good restaurant with a diverse customer base to a restaurant that focuses on the tourist niche.

                                                                                                                                          There are clearly some restaurants that attract lots of tourists and retain their character and ethos (Spring maybe a good example). But there are many many others whose business model adapts to their success and changes to maximise their revenue from the tourist segment.

                                                                                                                                          David's article uses Juvenilles as an example but whilst its owned by a Scot it is actually quite a local place, it doesn't really pander to tourists (unlike Willi's around the corner) and stays true to its style so maybe not a good example to use to argue against the concept.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                            Juvenile's is indeed not a good example to use in this case, I do agree. It cannot be defined as a "tourist restaurant".

                                                                                                                                            Many types of restaurants can attract tourists. One variable is what kind of tourists exactly, and another (more important) one is how the restaurant's owner/chef choose to deal with them, and with the food they will serve.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: andaba

                                                                                                                                          I am a little confused by the Lebovitz article cited by andaba. In the first part, he does muse about what andaba describes as " these dim-witted thoughts here". In the second part, Lebovitz boasts about all the fun he had in a wine-bar with just French-speakers after the tourists had left. Am I being dim-witted in seeing a bit of a contradiction ?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Parnassien

                                                                                                                                            Yes, you're right. I didn't quite get that second half.

                                                                                                                                            First half stands on its own for me. Second half is just a bit silly. These things don't happen in a wine bar or bistro just because "the tourists have left". In fact they very seldom happen, or they do when everybody has left but friends of the chef/owner.

                                                                                                                                            A radical change in menu, prices, service and wine offering after the "American hour" is over is just something I have never encountered, or heard of, after 25 years of roaming Paris restaurants.

                                                                                                                                            ("Pulled down the shades"? WHAT?)

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                                                                              ("Pulled down the shades"? WHAT?)

                                                                                                                                              After this paragraph he goes on saying "Actually, what happened was..."

                                                                                                                                              This paragraph is pure fantasy aimed at poking fun at people who think there is a secret non-touristy Paris.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                                                                                                Yeah, I get it. Well I wrote above what I think of the literary procédé.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                                                                                                  Some months ago we were at a restaurant in our home town. Even though we only get to visit every year or two, we've grown to be good friends with the owner (we share rather extreme politics for the place, and run in the same circles) and have spent more than one late night as customers there. But that night, around midnight, the city inspectors came to say the place has to close or get fined. The owner, fed up with this business, turned to us and the five or six other people still there and asked if we'd like to stay longer and proceeded to pull down the shutters. Hours later (and lots of marc, weed, and who knows what else later) we all stumbled out through the kitchen exit.

                                                                                                                                                  And that is the kind of thing that can almost only happen if you're local.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Gargle

                                                                                                                                                    Of course it does, but I don't think this is the kind of experience tourists search for when asking about places without english spoken... or if they do, maybe they're even more naive than I thought...

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                                                                                                      Yes, I know. I think they're mostly looking to avoid places where they can only get the seating nobody wants, be tolerated rather than genuinely welcomed, and then be scammed into paying a tip. Also, there's the increasingly pertinent question of why you need to travel - if you're going to be eating in Brooklyn-style restaurants and be surrounded by your neighbors anyway... might as well stay home :)

                                                                                                                                                      In a way, it's a side effect of not yet having gotten used to overly accessibly information - the people who 20 years ago could have easily found themselves in some very unfortunate place by St. Michel, are now obsessing about how touristy a pretty good bistro is going to be, or if everything they read is good but John T gave the place just 2.74134324.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                                                                                                    Actually there IS a secret non-touristy Paris. It is just not on the Internet.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                                                                                      And if we tell you, you have to die, Yeti.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                                                                        Yay let's go to the catacombs !

                                                                                                                                                2. re: Parnassien

                                                                                                                                                  I think the point to be taken from his piece is that the old adage about avoiding places that have menus in languages other than French no longer holds. You can certainly get excellent food at places that also serve perfect English.

                                                                                                                                                  However, it's still nicer to hang out with locals.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Gargle

                                                                                                                                                    I think that David's article fell short of being useful when it tilted toward soothing visitors' insecurities about differential treatment rather than coaching his constituency about how to fit into culturally sensitive situations. But then it's hard to tell your reader that he has spinach dangling from a tooth or to keep his voice down and save his life story for his journal.

                                                                                                                                                    Parnessian said it best: "The French like to enjoy their own evening, not yours."

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Parnassien

                                                                                                                                                    You should read on, the part where the americans leave is a "fantasy", then he goes on to resume what really happened, which seemed like a nice evening, but nothing special "because the americans left".

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                                                                                                      Looking at it again, it sure reads like something that is entirely made up. But it is really presented as what happened. The "what actually happened" at the next paragraph is not a very strong transition. So the piece is either very sneaky or badly written. My two cents as an editor/rewriter.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                                                                                                        Rio, even without the fantasy paragraph (which needed divine intervention to understand as a fantasy), Lebovitz is still implying that a wine-bar without tourists is more fun.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Parnassien

                                                                                                                                                          D.Leb is being analyzed more than the last Papal Bull.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                                                                            For some people prone to faith, he-- like the Pope-- is endowed with infallibility. We non-believer types just don't get it.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Parnassien

                                                                                                                                                              I'm scratching head too, but given the nature of this thread, I'm afraid the head-scratching boat has sailed.

                                                                                                                                                              "he-- like the Pope-- is endowed with infallibility."

                                                                                                                                                              Touché, as usual.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Parnassien

                                                                                                                                                            I'm flattered but I'm hardly divine ;)

                                                                                                                                                            I agree with you, but I thought this particular paragraph was mainly the source of confusion, which is why I pointed my finger at it.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Parnassien

                                                                                                                                                          He may have been the only anglophone there, and speaking French to his companion, who is French and Italian speaking.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: MRS

                                                                                                                                                        I would just go with the flow. It will certainly be dark at 7:30 on 11/20. Actually, dark at 5. :)

                                                                                                                                                    2. Really fantastic thread. As a new immigrant to Belgium and a frequent visitor to Paris, I appreciate many of the comments/observations.

                                                                                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: BlackMambaSommelier

                                                                                                                                                        BlackMamba, may I ask where you are from? (you are not obliged to answer this question). Your earlier threads suggest that you might be from somewhere in Ontario.
                                                                                                                                                        I'm actually listening to Stromae as I read your thread about immigrating to Belgium.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                                                          Ah yes Stromae! Just discovered him when I moved here.

                                                                                                                                                          I am from Northern Ontario-what Europeans would know as the iconic Canadian Shield landscape portrayed in some Group of Seven paintings.
                                                                                                                                                          I lived and worked in Toronto for many years, and frankly never want to live there again.

                                                                                                                                                          Very happy to be in Belgium, but I miss the freshwater lakes and untamed wilderness immensely.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: BlackMambaSommelier

                                                                                                                                                            Then take a trip to the Ardennes, it's not Canada but it might do part of the job.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                                                                                              Yes, even though Belgium is very densely populated and its countryside very "ordered" (the Netherlands even more so), the Ardennes are more "natural". However, Mamba would have to go farther North or Northeast to get a similar landscape in Europe.

                                                                                                                                                              Do you speak either French or Flemish, Mamba? I'm sure you are enjoying the excellent frites. There is very good food in Belgium, though it tends to be rich.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                                                                I speak fluent French. I'm currently learning Flemish. I think the closest geographical landscape to Canada is actually Finland, where I also have family.

                                                                                                                                                                Thanks for the tips. I've gained 25lbs since moving to Belgium. Time to get back into my work out routine if I want to continue consuming those frites!

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: BlackMambaSommelier

                                                                                                                                                                  And you haven't been to Liège yet... A much overlooked foodie paradise.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                                                                                                    Liège is next up. I have a colleague from there. Can't wait.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: BlackMambaSommelier

                                                                                                                                                                    Do you live in a cycling-friendly town? The Flemings tend to be far ahead of the Walloons in terms of utilitarian cycling (in all weathers) but there are exceptions. Unfortunately, Brussels remains far behind its neighbours: not only Amsterdam, but now also Paris!

                                                                                                                                                                    I have friends in Liège. Yes, very good food.

                                                                                                                                                                    What is fatal in Belgium is their habit of putting crème fraîche into most everything.
                                                                                                                                                                    By the way, I wish there was a Benelux or Low Countries board.

                                                                                                                                                                    The German-speaking countries are more difficult. Germany and Austria of course, but although German (of a sort) is the most spoken language in Switzerland, that might peeve French, Italian and whatever that other language is Swiss...

                                                                                                                                                                    But it depends on board traffic.