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Jan 24, 2014 08:16 AM

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.

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  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

              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!