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Feb 19, 2014 02:23 PM

Solo Diner Reservations

I will be spending two weeks in Paris on business soon and am lucky enough to have nights free. I'm really looking forward to exploring my list of restaurants and am perfectly comfortable dining alone. What I'm wondering is if a solo diner needs to make reservations? In my travels, I've discovered that a party of one can often be accommodated as a walk-in. Will that be true in Paris?

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  1. "if a solo diner needs to make reservations? "

    1. Love dining solo in Paris, but reservations are a must.

      Present yourself as someone who is serious about food and drink, not as someone who just wandered in off the street looking for some grub, and you'll be treated very well.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rswatkins

        Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Hadn't considered it from that perspective and, as someone who is "serious about food and drink," I will definitely make some reservations!

      2. I've dined alone more often than not in France, and have always made a reservation and have always been treated like royalty.

        A word to the wise.. don't plan to read during your meal. You won't be lonely, nor feel alone.

        4 Replies
        1. re: ChefJune

          That's what I did, June. I was single (widowed) for a long time. I always brought things to read and a tablet for notes.

          1. re: collioure

            "don't plan to read during your meal"
            Sorry Chef, I agree with collioure, I make great progress getting through Metro, 20 Minutes, Paris Matin and Figaro when eating solo.
            It's also a great signal in a busy hot place that you're done eating a dish.
            And if you'll look around, the single French businessmen seldom stare at the wall or their shoes between courses; the French read, on the Metro, the bus, etc. Not like Yankees who have lost the art of reading except on iThings.

            1. re: John Talbott

              reading is certainly an option, but then it's certain no one will engage you in conversation -- an activity I prefer when dining.

              1. re: ChefJune

                June, I wish it had been available more often, but it wasn't.

                Fortunately I don't have that problem any more though I went to the movies solo last weekend for the first time in eons. My wife returns from Paris on Saturday.

        2. I will also be dining alone for a number of nights in Paris, and I have a stupid question (pardon me, I have not been out of the US since I was a child): what is the best way to make reservations?--Wouldn't it be very expensive to use my cell-phone from the US? I was not planning to have my laptop--would that be the preferred way?

          7 Replies
          1. re: GraceW

            Try Skype from the US - cheaper than a cell-phone. Or email your hotel concierge and ask them to oblige - they can also reconfirm when you are there (even if you booked direct). Some places book over the internet but phone is usually best.

            Generally best to reserve a few weeks out to avoid disappointment (and some popular ones are longer). But if in Paris for last minute reservations use the concierge or maybe buy a local pre-paid SIM card for your phone (make certain its unlocked from your network before you leave).

            1. re: GraceW

              You may want to take a look at the website La Fourchette where you can make restaurant bookings on-line, similar to Open Table in the US. It may not have every resto you want and you will need internet access, but it is a handy resource and it does have an English-language option.

              1. re: shakti2

                Thank you... I will definitely be using La Fourchette because I hate relying on others to do my work for me (the hotel probably has enough to do).

                3 questions--all presumably stupid questions:
                1.) Just to clarify: you can order at EVERY restaurant a la Carte.. or at some will you need to order starter+main+dessert?
                2.) If one is there a week, would it be suggested to reserve 'every' meal or maybe just once a day and let the other fall to inspiration?
                3.) Even on Fouchette.. some of the menus/boards are only in French: should I expect most restaurants will have the menu in French and mostly 'never' in English? (I don't mean to be a snobby-expectant American: I speak 3 languages and French is not one of them.. so if I need to learn food words then I want to know now.)

                1. re: GraceW

                  1) not all but the vast majority; i tend to do this since 3 courses for me tends to be way too much food; you should know that only ordering one course at many restaurants is considered rude. i still get a few weird looks just ordering entree + plat

                  2) definitely dinners at more famous places; i tend to like french bistro style food better than classic french so i could often go to my favorite cafe without a reservation

                  3) there are lots of 1 page cheat sheet for translations of french menu dishes; my french is pretty good and i still use it since cuts of meats are very different in europe vs. US

                  1. re: DukeFan

                    1. "you should know that only ordering one course at many restaurants is considered rude. i still get a few weird looks just ordering entree + plat"
                    In what parallel universe does this happen ?
                    This has not been my experience at all. It is perfectly all right to order just a main dish.
                    And I have not gotten any weird looks ordering just a main or starter+main. In fact more often than not, for lunch, I order only 1 or 2 courses, as is just about everyone else around me in the restaurant.

                    2. For all the creative, smaller bistro, it is best to reserve since their seating is limited and their good food and godo value make them popular. As we locals often scratch our head and wonder: what is the downside of reserving ?
                    But indeed one does not need to reserve in cafés.

                    1. re: Parigi

                      Totally agree with Parigi, to add:

                      1. Some do ALC and sets, some do one or the other. But the set meals usually allow you to have 2 or 3 courses, so a starter and main, or main and dessert. Portion sizes in France are sensible so don't worry about food volume. If it's ALC feel free just to have a main, just a starter would be odd. At a cafe you can order just a sandwich, quiche or omelette if eating light.

                      2. If you know where you want to go no reason not to book, you can try on the day if you want to take a chance. This I where your concierge comes into play (and don't worry it's their job and they will want to help). La Fouchette may be tempting because it's familiar but lots of places won't use it, and some that do may not use it reliably. A phone call is best. Remember Paris is full of restaurants, but the number of good/great is far less, so random dining is risky especially in tourist orientated areas.

                      3. My rule of thumb is to try and avoid restaurants with translated menus. Few of the better ones translate (and multiple translations indicate tourist trap), but waiters speak English and will help, but beware the service paradigm is very different so they don't have lots of time to repeat things and they will rattle through the carte quickly then move on. But definitely a good thing to learn a few words - that said sometimes a mis-translation can be a great adventure....!

                      1. re: Parigi

                        My experience is very similar to Parigi's and Phil's. Lunch especially is very flexible and it's very common to get just a mains or a starter and dessert. BTW, in France, an "entrée" is the first course and "plat" is the main course so don't get confused. For dinner, I often a get a starter and a main dish and then have dessert/ coffee somewhere else. Although it doesn't apply to this OP as a solo diner, sharing is common... in a foursome, say, we sometimes get just 3 complete meals that are shared among the four of us... but usually portions are so small that this is not always practical.

                        Lafourchette is not comprehensive... lots of restos don't subscribe to the service. And it's not 100% reliable... very occasionally it will accept rezzies for a day when that restaurant is actually closed... usually the fault of the resto for not notifying Lafourchette of their closing dates, especially on public holidays... and I have picked a date and reserved only to find that, without any alerts, that my rezzie had been automatically rolled over to the next open day... but these problems are rare.

                        I would in fact use the hotel concierge as much as possible. Email him the restaurants and dates a few weeks before your arrival and then, after your arrival, have him re-confirm the rezzies a day or two before your scheduled dates.

                        During the week, you can quite easily get by as a walk-in but not on very busy Friday nights and all day Saturday and Sunday. But the tourist zones where you will likely find yourself need lots of smarts and caution... never ever choose a resto because it looks nice or cutesy or has an English menu.... and for the most part, avoid any café or restaurant in the immediate vicinity of the major tourist sites unless you are sure of its quality.... lots of research is required so that, when playing it by ear, you actually know the right tune.