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Paris Restaurant for 40th Birthday

I'll be in Paris on my 40th birthday, which falls on a Sunday in May.

I'm staying in Le Marais area, but willing to venture into whatever area might offer the best dining experience.

I have been to Paris one other time, but didn't do any really fancy dining. The most pricey we had was Les Papilles, which was great.

So, I'm open to both lunch and dinner suggestions. We don't speak French too well, but know some basics. So, I'd want a place that's understanding if I need an English translation.

While doing the set menu worked out before, there are definite things I don't like to eat: raw meat, shellfish, snails. And I LOVE desserts.

Thanks for any ideas.

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  1. Check out John Talbott's site for reviews of restaurants.
    Paris by Mouth site has a good breakdown of restaurants by district. Click on a few that look interesting and then maybe come back with some questions about specific restaurants. The French Chowhound posters are the best...I pour over this site every spring before we go to Paris. Also, use the search for some current discussions and you can figure out what restaurant's people are talking about.



    1. Thanks Macdog.

      Some restaurants in general I'm considering visiting while I'm there include:

      L'Ami Jean

      Cuisine de Bar

      Les Papilles

      La Petite Rose Des Stables

      Le Temps des Ceris

      Benoit (not sure because of mixed reviews)

      Little Italy Trattoria

      Yes, I know that many of these are more casual, and maybe not for a birthday dinner. However, I do need to make reservations at several of them anyway. Some are chosen because they're in the 4th close to hotel. Others because of reviews.

      4 Replies
      1. re: ParisMoonslice

        Chez L'Ami Jean gets lots of love on these boards. Cuisine de Bar is good for lunch. In the same area for lunch-Breizh Cafe is a good crepe spot and I like falafel's at Chez Marianne. I've eaten at Les Papilles and enjoyed it. It's all tourists dining with you. The rest I haven't been to.

        In the 4th Metropolitian is good for modern French and John Talbott has raved about Les Enfants Rouges in the haut Marais. I asked about a traditional bistro recently on CH and Chez Denise in the 1st was much lauded. We have also enjoyed Terroir Parisien (one in the 5th and new one in the 2nd).

        1. re: macdog

          "I've eaten at Les Papilles and enjoyed it. It's all tourists dining with you." - although on my visit it was mainly French people enjoying a big pre-Christmas lunch. For some places the mix of locals vs tourists is quite fluid.

          1. re: PhilD

            Also, when you book to eat determines your fellow diners. I can usually hold off till 8:30 or 9, although in Spain that's practically the middle of the day. I do remember French diners arriving at Les Papilles as we were leaving.

        2. re: ParisMoonslice

          Benoit is good and open on Sunday evening so a nice spot for a birthday. It's a very pretty, old world traditional Parisian bistro run by Alain Ducasse so high end food (and definitely not trendy and hip - in fact the opposite).

          It's not cheap but nice for a birthday splurge and whilst not formal people do make an effort to dress up a bit. They speak very good English.

        3. Thanks again Macdog.

          My hotel offered to make a few reservations for me before I go. I think I'll take them up on it since I don't want to pay $1.62 a minute to call France from the U.S.

          I'm making a reservation via email for the first night at Les Papilles. I figured I could ease into it with a tourist friendly place! Plus, I'm arriving by train from London on a Saturday, and Les Papilles is closed the next two days. I have six nights in Paris.

          Chez L'Ami Jean doesn't do online reservations, but I'm definitely going to try them if I can get in for dinner or lunch.

          Thanks for the other recommendations. I will check them out!

          I've got a rough itinerary planned.

          Day One Saturday: (half day after train): Exploring Rue Montorgueil, probably with a stop at Patissier Stohrer; Dinner at Les Papilles

          Day Two Sunday: Exploring Le Marais with a stop at Marche de la Bastille and Place des Vosages

          Day Three Monday: Opera Garnier, Galleries Lafayette, Printemps, and if I'm not too tired, move on to Left Bank shops ; Napoleon's Tomb and Orsay (but may save these for another day)

          Day Four Tuesday: Perhaps Auvers-sur-Oise

          Day Five Wed: Maybe Versailles (Since I didn't go before)

          Day Six Thur: Sainte-Chapelle and Louvre

          6 Replies
          1. re: ParisMoonslice

            You can reserve online for Metropolitan at thefork.com and Terroir Parisien has a website (just google them). Don't forget to get your VAT back when you go shopping. Galleries Lafayette will do it at the store. Don't forget Bon Marche on the left bank with a fabulous food hall (and beautiful store).

            1. re: macdog

              I will second Metropolitan. Though not the fanciest of French restos (far from it), the service is great, the food is wonderful, and our dessert that we had a year ago still lives in my salivary memory. And if you get there a little on the early side, the waitress will have ample time to answer any of your menu questions, and neither you nor she will feel rushed. Very low-key, and we may have been the only Americans there the night we went. I would go back a second time, but there's just too many new places to explore on our list!

              1. re: bauskern

                Thanks. Do you have address for Metropolitan? There are several restaurants by that name in Paris.

            2. re: ParisMoonslice

              If you love dessert, you may want to check out Dessance, the relatively new dessert-focused place on rue des Archives at the northern edge of the Marais neighbourhood. I don't really eat sweets myself but peeped in recently and thought it looked very interesting.

            3. Oh, no way. Just typed a long response and it got eaten!! I thought I had copied it, but no...


              Booked Saturday night at Les Papilles at 7 pm (wanted 8pm, but couldn’t get it)

              Not booked Sunday night. (this is birthday) Considering Benoit brunch instead of dinner, but would anyone care to second it, or comment on lunch versus brunch or dinner there? I’ll be doing a self-guided walking tour of Le Marais on this day, so the location would work. Plus, many restaurants are closed on Sunday.

              Booked Monday night at Metropolitan at 8:30pm 8, rue de Jouy

              Not booked Tuesday night but considering a casual local zinc bar Le Temps des Ceris. Anyone know it? Is small so would need to book, but no online booking here either. I could try to catch it at lunch instead. It has such good reviews and seems like it’s not a tourist trap.

              Not booked Wednesday night but considering day trip, so not sure when I’d be back. May leave this one open.

              Booked Thursday (last night) L’Ami Jean at 8 pm (My hotel booked for me.)

              Lunches: Am thinking I’ll go with places that don’t require reservations and try my luck. I don’t want to have to rush around trying to make it to lunch while I’m out and about. Some places I’m considering that I think don’t require reservations (correct me if not): Cuisine de Bar, Little Breizh (Are there better crepes?)

              Might also try to assemble a few picnics for lunch. Maybe a sandwich from Sacha Finkelsztajn. I want to try a real Italian pizza place too (as close as you can get outside of Italy).

              Missing anything? I’m still revising my itinerary, so should have better idea about where I’ll be around lunches.


              18 Replies
              1. re: ParisMoonslice

                Cuisine de bar you can just walk in, Breizh cafe in the Marais you probably need a res. if you do brunch or big lunch on Sunday, you can do small plates at Le Mary Celeste in upper Marais or Dans Les Landes in the 5th. Mary Celeste takes online res until 7:30, Dans les Landes is on thefork.com.

                Here's a list of places open on Sunday.

                1. re: ParisMoonslice

                  Some aren't due to simple seating and appearance, but l am a fan of pizza of Al Taglio off Rue Oberkampf especially for lunch before the hoardes get there for dinner.

                  1. re: ParisMoonslice

                    What do you mean by brunch? Benoit is very traditional, and all the better for it, and serves lunch from 12:00 to 2:00, the dinner from 7:00 (like most Paris restaurants - so wise to remember this if you hope to eat late lunches anywhere).

                    You can linger over lunch, so can arrive towards the end of service and still be fed, and then relax over wine e to into the afternoon. The ALC menu is the same for both lunch and dinner I think - although the set menu is only available at lunch I think.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      I thought Benoit did a brunch type thing, but I've done so much reading I'm probably confused.

                      Thanks for the pizza recommend.

                      1. re: ParisMoonslice

                        I think you maybe looking at Benoit NYC which does indeed have brunch.

                        However Benoit Paris does have a special dessert feature on Sunday lunches now - which may appeal to a dessert fan celebrating a birthday: http://www.benoit-paris.com/en/news-o...

                    2. re: ParisMoonslice

                      Temps des Cerises is a terrific pick, if I'm thinking of the right one in the southwestern corner of the 4th. A friend lives practically on top of it and it's her local. Good updated bistro cooking with nice ingredients, perhaps less 'chef-y' than say Metropolitain, friendly young team, very cute room.

                      I'd call first but don't think a reservation would be required that far in advance for a Tuesday evening. You'll need to keep an eye out for it when you get there - it's tucked into a side street off an unpromising boulevard.

                      1. re: shakti2

                        Hey shakit2 and macdog, somehow I was thinking that Temps des Cerises was closed on Sunday, but now I see they are open daily. I got this info from the link that macdog posted from hungry for paris. I can't seem to find a website for this restaurant to confirm hours.

                        Does this info seem correct:

                        Open daily 8am-2am. Lunch menu 13 Euros, Sunday brunch 22 Euros, Average dinner a la carte 30 Euros.

                        Anyone tried their Sunday brunch? My small inn (sort of a B&B) provides breakfast, but I still think at least one Paris brunch would be fun.

                        I'm also considering Les Climats for lunch after a visit to Orsay on Tuesday since Orsay is closed Monday.

                        My restaurant bills are adding up! But I'm going to take it easy on the London side of the trip to save the $ for Paris food.

                        1. re: ParisMoonslice

                          "Temps des Cerises?"
                          Which one; the one in the 13th is closed Sat lunch & Sundays, the one in 4th open 7/7.

                          1. re: macdog

                            PhilD, the dessert link at Beniot says they offer that until the beginning of May. I wonder what they will replace it with? I’m going in May. The desserts do look lovely.

                            Macdog, thanks for the list of Sunday opens. And all your help.

                            Shakiti2, thanks for the words on Temps des Cerises. I think I read that you should reserve because it’s such a small place. But maybe this far out is overkill.


                            1. re: ParisMoonslice

                              I am afraid I don't know - I assume they will revert to the standard list which is online and in English. They have a pastry chef so all of these are made in house (which is less common than people think).

                              My favourite was always their version of Rum Baba which is "Armagnac Savarin" which is served with a lot of ceremony, and as is traditional, they leave a two different bottles/types of Armagnac on the table for you to pour over to suit your taste.

                              All their menus are on line and I note that the lunch comes in a bargain €38 a head which was quite a surprise.

                              1. re: PhilD

                                I can't believe I didn't ask this:

                                Anyone visited Le Cafe des Chats? It's a cat cafe!

                                Also, I know from the email that Les Papilles requires you to call them to confirm your reservation a couple days beforehand or it's cancelled. I'm paranoid that others are like this too and I just don't know.

                                L'Ami Jean or Metropolitan require you to confirm with them?

                                1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                  L'Ami Jean doesn't, but I do. (And someone usually says: "your name is down already."

                                    1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                      I have no restaurant. I was saying that I myself always called back to confirm.

                                  1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                    No Metropolitian doesn't but thefork.com may have an email reminder. I forgot to call the very nice owner of Les Papilles one year but he still fit us in.
                                    Another nice spot for lunch is over in Canal St. Martin area. The canal is really interesting and we have eaten at cafe prune a couple times. It's in the 10th easy walk from Marais.

                                    1. re: macdog

                                      Prune is a great spot for people-watching, but one had better eat before going there.

                        1. I do but like not remembering whether I turned off the gaz it's just senility.

                          1. Oh Lord, not Prune again, Parigi, how can you even mouth the word?

                            19 Replies
                            1. re: John Talbott

                              Cher John: As one of my fave guitarists Jeff Beck would say, you have an excess in the provacteur empathy department, and a carence in the reading department.
                              If I may bowingly remind you what Macdog wrote:
                              "Another nice spot for lunch is over in Canal St. Martin area. The canal is really interesting and we have eaten at cafe prune a couple times."

                              1. re: Parigi

                                Well I had a salad that was fine and we did like the ambience. Do you have other suggestions for casual places in that neighborhood?

                                1. re: macdog

                                  - Le Chaméléon on 70 Rue René Boulanger,
                                  - Les Vingaigriers on street of same name,
                                  - Le Galopin,
                                  - El Nopal, an excellent Mexican takeout, my go-to stop before a Canal picnic
                                  - Tien Hiang, a Chinese vegetarian restaurant on 14 Rue Bichat, the only vegetarian eatery that is not a dumb-down for the food or the dinner.
                                  And you're right, macdog. The Canal St Martin is a very nice part of Paris.

                                2. re: Parigi

                                  Sorry that sounded brusque, packing up to drive to SF and partake in the culinary delights of the Mission district (or as I call it, the Brooklyn of SF) and rushing around the house. As always, so appreciative of all the help and culinary counsel the Paris CH boards provide.

                                  1. re: macdog

                                    That's where I stay and eat these days when I go back to the city where I partly grew up. :)

                                    1. re: Parigi

                                      Yes, besides the great restaurants, nice to get picnic lunch from bi-rite market and take it to Dolores Park. And I was being facetious about it being the Brooklyn of SF, I think quite the opposite.

                                      1. re: macdog

                                        Not sure yet if I'll be visiting the Canal St. Martin area specifically, but thanks for the recommends anyway.

                                        Still trying to nail down Sunday bday! Can anyone recommend brasseries under the arcades at Place des Vosges for lunch? I'll be doing a self-guided walking tour of Le Marais that includes Place des Vosges, and eating under the arcades sounds lovely.

                                        I just can't seem to pull the trigger on Benoit for Sunday, but it's still an option. I considered Le Cinq also, but I know that I'd have to pack formal wear and get ready to spend about 500E per person! Seems stressful. I can't stand building something up and then being disappointed and stuck with a huge check.

                                        1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                          Canal St Martin is beautiful and hip and untouristy, but if you feel more comfortable to be among other visitors, understandable.
                                          On Place des Vosges, one can eat at Ma Bourgogne without hating oneself.

                                          1. re: Parigi

                                            Thanks for the info. I was probably turned off of it before because of reading reviews about it being really gritty, but hey, I liked Montmartre, which many people said was too gritty, so..

                                            I'll look into La Bourgogne. Thanks.

                                            1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                              It's so not gritty. Just interesting canal system, hip stores and not as many tourists. It's 10-15 min from Place des Vosges.

                                              1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                If you can walk around the Mission district in SF, then the Canal St. Martin should not frighten.

                                                1. re: mitchleeny

                                                  Make it if you can walk around the Pacific Heights !

                                              2. re: Parigi

                                                Outside on Place des Voges isn't great, lovely place but not great food.

                                                Le Cinq for lunch will be cheaper than €500 for two not per person, although that does depend on the wine and champagne choices - the lunch menu is only €110 a head (not certain were you are getting some of your information but some of it is wildly inaccurate).

                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                  PhilD, I didn't mention lunch for Le Cinq. If you look at what I said in that sentence, nowhere is the word "lunch." According to viamichelin:

                                                  Menu: 95€ (lunch) , 160€ - 260€ - Carte: 166€/263€


                                                  Maybe 500 E per person is a stretch, but it's not nice to say something like: "(not certain were you are getting some of your information but some of it is wildly inaccurate)"

                                                  What else have I said that's "wildly inaccurate"? I'm looking at a lot of stuff for two cities (going to London too), so maybe I got a little confused on some things, but I check my facts before committing to something. I just don't happen to fact check everything before I comment here. No need to make such a sweeping, insulting statement.

                                                  1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                    Your previous paragraph mentioned both birthday and lunch, previous posts asked about brunch/lunch for the birthday. So it's not a stupid assumption to make that you are considering Le Cinq for lunch (which is what 99%) of those on the board do. So I stand by mt comment that €500 a head is wildly in inaccurate when the lunch menu is €110.

                                                    You also sole of Brunch at Benoit which is in their NYC site but not Paris. You commented Canal St a Martin is "gritty" also never heard that before - it's been hip for years.

                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                      Thank you editor in chief. Wait, editors don't make assumptions.

                                                      And, lots of people on other forums talk about negative experiences at Canal St. Martin. They mention homeless people and how dirty the canal is. These are reviews written in 2013 and 2014.

                                                      1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                        Those forums are wrong - or hopelessly outdated - about Canal Saint Martin. It is a top shopping and picnic spot for this local.

                                                        I do not want to be a crusader to talk you into visiting a place you are determined not to. But you may not want to follow whatever other advice by those tourists.

                                                        About 10 years ago or more, during one harsh winter, Paris city government - or was it Médecins Sans Frontières - distributed free tents to the homeless, who started pitching tents all over town, including many around Canal St Martin. Those tents and their residents have left the Canal before, oh, about one Iraq war and 2 French presidential terms ago. .
                                                        In order to avoid the homeless, you have the choice of staying away from all central Paris, including much of your itineraries for days one, three and six.
                                                        In particular your Day Three. You will be stepping over many homeless around "gritty" Opera and Galeries Lafayettes.

                                                      2. re: PhilD

                                                        "You commented Canal St a Martin is "gritty" also never heard that before - it's been hip for years."
                                                        As a matter of fact (and get back to food) I love eating along the Canal and seeing all the bikers, skaters, runners, poussette-pshers, etc etc.
                                                        Since he wonderful Garance closed there was no really nice place but Hai Kai is delightful.

                                                2. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                  Ma Bourgogne on the places des Vosges is very pleasant... decent but overpriced brasserie fare... such settings come with a premium. On the same theme, have a look at Le Dôme du Marais on the rue des Francs Bourgeois... again decent but not remarkable cooking and a great historic setting.

                                      2. I really didn't mean to turn this into a conversation about Canal Saint Martin. I'm not set against visiting it. It's just that one person recommended a place there and more following that, so I was trying to turn the conversation a bit since that wasn't a place I had planned to visit.

                                        I live in a big city and understand about homeless people. I've encountered a lot of them. I've been to Paris before, so I get it. I'm not a snob, really. It's just that I did read the "gritty" comment from several different reviewers who visited this year. Maybe that was just their perspective.

                                        But, if I may, can we talk about Breizh Cafe a minute? It's one of those places open on Sundays, and I was wondering if anyone here could comment on the service they received there. On Trip Advisor, I read a large number of reviews complaining about the rude service. These were from French people, not just tourists. The last thing I want is to be treated rudely on my birthday. Any thoughts? It doesn't have to be a Sunday thing. I could go another day.

                                        It's hard for me to tell if this is the kind of place where you order and pay at the bar and then sit down, or if you have an actual server.

                                        Also, it looks as though the only choice to book is to call. Am I right? I see an email address on the website, but it looks like that's for applying for a job.

                                        Yes, I know I'm all over the place with this Sunday thing. I would have gladly already booked several other places, but they are closed on Sundays.

                                        39 Replies
                                        1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                          Breitzh = very popular place with tourists, simple food, good if you are in the area.

                                          Reading the TA negative reviews says more about the posters than the restaurant - they all basically wanted to order just dessert at peak times in a fully booked restaurant.....are you surprised the staff wanted them to order meals?

                                          I have never used TA as you have no idea about the posters credibility - I particularly loved the poster who ordered a whole bottle of cider, not just a glass, and thought they were a big spender. If you are trying to reconcile Chowhound with TA you will always have these types of questions.

                                          1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                            First, Breizh Café is very popular/ ultra-busy and not a placed for long relaxed meal. It's a restaurant at meal times with, I suppose, an effort to turn over tables every hour or so.
                                            Second, it is not a café or traditional crêperie. Except from, say, 2:30 to 6pm, it is not a place for snacking. At peak times, only full meals (which in this case means a savoury galette and a dessert crêpe + cidre or whatever) are served. I'm sure that tourists who don't understand the full-meal requirement will feel much aggrieved if they just want a snack at peak times. I personally have never witnessed or heard of rude service here... it does sometimes seem a little rushed but, given its popularity and the need to turn over tables, quite understandable.
                                            Third, reservations are essentials for lunch and dinner. Walk-ins sometimes have to wait for up to an hour for a place.

                                            If this is your birthday celebration, look elsewhere. I've already suggested Ma Bourgogne and Le Dôme du Marais for the celebratory settings... and also recommend Robert et Louise on the rue Vieille du Temple for the food. . Sunday is actually not all that difficult. Confining yourself to the very touristy Marais/ 4th is the bigger problem.

                                            1. re: Parnassien

                                              “ Confining yourself to the very touristy Marais/ 4th is the bigger problem.”

                                              1. re: Parigi

                                                Thanks. I thought le marais wasn't touristy but I didn't spend much time there on my first visit. However I was under the impression that locals shopped and dined there. I'm eating all over Paris but was going to hang out in marais Sunday. I don't mind going outside of 4th but if it's for lunch that would be more tricky.

                                                1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                  The Marais is very, very busy on Sunday as its one of the few places in Paris all the shops are open.

                                                  1. re: PhilD


                                                    If a visitor is actually staying in the Marais, I'd say to enjoy it on other days, and head out on Sunday as the week-end/ day-tripping hordes descend. If the weather is nice, Sunday is actually a good day to stroll the river-banks which are closed to vehicle traffic (as is Canal St. Martin although OP has already indicated his lack of interest).

                                                    1. re: shakti2

                                                      But I'd need to stay in the Marais on Sunday to go to the Marche de la Bastille, at least in the am. Since I didn't get an apartment this time, though I'm wondering if markets make sense for me. I heard that this is one of the better markets.

                                                      Hmm, I'm still working on my itinerary, another reason I haven't made lunch reservations. But you've given me something to think about. I was thinking that it would be fun to be in the Marais when it's so lively. I'm arriving on a Saturday afternoon.

                                                      shakti2, I'm a gal, by the way. : )

                                                  2. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                    "Thanks. I thought le marais wasn't touristy"
                                                    I cannot imagine a more touristy place.

                                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                                      I'm wondering if we all have the same definition of touristy. To most people, this is negative. Are you saying that le marais isn't a good place to stay? I can still cancel my reservation, but the really nice lady how owns the small inn where I'm staying has made dinner reservations for me!

                                                      One could argue that all of Paris is touristy. After all, it's one of the most visited cities in the world. Is Le Marais going to be that busy? I like NYC, so I think I'll be OK with a few crowds.

                                                      I'm seriously eyeing Josephine "Chez Dumonet" to fill in one of my week nights that's still open. Yes, they are closed for Sunday. I like the idea of going to this traditional bistro after eating at Metropolitain the night before. And they let you eat demi portions to save room for the huge desserts!

                                                      1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                        Be warned, a demi portion is still huge

                                                        1. re: mr_gimlet

                                                          Not really true, b bourg, for example is @ 40 euros for full and 27 for half and with their great roqueforrt salad as starter and the boeuf, perfect for me as full, and the noodles, oh the noodles.

                                                        2. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                          "I'm wondering if we all have the same definition of touristy. To most people, this is negative."


                                                          "One could argue that all of Paris is touristy."


                                                          You obviously have your reasons for going where you want to go etc. But you seem to want us to tell you that what you want to do is ok. When we locals say we like to go to, and eat in, a 'hood that do not fit your concepts of Paris, you are annoyed.
                                                          You don't need our approval. Just go and enjoy yourself.

                                                          Incidentally neither my friends nor I have enjoyed Chez Joséphine in recent years, but do go and have a great time.

                                                          1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                            "I'm wondering if we all have the same definition of touristy. '
                                                            Let me try to explain my response to the Marais. I go as often as my largely bald head needs care because my barber is there, but the streets are full of pesky fellow Yankees, who look to me like they're shopping til they drop.
                                                            But I have two ex-pat friends who live there and they love it.
                                                            I see no need to cancel but you will not find yourself the only Yankee on the block.
                                                            Districts in Paris are funny; just today I was eating near Abbesses and while there were hordes of visitors (many were French-speaking) the street we ate on was devoid of any visitors.
                                                            This is the most visited city in the world, one lives with that fact.
                                                            I guess we could commute from Versailles but how boring.

                                                            1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                              Talbott le Vénérable is quite right.... there is no need to consider changing your B&B. The Marais is still a very historic and picturesque district. And it's convenient for getting to and from other parts of Paris.

                                                              There may also be some sort of confusion in exactly where you are staying. "The Marais" is not a hard-and-fast geographic definition. A tourist definition of what constitutes the Marais is often very different from how locals would define it.

                                                              The Marais/ 4th and lower part of the 3rd used to be the favourite haunt of trendy Parisiens 20 or 30 years ago but locals have shifted their focus to the Haut-Marais in the upper 3rd and other quartiers elsewhere in Paris. Because there are so many tourists/ suburbanites and so few locals, most restaurants can make quite a nice living by catering to the passing trade without the need to offer the quality that repeat customers would demand... and, since this is a food site, it's why so many local Chowhounders are disparaging about the Marais.

                                                              And like John Talbott says, the concentration of tourists does vary. Most are concentrated in the immediate area of the Centre Pompidou, the gay zone (along the rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie), the rue des Rosiers, rue des Lombards, the rue Rambuteau/ rue des Francs Bourgeois, and the place des Vosges. But there are also streets and areas (i.e the Saint Paul quartier and the area between the river and the rue de Rivoli/ rue St-Antoine) that do show some signs of real life. And even if you do find yourself in a very touristy zone, it's just a 15-minute walk to the Haut-Marais/ rue de Bretagne and Oberkampf/ 11th for a more authentic slice of "la vie parisienne"... or if you have a "Paris Visite" travel pass which gives you unlimited travel on buses, métro, etc for 1 to 5 days, you can hop on the the #75 bus from the even number side of the rue des Archives or the #96 bus from the even-number side of Rue Turenne and get to the Haut-Marais in just a few minutes.

                                                              Re Marché Bastille. Personally, I think the Paris street markets are every bit as impressive (and probably more enjoyable) as the more obvious major tourist sites. Maybe the Sunday morning Bastille market can be a wee too bit buzzy and crowded but it is a quick immersion course in French food culture. It also offers a lunch alternative... some stalls sell "plats cuisinés"/ prepared foods so you can nibble and sample while you browse or collect the fixings for a bench picnic further up the boulevard Richard Lenoir or the little park in front of the Saint Ambroise church or the Square Gardette.

                                                              Re Sunday brunch. I have had a few dinners at Le Temps des Cerises (which incidentally is not in a very touristy zone) and can confirm that it is a tiny but ultra-charming bistro/ wine bar with relatively good food. Dunno what the brunch is like but, because it's so small, rezzies are necessary. Another brunch option after a visit to the Marché Bastille is Auberge Flora on the boulevard Richard Lenoir... shareable small plates... 29 € per person.

                                                              1. re: Parnassien

                                                                Parnassien, thanks! I'm not gay, but I am staying at rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie at


                                                                1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                                  Hotel looks fab. And just around the corner from the very upmarket and totally wow Mariage Frères salon de thé on the rue du Bourg Tibourg. I often go with friends just to dramatically recite the descriptions of the teas to one another... like for Earl Gray French Blue, "élégant et sophistiqué, réunit les tonalités fruitées, zestées et légèrement poivrées d’une fine et rare bergamote et les notes fleuries du bleuet royal. La tasse ronde et équilibrée, à la saveur ample et persistante, imprime le palais de sa personnalité – en toute majesté." Almost like poetic pornography for tea-lovers !

                                                                  And in just a 10-minute walking radius, a sweet-tooth paradise: Pierre Hérme, Legay Choc (btw for others, not a place for bible-belt Republicans), Pain de Sucre, L'Eclair de Génie, Carette, etc.

                                                                  1. re: Parnassien

                                                                    Wow. Thanks Parnassien. I didn't realize I was so close to those places.

                                                                    Have you tried the food at Mariage Frères salon de thé?

                                                                    1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                                      Re Mariage Frères. Sticker shock warning. I once had a very expensive brunch that, while good, I thought was way overpriced. More usually, I just go in the late afternoon for tea and their signature pastry Carré d'Or. There are other pastry selections but the servings are so small and the prices are so high that my penny-pinching side starts a serious struggle with my self-indulgent side. BTW, often long lines at weekends so I suggest going during the week when the sense of peace and refinement is more pronounced.

                                                                      1. re: Parnassien

                                                                        I used to like Mariage Frères but in my opinion they're only a poor shade of their former self.

                                                                        They do a lot of nice packaging, deco glamour and atmosphere manufacturing, but they care very little about tea itself, be it for selection or for choice. Their service of Chinese teas is literally a massacre and spoils whatever quality the basic material has to begin with.

                                                                        Their idea of fragrant tea is (the same as everywhere else in France, unfortunately): nuking low-grade red teas with cheap essential oils and extracts.

                                                                        Finally, their snacks and pastries are not only overpriced, they're also of very poor quality. The last time I was there (a few years ago), they served me a tarte au citron with a cardboard crust and a vaguely acidic glue filling. The tea tasted like swimming pool water. Never went back since.

                                                                        1. re: Ptipois

                                                                          I agree with Pti's take on the Mariage teas' taste and quality, which means: poor, low.
                                                                          But I do find both tea rooms enchanting. I am thinking of bringing my own teas and asking for the waiter to bring me hot water and charge me corkage. Then I can drink good tea and smell the fragrance from the crappy teas at the other tables, in a lovely interior. Win-win.

                                                                          1. re: Parigi

                                                                            Don't, Parigi. You'd be kicked out of the place with combat boots and then you'd come here and whine that they did it because you're American.

                                                                            (Or Chinese. Or both.)

                                                                            1. re: Ptipois

                                                                              Whining on this board ? Unheard of.

                                                                          2. re: Ptipois

                                                                            Gosh, my frequent visits to Mariage Frères have been very different... but then I have never ordered Chinese teas or tried the tarte au citron. The signature pastry Carré d'Or makes me drool. The blind men's elephant, I guess.

                                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                                  Parigi, I dont' understand your response at all. I'm not annoyed. All I wanted here was restaurant reservations, not for anyone to jump on me about repeating what I had read about Canal Saint Martin, or to make a big deal about me getting mixed up on a few facts.

                                                                  I'm not looking for anyone's approval, but when I'm about to spend a bunch of money staying at a place that everyone is suddenly calling touristy, well you can see how that might be a little bit concerning. I've never been to the area, so how would I know?

                                                                  While I appreciate the restaurant advice, some of the comments here are getting personal, and quite frankly, it's making me feel unwelcome and judged, very judged.

                                                                  John Talbott, I'm not referring to you here, or any of the others who've been so helpful.

                                                                  1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                                    "John Talbott, I'm not referring to you here"
                                                                    Thank you, I just try to be helpful.
                                                                    My father taught me that.
                                                                    Go/stay in the Marais, it's happening, vivant and if you rub elbows with a few pesky Yankees so what? I do everyday. And loud French folks, and the United Nations of annoying people.

                                                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                                                      Just to update: I'm switching my Sunday and Thursday plans. Going to spend time touring Le Marais and going to Thursday Bastille market on Thursday to avoid the Sunday rush. Already have dinner reservations on Thursday night at L’Ami Jean (thanks Macdog for recommending), which I know isn't in Marais, but that's why we have metros.

                                                                      On Sunday, I'm going to be in the Ile de la Cite for Sainte-Chapelle and (if I'm up for it) a climb in Notre Dame for views. So, this would open up different lunch options for Sunday. Dinner can be anywhere, really. Well, anywhere that's open and has spots.

                                                                      On a separate note, I do want to visit at least one really classic bistro, which is why I've expressed an interest in Josephine "Chez Dumonet" and Benoit. Of course, Josephine is only open Monday to Friday. I've heard one opinion here against Josephine, anyone else?

                                                                      John Talbott, I searched your site for Josephine "Chez Dumonet", but didn't see much in terms of a specific review for their food, though you do mention them in several posts. If I go, we'd have the beouf bourguigonne, duck confit, Grand Marnier soufflé, which they seem to be known for.

                                                                      Last year, I went to Paris for five days with only one restaurant reservation. While winging it worked out in some cases, I'm trying to taste more of a range of food this time. I ended up at a few average places just out of hunger last year. First place we went to off the plane -- Cafe Panis. While the service was sort of fun (they insisted I speak French and corrected it constantly with a smile), the food wasn't spectacular. However, I'll never forget my first French lunch!

                                                                      1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                                        Well, I love Chez Dumonet, and am looking forward to a return visit this fall. Benoit, not so much. I hear the one here in New York is better than Paris????

                                                                        Have you considered Chez Denise? It's a huge favorite among chowhounds.

                                                                        1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                                          "John Talbott, I searched your site for Josephine "Chez Dumonet", but didn't see much in terms of a specific review for their food, though you do mention them in several posts. "
                                                                          Gosh, I haven't been since 2008 but it was great http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/...
                                                                          Sorry but as I'm now in my venerable stage of life, as Satchel Paige said "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."

                                                                          1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                                            The Thursday Bastille market is a mere shadow of the Sunday one, thus the reason it is so crowded.

                                                                            1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                                              For Sunday lunch near Notre Dame, Au Bougnat on the Rue Chanoinesse... for me, a totally blind rec because i've never been but it has the same owner as Au Bon Coin, one of my favourite bistros du quartier in the 5th and I would expect the same sort of quality at Au Bougnat... considering the location in the shadow of Notre Dame, the clientèle is probably 100% tourist.

                                                                              Another option that I know and like, Le Réminet on the rue des Grands Degrés @ rue Maître Albert in the 5th... but maybe better for dinner than lunch because the cuisine is relatively complicated and "gastronomique" .... at least 60 € for a 3-course meal without wine or bottled water.

                                                                              1. re: Parnassien

                                                                                Thanks Parnassien. Le Reminet sounds like a promising option that's open on Sunday.

                                                                              2. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                                                Paris is such a small city you don't need to stay in one area for a day. From your hotel you are probably a ten minute walk from Notre Dame and fifteen minutes from the Bastille market (and Sunday is the day) so easy to meander around and take them all in. Certainly the Marais is touristy and busy on a Sunday but it's also a hot spot with locals so it's got a great atmosphere and is fun to people watch.

                                                                                Josephine Chez Dumonet is easy from where you are staying but metro may not be best as the direct line involves both Chatelet and Montparnasse stations which are big and rabbit warrens of tunnels and stairs. Better to walk (not far) or catch a bus.

                                                                                To contrast Benoit and Josephine, the former is more "big night out", quite glamorous and in a glittering room. The food is quite classic and refined version of French bistro classics. Josephine, is more basic, it's more relaxed, a place for a second or third bottle of wine. It used to be a favourite of actors. The food is more basic, served in big slightly more rustic, hearty portions. A good home cook could produce fair versions of Josephine's food, but would struggle to recreate Benoit's dishes. I used to like both, Benoit was a bit of a celebration, Josephine was a good "traditional" spot to take friends to.

                                                                                One other for your list which is not too far is Pirouette - a shortish walk away, and open on Mondays if required.

                                                                                1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                                                  The lines for the ND climb will be super long. Saint Chapelle can also be a lengthy wait. Lunch may be delayed.

                                                                                  1. re: Nancy S.

                                                                                    Nancy S, good point. Those lines were exactly why I didn't do either of those two things last year! Maybe I shouldn't put those two things in the same day.

                                                                                    PhilD, thanks for the comparison and walking info.

                                                                                    Sounds like the Sunday market in Bastille may be the way to go. Of course, if it's raining I can always change my plans -- again.

                                                                                    Thanks everyone for the restaurant names to explore. I've got to start looking at London stuff soon. I'm so terrible, planning the Paris food first when I'm actually going to London first!

                                                                                    1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                                                      "I'm so terrible, planning the Paris food first when I'm actually going to London first!"

                                                                                      ....and even worse with London going through a restaurant renaissance and boom means its arguably as good eating and far better value than Paris.....

                                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                                        Really, that's good to hear. I've got to look into London soon. I have booked one afternoon tea, but that's it.

                                                                                        1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                                                                          London food is great. We are also going there before Paris. Also, hope you are still going to Metropolitian in the St. Paul/Marais area. That's the restaurant I recommended not Chez L'ami Jean. My husband has eaten at CLAJ, but I have not. It sounds like a great choice.

                                                                                          1. re: macdog

                                                                                            Macdog, you said:
                                                                                            "Chez L'Ami Jean gets lots of love on these boards."

                                                                                            I took that as a recommendation! : ) Yes, I'm still eating at Metropolitan located at 8, rue de Jouy 75004. It's my Monday night reservation.