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Paris trip report & thoughts for those going next

Had a great trip, thanks to everyone who gave me feedback. I wanted to give a report as well add my two cents for those planning their own upcoming trips. It's a bit over-comprehensive, but I wanted to touch on all the various experiences we had (high&low) over a week.

Le Mary Celeste - Went there on our first night after a train ride from Barcelona. Good cocktails, food, wine etc; a lively bar scene composed of locals, upscale expats and tourists. English definitely spoken here by the staff, including our waitress who gave us several good tips for the rest of the trip. As much as we liked it, I will say that depending where your table is (especially downstairs) you could be sitting in a trendy restaurant in almost any major city in the world.

Bistro Paul Bert - We had a great experience, but I get why feelings about it are mixed on this board. We were sat in the "American" section, however we randomly ended next to a friend of a friend, and had a great time. This can either be a feature or a bug depending on your POV. I speak some French and the waiter had a great time with us, but I noticed another couple (who seemed a bit shy) getting a bit brusquer treatment. My wife and I both had the green bean salad with "truffles" to start. The beans were good, and it was nice to get a bit of vegetables where you can while eating like a tourist, but the truffles seemed more for show, and didn't have much taste. I had the steak frites, my wife had the sole in brown butter. Both were good solid renditions, though the frites were excellent. The dessert and cheese were on another level. The famed Paris Brest was sublime and giant, and as for the cheese, I'm running out of superlatives. It was one of our best "meals" in Paris due to the overall experience. I could be wrong but I get the sense that this is a place where people go for fun night with good food, not necessarily for the food itself.

Frenchie - As good as it was, this is the one place we went where I wouldn't rush back. As with Paul Bert, desert and cheese seemed more revelatory than the mains. I had the foie gras torchon starter and pigeon main. My wife had the red mullet starter and skate main. The foie was good if unexceptional and the pigeon was tasty. The red mullet may have been the highlight of the savory dishes, a perfectly cooked piece of fish. The cheeses were fantastic, and the financier with cherries was close your eyes good. That being said, at this price point and level of preciousness, I expected more. Service was lackluster and a little off. Our plates were cleared too quickly and there seemed to be some issue with our wine, which no one explained, it just didn't materialize till after our starters were already served. I think for the hype (Natalie Portman was there) and price, I expected a little more.

Le Servan - This place lived up to the hype. I'm trying to remember what exactly we ate here (I suspect my wife has pictures), but I can't quite remember. I think I had some sort of crab and peas starter and the duck, and both were fantastic. As I mentioned on another post dessert and cheese here were nothing special, to the point that the french woman at the next table referred to her own Paris Brest as "anorexic". After commenting on dessert, she then offered to trade apartments next time we came to Paris and gave us several great bar recommendations. Some english spoken here, and the waitress will happily guide you through the menu, but seemed like mostly locals on Tuesday night.

L'Entree Des Artistes - The surprise hit of the trip. I'd had this on my list, and then it was also recommended by our waitress at Mary Celeste. We wandered in the first time after a long, long Saturday at the French Open and needing to find food around midnight. The kitchen was closed, but the owner/manager was accommodating and able to get us some cheese, charcuterie and dessert. Excellent cocktails and fun music in a small intimate environment. We went back again for cocktails another night, and if we had more time would have gone back for dinner. The manger/owner promised/boasted "The food is good". It's the type of place where if we lived there, I could see us being at all the time.

Le Camion Qui Fume - Wanting something a bit different, we hit up this food truck along Canal St. Martin on a Sunday night. Certainly not the best burger (by Los Angeles standards, I can't speak for Paris) , and we could have had better weather, but sitting outside along the canal with some beers was a fun and different way to spend a night. A french person will invariably cut the disorganized queue at some point but enjoy your beer and the spring/summer night and ignore it.

Sit-down lunches
Le Taxi Jaune - Thanks to Parnassien for this rec. My reward for entertaining my wife's shopping expedition on Rue Turenne was a fantastic lunch at this place. I called about 45 minutes in advance and was able to get a reservation. Though we ate at what I thought was the normal hour of 1:30, be forewarned that by that time the kitchen already seemed to be running out of certain items, ie I got pommes puree with my onglet instead of the delicious looking croquettes that other tables had when we walked in. The waiter was friendly, but I'd recommend knowing at least some french if venturing here.

Le Baratin - Recommend by my local wine store here in Los Angeles, as well as a random shopkeeper, we had our final lunch here before leaving for the airport and I'm glad I took the tips and made it here. Same as Le Taxi Jaune, we called ahead for a same-day reservation. At 19E for a 3 course lunch, it was the perfect way to end our trip. There is nothing like soulful classic cooking on a rainy day, and Le Baratin delivered. Bonus points for excellent fresh vegetables (bean salad, cucumber salad with ricotta) along with a braised rabbit, and great wines by the glass. Minus points for hard stale bread, though other tables looked like they got better pieces. Cannot recommend this place enough, especially if one is in the area.

Wine Bars/Cocktails
Le Barav - Around the corner, so we ended up here a few times. Only for wine, but everything looked good.

Le Septime Cave - Had a nice glass of wine here before Paul Bert.

Lockwood - Went for cocktails after Frenchie. Definitely seemed like a tourist crowd, it was pretty raucous around midnight on a Monday. (For what it's worth, Travel & Leisure calls the 2nd "up & coming", while the local couple at La Servan pooh-poohed it. Take both sides of that that however you will). Good cocktails, and recommended if you have a group looking for a party.

Moonshiner - Recommend by our french friends at Le Servan, you enter through the back of a pizza place. Seemed a bit less touristy than Lockwood, though I feel like I've now been in a version of this bar in LA, SF, San Diego, NYC etc. Drinks were good, and if I was in Paris for longer I would definitely go back to the pizza place and make a night of it.

(NB. This doesn't include our stops at Marche Popincourt and Bastille were we wandered, grazed etc. I've written enough as is, and others have covered the markets better).

134 RDT - Near where we were staying this bakery, and it's sister shop (59 RDS I believe) were our daily stop for croissants, pain au chocolat, brioche and coffee. Amazing stuff when fresh out of the oven, and very, very good at all other times.

Gerard Mulot - Stopped here at various locations while shopping/sight-seeing, very good macaroons and an amazing fresh out of the oven pear tarte. My wife also got some prepared food one day, and if there is one near you (especially the location in the 6th) it's a good spot for picnic supplies/take-away.

Angela's Banh Mi @ 81 Rue Turbigo - Thank you, thank you Parigi for this gem. We wanted to bring sandwiches with us to Roland Garros on Saturday, so we stopped in on a Friday afternoon to check the place out. The door was locked, but we deciphered the sign, and after a quick knock Angela came out from the back and let us in. She seemed quite delighted we'd found her, and happily took our orders for the next day. She normally opens later on Saturdays, but said she'd have the sandwiches for us in the morning, and to knock on our way to the metro. Amazing Banh Mi, nothing else to say. As with many of our experiences in Paris, when you find someone passionate about what they make (like Angela, or the oyster guy at the market, the guy with the new juice store etc) trust them, they've got the goods.

Bottle Shop - After a week of croissants and coffee, and late night the previous evening, my wife wanted something a bit more substantial on a Sunday morning. A traditional full english breakfast, with ex-pats catching up and reading the paper is what you'll get and she loved it. If you're in Paris for a while, and need something like this, it's a decent spot.

Jeanne A - Stopped in for dessert after our Le Camion Qui Fume. If you need a neighborhood spot for a casual meal, lunch or dinner, this seems like a good place. Would have gone back if we had more time.

Cafe Phillipe - Near Le Barav, not worth mentioning except for the fact that sometimes unremarkable places are good enough. After over-indulging on crepes and oysters at the Marche in the AM, we skipped lunch and found ourselves needing a mid-afternoon bite before dinner. A lentil salad and gazpacho did just the trick. Down the block from some bland looking tourist places, it's a small place with friendly staff and good food.

L'As Du Falafel - Had we seen Chez Hanna first, we probably would have gone there based on recs, but wandering through the Marais we passed L'As, and as luck would have it there was no line. Seemed perfectly good to me, but I doubt we would have waited in line for it.

A couple last overall points. As stated on many threads, chances are the thing in front of you is better or just as good as a place you read about that may be closed that day, out of said item etc. The random bakery where I got supplies for the plane (baguette, pear tarte, apple tarte) was just as good as the other more famous places we went.

The flip-side of this if that if someone gives you a specific recommendation, take it. Whether a friend from home, someone on this board, a waitress or shopkeeper, if you get a recommendation, and it fits your agenda/itinerary, go for it. The best places we went were direct recommendations of one kind or another, not necessarily the most written about places.

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  1. "The best places we went were direct recommendations of one kind or another, not necessarily the most written about places."

    Well done! Many thanks for your report.

    1. What a super report. It's easy to tell you had a fabulous time. :)

      1. Thanks so much for the report. Looks like some good spots. Last month, we also ate at Le Mary Celeste and had our first dinner in Paris at Le Taxi Jaune. Really enjoyed it. We also loved Les Enfant Rouges in the haut Marais, a newish spot that John Talbott and others recommended. Maybe Frenchies has become a victim of their own popularity with tourists...

        1. Wow.thanks....printing this one out for our weekend next month

          1. Many thanks for the report back. I think I'm gonna nominate you as an honorary Parisien because a little bit of planning, a little bit of improvisation, and following the leads picked up along the way is, IMHO, the way it should be done.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Parnassien

              Ha, thanks! I have many jokes in mind in response to this, but will settle for thank you. Could not have done it without your help.

              Also, I realize I forgot to include our trip to Carette in the above, for which I imagine said credentials would be revoked.

            2. Thank you for a great report
              Your mention of "Oyster Guy" is a bit, uh, elliptical. Could you enlighten ? Which market ? What ? How ? etc.
              Hahahaha, the very day you went to Roland Garros with your Banh Mi, I showed up later to get ours for our picnic with Sistereurope and Rio Yeti and Yetesse. Angéla and I had a big laugh over these peopel who made her go to work early in the morning to to have the takeout ready. Isn't she a card and a half ? isn't her banh mi great ?

              3 Replies
              1. re: Parigi

                I'm not positive, but if I remember correctly, it was Marche Bastille on a Sunday, down by the Bastille end of the market (facing towards the 11th, not 3rd). I didn't get the name, but it was a small stand with another table for eating. Some other people were camped out with a dozen and a bottle of wine, and it looked pretty good. I had just eaten lunch if I recall, so I only got two, but they were fantastic. Pure ocean. I tried to ask the names/types of the oysters, but due to either my poor french or the merchants recalcitrance, all I got was "oysters".

                As for Angela,...maybe it's her personality, or maybe it was cultural/lingual differences, but I could swear she's the one who insisted we order ahead and pick them up in the morning....either way, definitely worth the laugh at my expense... Yes, the banh mi is fantastic. I had the beef and my wife had the tofu....I could have eaten that sandwich every day for the of the trip.

                1. re: VealParmGuy

                  I'm glad to read that she has a tofu choice. I'm not vegetarian, but a few years ago I did quite a bit of research for a friend who is, who was attending an academic conference there. I heartily suggested that he should rent a self-catering flat and he was glad he did.

                  1. re: lagatta

                    I defer to the Paris regulars, but my wife had no problems over the course of the week. Nearly every place had something for her to eat, and very rarely an afterthought.

              2. Well, with all due respect since I am not a falafel specialist, we loved L'As du Falafel. We opted for not eating inside, since the line was very long, and ate on the street. The falafel was delicious -- crisp, not burnt, filled with vegetables. Truly delicious and fun to eat. Falafel is a good street food and we loved the experience and taste.

                4 Replies
                1. re: antonia2

                  I would hope it was normal not to have burnt falafels in the sandwich....!

                  L'As is perfectly fine and does a good job, but it's fame and the hype around it tends to detract from the other just as good places around it. They are all pretty good, and the cognoscenti often prefer other places. For example L'As will often have a long line but the place opposite is just as good and generally doesn't have the line.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    Have to agree with PhilD, haven eaten at the L'As, the place across and Chez Hanna, which we did like the best.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      I've only tried l'As. The service is rude, the tables are scruffy, the prices are not cheap and I don't remember the falafel But I could eat a quart of the table sauce.

                      Some time I have to try one of the others on the street.

                      We have hit several of the Maoz chain and they are about what you'd expect for the price. Not great but certainly cheap enough.

                      1. re: mangeur

                        we didn't go into the restaurant -- just ate on the street. Sounds like there are lots of good falafal places -- and the price is definitely right!

                  2. Thank you for this. I probably will end-up eating at mostly all take-away restaurants or snacks, but I am looking for one nice restaurant, and I find your review helpful.

                    You mentioned the 'guy with the new juice bar'--is this "Bob's Juice Bar?" That did catch my eye, and I wondered if you ventured to try it.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: GraceW

                      It wasn't Bob's. I can't remember the name the of the place, but it was a small shop I believe somewhere in the 11th, possibly along Ave. Richard Lenoir. Sorry I can't be more specific, we popped in while walking around.