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Jul 31, 2014 03:53 PM

Brief Trip Report: Eating Out in Paris With Two Kids (8 and 11)

Despite reassurances to the contrary, I had a lot of trepidation about eating out in Paris with my children. Although we weren't in Paris long, I thought it might be helpful to other parents if I posted about a few of our experiences from a parent's perspective at a couple of popular Parisian restaurants.

L'Ami Jean - If I had a negative image of how Parisian restaurants would treat children, it was obliterated by our experience here. The staff couldn't have been more welcoming - the waiter joked with our kids, even briefly picked up some cards they were playing with and asked to be dealt in. They created absolutely delicious smaller chicken dinners for our children at very affordable cost; the mashed potatoes are the first version my daughter has ever enjoyed. When my daughter peered over to watch the chef work, he looked up at her and smiled. The food was outstanding - my husband still talks about the mackerel appetizer and the peppercorns in his braised beef. One of the most welcoming dining experiences with our kids in Europe. I would go back, and highly recommend it to other parents.

Pirouette - They didn't change the menu but made appropriate recommendations for the kids. They also seated us in an area away from other guests, which I appreciated. While the food was good, I have to admit I didn't enjoy my prix fixe lunch as much as my husband did.

Les Papilles - I was so excited to eat here, but it was a disappointment. The first course, a cream of celery soup, was fantastic, but none of us were wowed either by the main course or the very sweet dessert. I cannot remember what was served, and honestly neither course was very memorable. Also, parents should be aware that the restaurant makes no accommodations for kids - they had to order the same full menu we did. As a result, a fair amount of food was wasted and the total cost of our dinner was quite high. I understand given how small they are that they need to generate a certain amount of revenue, but as a result it is not a good value for families.

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  1. Thank you so much for reporting back. That chez l'Ami Jean is my fave restaurant is no secret on this board - in fact there is a standing fatwa against me for this. I am especially heartened that they made your children feel welcome and at ease and made special food for them.

    On the other hand, when a restaurant makes special food for the children, it is always a delight. But when it can't, one should not expect it. The better bistros have a very limited menu and stock very limited stock, all based on in-season fresh food. It is hard for them to create an hors-carte dish with their limited food supply.

    And Les Papilles, which is never my fave eatery, for adults or children, has a no-choice menu. Not much chance to expect a choice from the expressly stated no-choice.

    One way to avoid disappointment is to ask the restaurant when you are reserving if it would make a special dish for your children. If it can't, then you can go somewhere else instead of having expectations that can't be met.

    Chez l'Ami Jean is different. Chef Jégo likes to look around his kitchen and make something completely new and improvised just for the challenge. Plus, he's a big kid himself.

    Thank you again for reporting back. The first line is obscured by the brain-dead new Chowhound format, hereafterknown as the BDNC format.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Thanks for your response. I don't expect a restaurant to make something different for our kids - they are pretty reasonable and usually eat the same foods we do without difficulty. But I didn't think through the fact that given Les Papilles structure they'd be expected to eat the same quantity of food, at the same cost, as us. Of course if the food had been extraordinary I probably would be more forgiving. We accidentally ordered two main courses for both kids at Metamorfosi in Rome - an expensive mistake but the food was so good the kids finished all of it, plus an additional third course the restaurant threw in for them. We also had some delicious meals in Croatia and Rome - will post on those boards.

      1. re: sfmom

        I agree re Les Papilles.
        I agree re Les Papilles.
        It is indeed a meat&potato kind of place that prioritizes food quantity and wine, both of which are not a good fit for dining with children.
        And as I said, not one of my faves either.

        1. re: Parigi

          Some good observations on how restaurants treat children in France that echo much of the advice frequently given here.

          Kids are fine in restaurants. Very few have kids menus or specific children's dishes. Those that cater specifically for children at the table generally adapt what they have on versions of adult dishes, and as portion sizes are not changed you need to order less.

          I like Les Papilles - but I like it for what it is and don't expect anything more. Its a good solid no frills place. Is there more than one L'ami Jean - the one I have tried doesn't have jocular waiters ;-)

          1. re: PhilD

            I was thinking about your last comment. One thing I do is book the first seating (the one for tourists) and show up on the dot. It isn't atmospheric, but it gets the kids to bed earlier plus it reduces the number of people we could potentially irritate. We were the only people at L'Ami Jean for some time, so the staff wasn't busy.

            1. re: sfmom

              "One thing I do is book the first seating (the one for tourists) and show up on the dot. It isn't atmospheric, but it gets the kids to bed earlier plus it reduces the number of people we could potentially irritate."
              To posters who ask if a given restaurant is kid-friendly, I often answer that it depends on whether the parent is restaurnat-friendly (but in my heart of heart I was wondering if the parent is kid-friendly him-/herself). You certainly are, since you pick a special reservation time and always bring playing cards for your children. And in my experience, restaurant staff in France is very nice to nice children (and nice parents). :)

              The funny thing is that the joviality of the Chez L'Ami Jean's staff rubs more than one person the wrong way, but not us. I still remember years ago when Mario the head waiter proposed a 35 euro menu for our table (sigh, those were those days), he said "trente-cinq euro" and hubby poo heard "cent-cinq" and blanched while the rest of the table nodded enthusiastically. When he verified with Mario that it was not cent-cinq, Mario looked at him without a smile and said "cent-cinq pour vous".

              Not to mention the screaming chef syndrome. The last few times I lunched there, I had to sacrifice myself and sit at the seat nearest the kitchen, and several time during the meal Stéphane screamed until my right ear was ringing. Very happy (but not surprised) that he and the staff were nice to your children.

      2. re: Parigi

        Parigi - is there something wrong with your browser..? I don't have any display problems with the new format (Safari V 7.0.5 on a iPad and Mac). SiteTalk says it could be causers by using Safari V 5.

        1. re: PhilD

          "is there something wrong with your browser..?"
          Obviously not, because I did nothing about it, and this morning the brain-dead design flaw has been corrected.

          1. re: Parigi

            Sincere apologies for trying to help.

            Obviously the web developers regression testing missed the fault in some old browsers - Safari 5 for example. Backwards comparability is always tricky - so usually sensible to migrate to up-to date software. Glad it's now fixed.

      3. hhmmm, just when I thought I'd have to give up my CLJ pilgrimage during my trip with my 11 year old grandson in December, along comes this little gem of a post! Parigi? Anyone else want to help celebrate the best boy in the world's 11th birthday in Paris the week of December 6?

        1 Reply