Dining etiquette question

Jul 12th, 2008, 07:44 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 82
Dining etiquette question

I am going to Paris with a friend who is ridiculously picky with food. Actually pedestrian may be a better word.

Most likely, there will be times that we will be together, but she will not eat in a restaurant that I choose. Will this be an issue in cafes and such? I am concerned that if she sits at a table, but only orders water or a glass of wine while I order a meal, it will be an issue.

If it will be, I will just plan to only eat where she will also eat.

Thanks for any advice you can give. I love her to death as a friend, but her narrow eating choices drive me insane.

lola618 is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 08:03 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,421
It will definitely not be a problem at cafes, where you can order whatever you like, or not. Actually, you needn't worry at any casual place with sidewalk tables. And, there are plenty of places all over.

As for restaurants, I wouldn't worry about informal places. Try to select places with larger menus and lots of choices. I can't imagine anyone not finding appealing items on most Paris menus. The tartines and composed salads are fantastic.

I probably wouldn't venture into nicer restaurants with a friend of that sort. I'd tell her I'm going to have lunch and will meet her at a designated place later. But, if I did, I'd let her worry about not ordering a meal and do as I please.
djkbooks is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 08:13 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 447
Wow. Would it be an option occasionally to
dine alone so you can enjoy fully
the delights of Parisian cuisine? You might come back regretting all the sacrifices you made for her .
pilgrim is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 08:22 PM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 6,629
I have a friend like that so I sympathize and won't even attempt to make a joke because it can be infuriating--I generally "lose it" somewhere between the 10th and the 15th restaurant whose posted menus haven't passed muster for whatever obscure reason.

Before I'm labeled mean, she has no known physical issues. Thankfully, I don't travel with her much anymore. And, we all have some food issues, mine tend to be in never passing up a meal!!

To your question--casual cafes and restaurants I doubt will care--a hallmark of the Paris cafe is that you can sit for hours nursing a coffee or wine. If a restaurant is quite busy or you get a waitperson or manager who is really cranky, they might say you can only have a table if both are eating.

Fine and not so fine restaurants sometimes have a minimum charge per person but if that is their policy, it should be on the posted menu.

I personally would postpone going to a really good restaurant if my travel partner wasn't up to it but you were asking about cafes and such--don't worry about it--it's her issue anyway, not yours, although by default you have to deal with it too. And, you shouldn't have to eat only where she will it, at least not half the time.

Cathinjoetown is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 08:26 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 82
I think it should be OK for the most part. I can always purchase the cheese I would like for a picnic. She doesn't eat anything other than Cheddar. *sigh*

I did tell her that I really would like to get North African food and for that she may have to just sit and suck it up.

I was more concerned with the restaurant being annoyed than her being annoyed. She can always eat at Hard Rock, McDonalds or a pizza place.
lola618 is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 08:50 PM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 6,629
I hope she doesn't settle for Hard Rock, Pizza Hut, McDonald's--she will be missing so much, but not much you can do other than point her to where she can meet you at YOUR cafe after she's wolfed down a BigMac and fries.

To be fair, some posters are using McD's for breakfast and/or other meals to save on the euros--I can understand that and might be there too if I weren't renting a flat for my next stay in Paris.

Regarding picnic food--you should go to a market together and buy things you don't agree on separately. I don't know where you're staying but the Champion on the Rue de Seine/Buci sells a wide array of meats and cheese by the single slice or by grams or packaged--similar stores all over Paris.

As for North African cuisine, I thought I wouldn't like it but went with a friend who was keen to go--it's still not my favorite but it was a terrific experience. I feel bad that she'll miss the experiences as much as whether or not she likes the food.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 09:12 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 379
Lola...she may have trouble finding cheddar in Paris

margyb is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 09:16 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 41,904
I have a friend I'm fond of but would never go to Paris with that person because of the same situation of your friend. Dining for me with someone you like, is a special occassion. Comparing dishes, enjoying the wine is
so special for me. Best i go alone.
cigalechanta is online now  
Jul 12th, 2008, 09:18 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,019
You are making me appreciate my travel companion more and more. She takes it as it comes and rarely complains.

She is also a good driver and enjoys a wide variety of activities.

Doesn't matter if I want to go to an opera in Prague or hike a trail in the Alps.

You sure you want this person to go with you to Paris? There has got to be a limit to people pleasing or you will get taken advantage of and forced to not enjoy your trip.

Are you taking her to Paris as part of child rearing?

Besides if she is all that good a friend, she needs to let you have your choices occasionally, too.

bob_brown is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 09:23 PM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 9,422
I can't believe if somebody doesn't want to eat cheese or North African food they automatically qualify as someone unsuitable to have fun with in Paris.

I think the problem -- sorry! -- is the attitude that this so-called friend is "ridiculously" picky. I think I would want to know somebody's attitude about me before I took at face value their desire to travel with me.

Either lola is so lonely she's afraid to tell this woman she looks down her nose at how she really feels, or her friend has been told and is a masochist -- and I don't get involved in commenting on those relationships.

zeppole is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 10:18 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 21,953
You should rent an apartment and let your friend prepare her own meals at home while you are out enjoying yourself.
kerouac is offline  
Jul 13th, 2008, 12:57 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 4,433
Bridget, I think the answer to your question is that in some places and at some times of day it would be an issue if your friend took a place and did not eat. Roughly speaking, I would think that the more formal the style of the establishment, the less likely they are to welcome non-diners. It is unlikely that she (or you) would be thrown out, but you might be subjected to a certain degree of frostiness that might mar your enjoyment of the meal. Yet you might be allowed occupy a table for two on your own in the same restaurant.

What happens if your friend watches while you dine? Do you then reciprocate by watching her dine in another restaurant? How about agreeing on some days when you eat separately so that you do not drive one another mad? Or alternate: one day she chooses a place that suits her well that she thinks has something you like; the next day you choose some place that suits you with possibilities that might suit her.
Padraig is offline  
Jul 13th, 2008, 06:07 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 6,047
We have three (!) friends who are like Bridget's friend (luckily we have more friends), and I can tell it is hard enough to dine out together with them at home (where we know restaurants and menus). It is especially hard to travel with them.

For us, it is extremely embarassing when these people start to discuss with the waiter. Once, we dined in a superb restaurant in Bourgogne, and everybody wanted to order the tasting menu but the restaurant (as usual in France) would serve the tasting menu only for the whole table and guess what our dear friend did...

We stopped traveling with her, and with our pickiest friend, we never started to travel.

Food is very important for us, and such persons can ruin an evening, and they can ruin a whole trip.

BTW, is it a matter of incidence, that our picky friends are (1) all female and (2) between 30 and 40 and (3) all thin not to say boney?
traveller1959 is offline  
Jul 13th, 2008, 06:22 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,642
If I can make a specific suggestion, dine with your friend at the brasserie in the Au Printemps department store. No one will care whether she eats or not, she can have a glass of wine while you eat. The stylish setting will distract her. Plus, it's rather noisy and everyone is usually focused on their food or their shopping plans, nobody will hear or notice anything she silly she might say about French food.
I liked the brasserie's rotisserie chicken (not on the current menu). Thursday nights it's open til 10 pm so you could have dinner there (the rest of the week it closes at 7 pm).
BTilke is offline  
Jul 13th, 2008, 07:23 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 9,422
I think some of you would be surprised to know how picky Italians and the French are about their food, and how demanding they are of waiters and chefs in explaining how the dishes on the menu are cooked.

When I'm in the U.S. and French friends visit, I wouldn't dream of making the mistake of picking the restaurant we go to. (When I visit them in Paris, even I want to try someplace, I don't bother asking.) I have yet to meet the French man who isn't "ridiculously picky" about not only what is on his plate, but on mine.

Italians are less "picky", but when they come to America or travel anywhere, they spend a lot of time trying to find Italian restaurants. A noticeable chunk of the population dislikes eating anything other than Italian food. As easy going as they are, they would probably walk out of a French restaurant where they were told that if three people at a table were having the tasting menu, then the fourth person else at the table would be forced to eat it as well.

I'd walk out of that restaurant, or I would order the tasting menu for the whole table and then tell the waiter to bring my friend whatever she wanted and I would pick up the tab for it.

I have this awful image of people hovering over other adults telling them what to eat. I don't even think it's acceptable to do to children, but it's insane to bully another adult that way. I think the bullies are the ones with the "issues."
zeppole is offline  
Jul 13th, 2008, 07:30 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 10,605
I don't see how the dining issue is any different than other activities. If my travel companion didn't want to go to the Louvre but I really did, then I would go and meet her later. If my friend wasn't interested in an afternoon of boutique shopping, I would go and meet her later. That's how it works when you don't like to do or eat the same kinds of things. Split up, go enjoy yourselves, meet back and talk about it. A little compromise now and then, only because you want to be with the person, doesn't hurt but a lot of compromise is not fair on such an expensive vacation. (and it isn't necessary, either).
Travelnut is offline  
Jul 13th, 2008, 07:58 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 3,424
Zeppole re: "I have yet to meet the French man who isn't 'ridiculously picky' about ... what is on his plate"

- that reminded me of an (American) colleague of my husband's who has worked for the Pasteur Institute in Paris for 20 years now. He said when he first got to the Institute it amazed him to attend scientific meetings outside of France with his French colleagues - food was always such an issue that every meal assumed crisis proportions as they a) tried to cope with the institutional food offered at the meetings or b) tried to find "acceptable" food in a local restaurant. He always joked that having an educated palate is a curse, not a blessing - in some circumstances anyway - and that he was thankful he could just manfully wade through mediocre food when necessary, without the extreme suffering evinced by his French companions.
NorCalif is offline  
Jul 13th, 2008, 09:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 92,932
Travelnut beat me to it!

My simple suggestion is to eat out separately. Doesn't it feel weird to have her just sitting there while you have a meal? Regardless of what the waiter or restaurant thinks about it. And wouldn't she eventually still need to eat herself somewhere else?

When you want to try North African, just go alone. I travel solo often it's certainly no big deal.

I am not a picky eater, but also would not appreciate a travel companion expecting me to go somewhere I wasn't interested in eating, like you seem to want her to do for you.

Split up. Meet up later on. Too much togetherness on a trip is not a great idea anyways.

suze is offline  
Jul 13th, 2008, 09:29 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 47,658
A good friend of mine who has spent lots of years traveling in Europe just came back from spending two weeks at my house in the Dordogne and 5 days in Paris with two women she'd never traveled with before. She knew ahead of time they were "picky eaters." No one could have imagined just how picky they really were. They wouldn't try a thing in the Dordogne, at restaurants, cafés, bistros, brasseries, or outdoor stalls, and they wouldn't eat anything prepared at home that came from the fresh markets.

They subsisted on instant Nescafé coffee and boiled pasta. In restaurants they made horrible scenes. My friend had the worst vacation she ever had and is no longer speaking to either of them.

It was a disaster all around.

Are you sure you want to travel with this person? Why would you go to one of the great food meccas of the world with someone who will only eat cheddar? The chances of you changing her eating habits are almost nil, and it's bound to affect your trip no matter how you try to handle eit.

I long ago learned not to travel with people who aren't compatible with me in some basic ways - eating habits, waking and sleeping habits, drinking habits, adventuresomeness, etc. If there's one thing I don't want ruined, it's a vacation.
StCirq is online now  
Jul 13th, 2008, 11:25 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
If she's willing to eat at McDonald's, Hard Rock etc - she's hardly picky about food - since what they serve can properly be called "pedestrian" at best. It sounds as if she likes only poor food - greasy, salty etc. But - if that's what she likes - so be it.

I would just give her a list of the locations of the chains she likes and tell her to go ahead and eat there. You can enjoy local food and then met her later.
nytraveler is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:51 PM.