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Feeling a little overwhelmed by Paris restaurants...

Feeling a little overwhelmed by Paris restaurants...

Jul 26th, 2004, 09:00 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Feeling a little overwhelmed by Paris restaurants...

We're in the early stages of planning our long weekend trip to Paris, and I am overwhelmed by all the restaurant choices! A few questions...

Should we make reservations in advance? Our trip is in November, which I guess is technically the off-season - but is there really ever an off-season in Paris? In terms of crowds, I'm not sure how far in advance we need to book restaurants - or if we need to book at all.

Also, what's the best way to make reservations: directly through the restaurant or through our hotel (which, by the way, is the Paris Hilton next to the Eiffel Tower)?

Finally, we think we'll probably do one dinner at a high-end restaurant and the other two nights at more mid-range places. Are reservations necessary at mid-range places?

I'm not really looking for advice on specific restaurants (at least, not yet) but more general information. I've been reading through a ton of other posts about Paris restaurants - hence the overwhelming feeling. With only three nights in Paris, how will we ever choose where to eat?? (I know, I know... what a HORRIBLE dilemma, right?)
Meredith is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 09:08 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
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When you have time to just take a peak here or there, I can recommend "reservethebest.com" for restaurants (they do hotels but you're don't care bout those...) There will be excellent restaurants that subscribe to that service, you can see prices and menus, addressed, phone numbers, etc. And reserve if you so desire. Frankly, if it were me, and say I had my heart said are 'Arpege or Taillevant, I'd reserve asap, even for November.
BTW, you'll love Paris in November.
SuzieC is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 09:15 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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Based on reading other posts on this forum I'd have to say that I'm not a "foodie"...although I love food. We booked lunch at Jules Verne in the Tour Eiffel directly by phone from US. Other than that, we walked the city, were happy to pass restaurants I recognized from reading lots of guide books and returned to a few for a wonderful meal. I'm a big researcher, but definitely not an overplanner. I like to "follow our noses" too much. We were very pleased with every meal in France using this method.
gracieb is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 09:23 AM
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Glad to see a post from another who likes to eat but isn't a "foodie." We were in Paris in April and had success in just walking in and asking for a table in at least three of the restaurants I remembered from previous trips. We were flexible enough that if the answer had been "no" we would have tried another. But then I would never eat in a restaurant where the meal would be more than my hotel room. That's just not my priority. Keeping to a budget is what allows me to return again.
palette is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 09:23 AM
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SuzieC, that site is awesome - thanks!

And GracieB, I'm glad to hear you were able to eat well by "following your nose." We usually do that, too - but we have a VERY annoying habit of not being able to make up our minds! For our honeymoon, we spent a week in Barcelona with no meals planned out in advance. This was great because it gave us tons of freedom - but at the same time, we'd spend at least an hour if not more every night trying to decide where to eat. (Incidentally, we have the same problem at home - I don't know why we can't just make up our dang minds sometimes...) Since our time in Paris is much more limited, I don't want us to waste too much time trying to decide! Gracie, what time of the year were you there?
Meredith is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 09:32 AM
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Re reservations in November, if you're talking about high-end restaurants, I'd say yes, you should make reservations in advance (far in advance). I'm not sure about the mid-range places.

I always make reservations directly with the restaurant, either by calling them or emailing them directly. I'm sure your hotel could do it too, but there's no need to have them do something you could do yourself.

In terms of how to pick a restaurant, choose your "high-end" place first. I'm assuming you mean really high-end, like the Michelin three-star places. Make sure you want to spend that much on a meal - not everyone thinks it's worth it. I've been to a couple, and enjoyed the experience, but don't know that I need to do it again (and I AM a real foodie). If you want a very special, grand experience, many restaurants with "only" one Michelin star (or none!) can still provide a wonderful, special time.

I narrow down restaurants based on location (do I want it close to my hotel, or near a scenic spot, or am I willing to take a cab), the type of food (regional French, bistro, or seafood, etc.), how formal it is (you probably don't want ultra-formal all three nights), and the ambiance and appearance of the restaurant. All of that you can glean from Fodors and other web sites.

Have a great time!
Lexma90 is online now  
Jul 26th, 2004, 09:37 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 705
There are wonderful restaurants in Paris..from bistros to 3 Michelin stars. Once you have decided where/when you want to go, email your list to your hotel and they will be glad to take care of your reservations. Yes, you should make them early..the starred restaurants are a definite must any time of the year.

Enjoy the time spent in making your decisions....
gracejoan is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 09:51 AM
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Thanks, everyone - I feel much less overwhelmed (is that the same as more underwhelmed?) after reading your responses!

As for my idea of "high-end," I guess that needs some clarification, since everyone's ideas are different. A one-star restaurant is probably the highest we would go - we want to splurge, but not so much that we can't take another trip next year! Regardless, I'll heed your advice and make a reservation if we decide on any star-rated restaurant. Thanks again!

Meredith is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 09:54 AM
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Meredith, we were there in May. I can't imagine you will have trouble walking into a restaurant and enjoying a good meal. The biggest difference I imagine would be the number of daylight hours in May vs. Nov. We were like the Energizer bunnies and kept going and going and going until we were hungry. When we finally stopped and had ordered our food we were always shocked that it was after 8pm. We really enjoyed the sidewalk cafes and I would guess you won't have those options in Nov. The one place we returned to for a meal - Cafe de la Paix (I think I have that right) was too fancy for our tourist attire (we had planned to take a bike tour out to Giverney that day and missed the train to Vernon and were in very casual clothes). We decided to have dinner at their sidewalk cafe and it was marvelous.

But so was the Cafe Bonaparte our first day. We stopped at the St. Germain cafes I'd always read about and were confused about the menus. So, we walked a few yards down the street and had a great meal - Croque Monsier, onion soup and another sandwich that was fabulous. Later I learned on this forum that it's a favorite of a Fodorite regular. We were surrounded by sophisticated Europeans...and a family group from our home state!

Once we were just exhausted and stopped at a cafe for a cool drink (usually Kronenburg 1664) and decided to have nutella crepes as a snack. One of the highlights of the trip. Of course, you can tell I'm like Palette. I'll splurge if I think it's worth it (Jules Verne) but I'd rather enjoy the simple things.

A friend, a chef, said we HAD to do the dinner at the Lido because of the chef. Their version of Paris was based on who was the chef where. We just did not want to give up 2 or more hours in Paris so planned to grab something quick that afternoon. We completely ran out of time, barely made it back to the hotel to change before the midnight show and while my friend waited in line, I ran up to QuickBurger (I can hear the foodie gasps right now!!!) and brought a chicken sandwich back for us to share as we waited in line.

By the way, I'm headed to my friends' house this evening. We are going to share our Paris pictures. I am certain that their Paris experience was completely different than ours (they are Foodies with a capital F) but there is no way that they enjoyed their trip more than we did.

With limited time in Paris, I'd much rather spend my time walking and soaking in the city, the churches, the museums then fixating on "where to eat".

I know this is long, but my #1 advice would be to study menu words and options more than we did before you leave. By the second day we were more comfortable deciphering the menu, but you are there just for a weekend. Always ask for an English menu, although you won't always find one. We knew the words for organ meats so we didn't order something we didn't want! At Jules Verne we went completely out of our comfort zone and ordered items from the menu that we would NEVER order otherwise. My very cautious friend actually ate crab tartare with red pepper jelly - chased down with buttered bread and champagne! But, my the end of the trip we were asking in unapologetic American English for "chicken or vegatarian". No one ever turned up their noses at us.

Lastly, I can't imagine your reality of not being able to make a decision. My blood sugar must just drop too fast. On your trip, just face a restaurant and listen....Pretend you hear GracieB whispering "this is the one" and go in. We were NEVER disappointed in a meal in Paris. Based on that, just pretend I'm behind your shoulder coaxing you in!
gracieb is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 10:13 AM
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Quite a few of the "name" restaurants in Paris require reservations in advance. For example, it's hard to get into the Jules Verne on the Eifel Tower unless you book months in advance, while L'Astrance requires a reservation exactly one month (or is it two months?) in advance--no more, no less. So if there are specific restaurants in which you want to dine, reserve early. It's easiest to have the concierge at your hotel take care of everything for you, but then you'll need to tip on arrival. You can try e-mails, but not all restaurants respond in a timely manner. Good luck, and bon appétit!
Underhill is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 10:21 AM
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L'Astrance used to have a policy of calling exactly one month in advance, but they changed it, as I was disappointed to learn before my last trip. I think they are booking far in advance either before the August closure.

The Hilton on Ave. Suffren is right next to the Eiffel Tower, by the way.
RonZ is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 10:56 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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Jules Verne is booked ahead for dinner months in advance. I called directly the week before our departure and lunch was available every day the following week except one.

A tip from another American at lunch. Stop by the small bar for coffee after lunch. It extended an already delightful afternoon and we had more views of Paris in the daylight. We were very pleasantly surprised that our coffee was comped. No idea why, but what a nice touch!
gracieb is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 11:03 AM
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Thanks again, everyone, for the wonderful information!

I am SO EXCITED to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Paris!!!
Meredith is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 11:13 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
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and just remember, don't try to do everything...Paris will always be there to return to. Paris is a seducer.
SuzieC is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 11:35 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 116
Not sure if anyone's heard of this site, but www.pariscapitale.com is a GREAT site for restaurants and nitelife! It's got the latest reviews. I think of Paris like I think of NYC - the best restaurants change every month, and you don't have to spend a fortune to get great food and swanky atmosphere. This site is awesome, for instance it said that restaurant Kong, that was on Sex and the city has a fabulous decor, but it's bad food and filled w/tourists... you have to pay 9euros to get a subscription to the restaurant part though. It's extremely worth it in my opinion.
aduren is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 09:17 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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I'd like to recommend "Bistros of Paris" by Robert and Barbara Hamburger as a handy guide to some fine eateries in Paris. I'm also a believer in the "follow your nose" method of choosing a place to eat. Believe me, if you walk around long enough to be hungry enough to eat anywhere, you most likely won't be disappointed in where you end up.
LarryJG62 is offline  

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