Where's the Raved about food in Paris?

Jan 24th, 1999, 10:48 PM
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Where's the Raved about food in Paris?

I've been watching this forum for a few months now and have noticed that many people rave about the food in Paris. I travel on business alot, mostly in the states and some in Europe, and food is a major passion of mine. I try different foods everywhere go which include Chicago, L.A., N.Y., Las Vegas, Paris, London, Rome, etc. I've been to Paris a few times and love the coffee, pastries, and crepes but have yet to come across a meal (dinner) that I am impressed with. Most have been just so, so. Certainly nothing spectacular.

I'm not talking about the high priced fare of Tour D'Argent (sp?) and the like. I talking about spending $25 - $30 for dinner (food only, I don't drink) and I always feel that what I got should have been more like $10 - $12. And it's not that I'm a food snob or anything like that I'm really easy to deal with. I just want my food freshly cooked, hot, and in a decent portion.

When I choose to go out at home and spend $25 for dinner I'm usually quite happy. Steak, Italian, French, Chinese, whatever. It seemed in Paris I was supposed to be going to the $150 a head place to get a good French meal. Why is that, when at home, I can drive 5 miles from my house and have an excellent meal prepared by the of best French chefs in my area. He's been written up many times in various papers and magazines.

Please help me. I'm going to Paris in the spring and very much want to try some of the great food the city has to offer. At this point, I'm assuming I've just been looking in the wrong places. Although, I've been all around in tourist, non-tourist, and business areas such as the Expo Center, south of the center of the city, and the results have been the same.

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. I'll probably be staying in the 5th near the river. Particularly any suggestions around there would be helpful.

Jan 25th, 1999, 02:31 AM
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We found pretty good food for cheap in the Latin Quarter around Notre Dame. Throughout the little winding streets/alleys there are many restaurants that advertise three courses for the equivalent of $15 Australian or so, or alternatively huge skewers with prawns/meat etc for about the same price that were a meal in themselves. I wouldn't say the food is first class, but the atmosphere certainly is. Each restaurant has a guy touting on the street and it is good fun choosing where to go. This was by far the best value we found anywhere in Paris.

Good luck and have a great time.

Jan 25th, 1999, 04:31 AM
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I was pretty happy with the 7th for food in this price range - the streets near the church of St-Germain-des-Pres. You may want to take a look at www.top-restaurants.com and www.paris.com.
Jan 25th, 1999, 05:06 AM
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Let me clarify the point that
when you dine in Paris you are not paying "$25-$30" for a meal. You are paying 125-175 FF, just what the Parisians are paying. If that seems too high, there are so many determining factors such as the French national economy, French inflation rate, real estate and restaurant management expenses in Paris, etc. I live in a large American city and I know that even an average neighborhood restaurant in my city is much more expensive than one of the top places in a small American town.
As another example, I find restaurant prices in London to be frighteningly more expensive than Paris, because in my head I too am translating everything into dollars. However, the Paris economy is one thing, the London economy is another, any my own local economy
(and salary!) are quite separate things.
Perhaps the euro will change some of that.
All of that said, I find that there is no reason to have a disappointing meal in Paris. I recommend the book "Cheap Eats in Paris" by Gustafson. Her recommendations and comments are absolutely reliable, not a tourist trap in the bunch. One from her book that I will mention, on the right bank near Place de la Concorde, is Lescure on rue Mondavi. Good, plain, authentic French food.
The only way I know to find good restaurants in other cities is from recommendations, either from friends, reliable guidebooks like the above, your hotel staff (ask where they eat!), etc. Trial and error is fun too, as long as you're willing to put up with the occasional error.
Jan 25th, 1999, 11:11 PM
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Michael, I sympathize.

My husband and I loved Paris overall but had a little disappointment in a couple of areas. The food being one.

This does not mean we won't go back. In fact, I'm always adding to my list of things to see when I read different comments on the forum. I also can't wait to drink some coffee but, as for food, I won't be rushing back for that.
(Except, like you said, the pastries!)

The food we did like was the street food sold by the Greek vendors. The gyros in "little Athens" in the 5th were great. So were the frites. The crepes were also pretty as long as they didn't make them too thick. That's my preference at least. And if you like Chocolate mousse, go to Montmartre near the Moulin Rouge. Stand in front of the Moulin Rouge and look to the right. I believe a short distance away is a street leading up to another street which runs parallel to the main drag. When went and walked around up there and it is much more like a regular neighborhood. We found a great little bakery with the most excellent chocolate mousse I ever had.

Good luck in Spring...

Jan 25th, 1999, 11:52 PM
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Oh, I see a big case of cultural gap here. Lots of posts have righteously talked about the discrepancy between what American and French people are expecting from a restaurant. Again, it is not a matter of portions. It's like hotel rooms : Americans are used to big ones, for us Europeans 20 m² is OK. Same thing for food : it is not really the quantity that matters, especially if you go to so-called "fancy" restaurants. Though, I agree there have been some excesses towards small portions in the heydays of "nouvelle cuisine", but this has been corrected now. Last thing - and dedicated Fodorites, please forgive me for repeating myself -, but, as far as the price is concerned, you should always keep in mind that the price you are mentionning in France includes everything, i. e. taxes and tips. In the States, this would mean a 30 % hike on the bill. So, actually, when you are talking about a $30 dinner in France, it amounts to a $ 39 in the US.

This said, I will try to give you some addresses that should please your palate and your wallet :

Le Bascou, rue Réaumur 75003
Le Petit Prince, rue Monsieur le Prince 75006
Chez Maître Paul, same street
Le Bouillon Racine, rue Racine 75006
Les Bouquinistes 75006
La Robe et le Palais, rue des Lavandières Sainte Opportune 75001

You can access all the data of these restaurants on the web of the French telephone company : www.pagesjaunes.fr
Jan 26th, 1999, 04:16 AM
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Michael, another resource you may want to consult is the Access guide to Paris. You will find probably at least a dozen places for each quarter of Paris. The opinions seem to be pretty honest. Perhaps pick up several different guides, including specialty books on eating in Paris. I think you can trust the places that are praised in several different sources.

This is the way we found most of the places we ate, and other than one bad bowl of onion soup, I thought the food was excellent.
Jan 26th, 1999, 04:21 AM
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michael--i disagree with vincent's "culture gap" conclusion. you're not just another american unaccustomed to the french way of doing things. you're probably a lot like me. i think it's too easy for some to say that "americans" simply can't appreciate the french way of life. if there's anyone who loves paris, and the french culture, it's me. i've been to paris 4x, took intensive language courses at l'alliance francaise in paris, and love to cook gourmet, particularly french food, and improve my french cooking techniques. i'm not rich, and because i like to think i cook well, demand something more when i go out to eat.

yet, i've often had the same observation as you when i've gone to paris. yes, one can i'm sure certainly find incredible food for $150/person (or, as vincent points out 750F/person). but i've wandered the little streets of paris looking for non-touristy spots, and often have found that the food in the $25-35 price range is fairly pedestrian. maybe i'm simply looking in the wrong places, or am too particular because i'm a good cook and know that a lot of people who rave about good food don't know what good food is. maybe it's because others in my group who really don't care where they eat end up doing the choosing.

as for "little athens," that little alley near notre dame on the left bank that is full of greek restaurants beckoning you to come off the street, yes, you can get a deal of a meal there, but they certainly aren't french! and they certainly are the most touristy restaurants in the city. i went there the first time i was in paris, and won't go back because they're simply not french.

this being said, the last time i went to paris i got a recommendation at the airport from a businessman who had heard about a fairly new bistro that was good. Le Loup Blanc (the white wolf). it's on the right bank, on the Rue Ticquetonne (sic?) not far from the Pompidou Centre, and i thought it was a real good value, and certainly not touristy at all. it had a menu with the kind of "enlightened" touches that one associates with a restaurant that's a cut above the usual, in my opinion. and it was certainly reasonable. with wine, we paid i think only 140F-150F (the dollar was getting 6F at that point). i liked it because it truly was a french place without tourists, off the beaten path in sort of a trendy area. check it out.

i'd also like to get a few recommendations from others who are similarly situated in tastes and pocketbooks!
Jan 26th, 1999, 04:49 AM
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Michael, here are some suggestions in your price range....
2nd ... Le Souffle, 36 Mont Thabor off of Rue Castiglione near the Hotel Intercotinental, tel 42 60 27 19 (this is the place for souffles ... order one for desert when ordering your meal)
.... La Forchette on Rue Saint Honore (small, but good ... variety of dishes)

3rd ... Ambassade D'Auvergne, 22 Rue du Grenier Saint Lazare, tel 42 72 31 22
(specialties from the southwest region of Auuvergne in France ... try the aligot)
5th ... La Truffiere, 4 Rue de Blainville on Place de la Contrescarpe off of Rue Monge, tel 46 33 29 82 (specializes in dishes with truffles, but the dishes are also good without)
... La Bouteille D'Or, Quai de Montebello, just down from Place Michel along the river and
opposite Notre Dame (order the Carte Vert ... 3 course prix fixe meal ... request a table next to the windows and get a fabolous view of Notre Dame lit up at night)
.... L'Ange Gourmand, 31, Quai de la Tournelle, tel 43 54 22 52, opposite corner of
La Tour D'Argent and much cheaper.
... Le Bar a Huitres, Rue Saint Jacques (inexpensive fish dishes .... try a plateau de mer ...
looks like a pizza tray loaded with ice and all kinds of shell fish ... just great)

7th ... A La Petite Chaise, 36 Rue de Grenelle, tel 42 22 13 35
(can't beat this place for value .... wine included)

14th ... La Couploe, 102 Bd du Montparnasse, tel 43 20 14 20 (big, loud, waiters put on a show, but it is worth it ... you either love it or hate it!)
... Le Dome, 108 Bd du Montparnasse, tel 43 35 25 81 ( fish reigns here ... very good)
... Le Bar a Huitres, 112 Bd du Montparnasse, tel 43 20 71 01 (same as in the 5th)
... Il Barone (italian) on Rue Robert Leopold (just off Bd du Montparnasse) (great italian food)

16th ... Le Beaujolais D'Auteuil, 99 Bd de Montmorency, tel 47 43 03 56 (this was my neighborhood restaurant ... I lived on Bd Suchet for a year n 1994 and ate here many times ... variety of dishes ... always good)

17th ... P'Tit Bougnat, 18 Bd de Courcelles, tel 47 63 97 11 (very small, decor somewhat bleak, but they specialize in game dishes and I had the best wild boar dish I ever had here)
... Le Bistrot du XVII, 108 Ave de Villiers (same owner as the next restaurant .... 3 course complete meal including aperif (try a kir) ,water, wine and after dinner liquer for 175 FF. if you find a better place for quality and value .... you must tell me ...

... Le Bistro Saint Ferdinand, 275 Bd Pereire, tel 45 74 33 32, near Porte Maillot (same as above)

Also on the other side of Porte Maillot, (technically not Paris, but the suburb of Neuilly) is the Sebillon on Ave Charles de Gaulle, on the right hand corner just after going around the circle at Porte Maillot. According to french friends (and I concur), this is where you get the best lamb. The lamb is spit roasted and brought around on carts and carved at your table ... all you want, by the way. The dish is served with traditional white beans and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. It is also customary to have 2nds. Actually you can have all you want, but 2 dishes does it for me. Add a half dozen oysters on the half shell, a salad, and a bottle of Bordeaux. Finish up with a cafe (I have never been able to squeeze in desert at this place) and tell me you don't think you died and went to heaven.

Two others I will mention ....
1. L'Manquier which has several locations .... Bd Montparnasse, Ave Ternes and Bd Montmarte.
I've eaten here several times ... they have a 2 course meal for 95FF and 3 courses for 119FF.
I would get the 2 courses ... salad with goat cheese and/or duck gizzards and a main dish of
grilled meats ... 3 varietys plus a ½ bottle of wine and ½ bottle of water and a cafe.for a total of 175-200FF depending on the wine.

2. Hollywood Canteen on Bd Montmarte ....I missed my American breakfast and this is the place (the only place in Paris ... maybe all of France .... maybe all of Europe .... to go)
Cost was 50FF (in 1994 with exchange rate of 5) ... all you can eat! Large glass of fresh squeezed OJ, american coffee, cerals, eggs .... scrambled, omelette, fried with ham, sausage and bacon .... and then pancakes with maple syrup!!! I went there every weekend.

I believe Nicole was referring to the Rue de la Huchette over by Place Michel .... between Bd Saint Michel and Rue Saint Jacques in the 5th. It's loaded with greek restaurants specializing in spit roasted dishes of large prawns and pork chops, etc. I've eaten there a few times and it was always good. I'm not a 100% sure, but believe the name of the restaurant was the Minotaure.
Jan 26th, 1999, 05:48 AM
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The only time we've eaten in the afore-mentioned tourist-packed streets of the latin quarter was this month. We had spent a week in the south of France and planned our return so we'd have a night and morning in Paris. We had so few hours there (and had had such wonderful meals while in Provence!) that we didn't want to spend them in a restaurant, but out on the streets. We set out walking from our hotel and got to the bustling 5th, still packed with tourists from around the world (didn't hear that much "American" either!) and found a "doner kebeb" place. The best fast food we've had!! And the tourists at the next table were from Turkey!
As for outstanding meals, our favorite spot is L'O a la Bouche, 157 Blvd. Montparnasse. We read about it in the Washington Post before a trip last summer, and had the article with us. The friendly staff was eager to see it and made a copy. The 2 and 3 course daily specials were well-priced 90 at 130 francs, and each bite made us look at each other and sigh - YUM! Hope you can try it!
Jan 26th, 1999, 08:14 AM
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Thank you everyone for your responses.

I'm printing this out and plan on trying many of these places the next time I go.

To those of you you mentioned the Greek places. Yes, I eat there often on the run because the food is usually good, cheap, hot, fast, and you get alot. The only problem with these little places is that they don't serve the purpose when you really want to go out and "have a nice dinner in Paris".

A note on books: I've looked through many guide books but was always hesitant about the objectivity about the reviews. However, I do have a copy of Access and I'll give it a try the next time I'm there.

And John, how did you know lamb is one of my favorite dishes in the world? This place, I'll probably try first!

Thanks again to you all. Here's to good eating on all of our next trips!
Jan 26th, 1999, 05:10 PM
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I find it interesting reading all these comments. I have worked as a chef for over 20 years, both in Paris, and on several West Coast cities in the US.

The finest food IS French food. This is fact. However, in my years of experience, the cultural differences between France and the US have resulted in the best French food being served, not in France, but in the US. Over the years, I have had to adapt my cooking techniques to appeal to American tastes. At first, I was frustrated but now I have realized, that the French food at good French restaurants in the US (including my own) is usually, hotter, larger, and a better value than anything you would find in Paris.

I'm sure there are many Frenchmen (chefs, in particular) who would disagree with me. To them, I would ask that they put aside their national pride for just a moment to contemplate the truly execellent cuisine offered by many of the large cities in the US. If they approached this issue (and some US restaurants) with an open mind, I believe they would be pleasantly surprised at the talent and innovation prevelant in this country.

As a side note regarding quality vs. quantity; Who ever said "The better it is, the less you get?"

Thank you.
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