As everyone knows, Paris has not hundreds but thousands of restaurants of every imaginable type of cuisine the world has to offer. In fact, if all the world’s problems could be resolved around a good meal, then Paris would be not only the number one destination for tourists but also for diplomats. I still remember that during the Vietnam War, the peace negotiations were prolonged for over a year because the different participantsÂ had a hard time agreeing on the shape of the table! Maybe they just didn’t want to leave the dinner table!
But even with scores of restaurants to choose from, it is hard to find those places that are true standbys–that you can count on for reliable service, good eating, and great atmosphere.
Other outstanding places that I recommend on a regular basis are:
â†’ Le Grand Colbert: (authentic French brasserie used in the Jack Nicholson-Diane Keaton movie)
â†’ Juvenile’s: (outstanding wine bar and fine for casual meals with home-made food)
â†’ La Coupole: (landmark brasserie opened in 1928, mecca for such celebrities as Ernest Hemingway, Kiki of Montparnasse, Gertrude Stein)
â†’ Angelina’s: (but only for their hot chocolate and Mont Blanc dessert)
â†’ Mon Vieil Ami: (outstanding French food overseen by the Michelin-starred chef Antoine Westermann
â†’ Drouant: (the brasserie-restaurant for the Prix Goncourt jury, great before and after-dinner dining)
â†’ Chez Oscar: (our luncheon place when we have something to celebrate at work)
â†’ Le Bistro du Peintre: (wonderful for filling plats du jour, reasonable prices and Old World atmosphere–they don’t make them like that anymore)
â†’ L’AffriolĂ©: One of the best food deals in Paris: beautifully presented gourmet food in a stunning setting. A must!
â†’ Breizh CafĂ©: (probably the best crĂŞpes in Paris whether for main course or dessert, best to book or to come early, or you will have to wait a while to be seated)
So my friends, here is a sampling of dining possibilities in Paris, that I invite you to comment upon and add to.
Like everyone who lives in Paris, I have a private list of dos and donts, even when it comes to eating out. Below, I am offering my tips on places to avoid at all costs, even if someone else is paying.
Ă— Les Deux Magots: The ultimate tourist trap, with terrible food and service that is even worse. The last time I was there with clients, I was ashamed that I had suggested going there. If you are on expense account, only think of coming here for a drink–the place stays open until 2 am.
Ă— Le Jules Verne: PiĂ¨ge Ă touristes or tourist trap. I only book this restaurant if my clients insist upon it. I made the mistake of taking my husband here for an important birthday and have been living it down ever since. I am sorry that a genius like Alain Ducasse has his name connected to the place.
Ă— LeÂ CafĂ© de l’Horloge at the MusĂ©e d’Orsay: Don’t come here in winter because you will be heating with your coat, hat and scarf. The heating doesn’t work, nor does the food. I wouldn’t even invite my worst enemy to this pretentious joint. And where did they find that Brazilian decorating team?
Ă— Les Ombres at the Quai Branly Museum:Â Its Eiffel Tower view so overpowering, you feelÂ it is going to drop on your head. The food here is simply terrible. I went here shortly after it opened and was served a very over-priced portion of cod over lentils that would have fed Ken and Barbie. I was so miffed–it was my birthday after all–that I demanded and got another portion. Another time, I order spare ribs in tomato sauce and was served four bare bones dripping in sauce. I sent the dish back to the kitchen with theÂ mention that I had yet to becomeÂ a dog.
Ă— Thoumieux: Or Peut mieux faire. Can do much better. The consulting chef is Jean-FranĂ§ois PiĂ¨ge (no accident, his name means trap in French). If you want to spend an evening with obnoxious traders and their kin, have sardine pĂ˘tĂ© in a tin, and a poulet de Bresse demi-deuil (a chicken thigh with a tiny sliver of truffle) then this place is for you. All others, should head for the nearest cafĂ© or bistro.
Ă— Le Chateaubriand: I don’t care if this is a bobo’s idea of heaven. Two years ago, I came here for a birthday dinner. First, my husband and I were over-dressed. He was in a sports jacket and tie, and I wore a red dress, mind you a red knit dress. Well, everyone else was in some form of haute grunge. The photo copied menu was covered with grease stains. And it was a single menu without choices. The restaurant was empty, and yet it took the waiter 20 minutes before he took our order for wine and water. After another 20 minutes of being ignored, my husband told me he was getting an acid stomach. We left after paying for the half-finished bottle of wine. I went home hungry and the following night we ate at L’AffriolĂ©–half the price and none of the aggravation.
Ă— Le Paul Bert: I don’t care if this was voted one of the best bistros in Paris by the food critics. Because they are reviewing the restaurant and are in the foodies club, they will always get special treatment. One night, we went there and although we waited a good 20 minutes in an empty restaurant, we were virtually ignored. My impatient husband dared to complain to the owner, who was busy drinking a glass of red at the bar. He could have cared less and advised us to go somewhere else. We did, only to be told that we couldn’t go to the oyster bar next door because it belonged to his wife! We ended up at a place up the street serving food from La RĂ©union. Not my first choice, but at least, we weren’t served up a feast of contempt.
In short, I haven’t given up on finding good meals in Paris–and you will notice that my list of favorites is much longer than my list of duds. Read more about food and wine in Paris elsewhere on this blog.