The word enjoy keeps coming up again and again in my writing about travel and Paris. Enjoyment. Pleasure. Adventure. That is what we seek when we travel. And far too often we create expectations that can’t be met or we don’t do the simple things needed to make sure our trip is maximum good and minimum bad.
Eating, and in particular eating out, in Paris is a prime example of this yin and yang of joy and pain in travel and for that matter life. Get it right and the moments become magic for you and those who share them. Get it wrong and you pay top dollar or euro to be disappointed and wind up yelling at your kids. Or wife. Or just pissed at the world. Not good.
For many of us travel to Paris means food, at least after the sightseeing is done. Paris despite some articles to the contrary has a dynamic healthy restaurant scene It offers a broad variety of places to eat ranging from tourist traps to Michelin starred palaces of gastronomy to trendy hangouts. This post will guide you through what we have learned over the years of eating in the City of Light with some simple rules to follow to help you have a good time. It’s an overview so take it at that.
Before you do anything else, do your research. We are lucky to live in an era of abundant food blogs and information. At the same time, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the number of writer on the subject, so here are a few research tools for you to follow:
Try not to travel to far from where you are staying, especially if your trip is less than a week. Keep it local.
Go out to lunch instead of dinner. You will save up to 50% of the bill most of the time.
Look for the prix fixe menu. This set menu will reduce your bill significantly as opposed to ordering a la carte. Many restaurants offer a variety of prix fixe menus, appetizer and main, main and dessert or appetizer main and dessert and several choices from each category.
Once you have narrowed your search start reading. Our favorite food websites include:
Lots of comments on what is going on the food scene.
Time Out. A detailed and accurate guide to Paris eating. http://www.timeout.com/paris/en/restaurants-cafe
You can use Fodor’s, Trip Advisor or even Yelp once you have narrowed your choices, I don’t find the sites easy to work with when searching or innovative.
I enjoy these blogs a lot:
Ask your friends where they eat, it seems obvious but they may know someone who has a tip.
A couple of other things to note:
Many restaurants close on Sundays.
Tipping in Paris is not expected as service is included in the bill. If the service is good you can ’round up’ your check making sure to leave a few extra euros to show you were happy.
Many restaurants have an English menu or someone who can help you. Remember, they want to sell to you.
Tap water is safe but doesn’t taste very good.
Now you have found some top choices. The next rule is to make a reservation. It is worth the effort, Parisian restaurants are crowded and you don’t want to spend vacation time waiting in line.
There is an online system that allows you to search and find the restaurants website. If you aren’t directed to it automatically, most will have an English translation, look of the letter EN or a UK flag. From there you will find the reservation policy.
And most importantly, there is an excellent on-line reservation site is known as the Fork. You can find it at http://www.thefork.com/city/paris It works. Use it.It also has lots of guides as well to every area and type of food.
If that does not work then call the restaurant. That’s right. Even if your French is scary bad if the restaurant is well know someone will speak English. If not, find a friend (or travel agent) who speaks French and have them help.
There is not enough time and too many choices so enjoy every meal, even if it isn’t what you dreamed it would be. And if you aren’t comfortable where you are, do what my French father in law would do. Walk out and find another place to eat. Then again he had five children and his wife with him but that is another story.
As always we invite you to share your comments with the Yellow Flat community!