We love eating in Paris. It is such an important part of our vacation experience. But having the dinner (or lunch) that you want at a Parisian restaurant can be a daunting task. Especially if you haven’t spoken French since those long forgotten lessons twenty plus years ago. That being said, it will all be a lot easier with a little planning and help. So let’s ignore the Gallic frown of the John Cleese like waiter that has popped into your imagination and get down to the business of enjoying a successful meal like this one:
Oh and that expression in the first photo, ‘Plat Du Jour’? That means today’s special and often a great choice.
First things first. You have made a reservation right? If not here are few quick tips. If you are looking for reliable reviews of local favorites visit Paris By Mouth. Once you have chosen one, the best way to avoid calling the restaurant is to use an internet based reservation system. We rely on the Fork . Its simple and has an English option. While using the Fork, be careful to avoid their deals, those are paid ads and most are there for a reason.
Do make that reservation if at all possible, just as in all big cities good restaurants book up well in advance. And be forewarned, many restaurants are closed on Sunday and most stop serving at 1030pm.
This brings us to another question, what type of eating establishment are you looking for? Here are a few that you may come across:
Auberge. A country-style inn.
Bistrot. Our go to choice, bistros are relaxed eateries serving traditional plates often at reasonable prices. You can read about my favorite bistros’ near the Yellow Flat on our blog.
Brasserie. Larger establishments often serving late. Many are beautifully decorated art deco palaces like Terminus Nord, where we ate often after arriving at the Gare Du Nord across the street.
Or the wonderfully named Flo.
Cafe. Informal and local, rarely relied up for dinner.
Cantine. Also informal, these are often loud and fun.
Comptoir. Translates to counter, patrons often eat standing up. Like Le Comptoir De Relais across from Odeon in the 6th.
Creperie. As you guessed, crepes are served. Learn more about creperies we have enjoyed here.
Restaurant. The broadest category. Just about everything fits here. Here is a favorite classic in the 6th, Allard.
Rotisserie. A restaurant that specializes in cooking on the wood fired grill.
Over the past years the lines between them have blurred as wine bars (“bar a vin”) and happy hours, yes they are called happy hours which makes sense if you taken a moment to think about it, have invaded French soil.
Ok. You are in the restaurant and seated. Bravo. A menu arrives. You take it. It’s in French. What did you expect? So what do you do? An obvious choice but often ignored approach is to ask if they have an English menu. Hey it’s not a contest and if they do you won’t have to try to remember the rest of the blog. You say:
“Avez-vous un menu en anglais?”
If they do not, here is how to work through the menu:
The menu is typically divided into opening dishes (‘les entrees’) and the main courses (‘le plat principal’). You can order a la carte taking as little or as much as you want or from the menu du prix fixe, sometimes called the menu du jour or la formule. By doing so you get slightly smaller plates at much reduced prices. These formulas (‘formules’) offer you two options: 2 plates (‘plats’) or 3 choosing one each from the appetizers, main courses or desserts which are fortunately called desserts. Like this grand marinier souffle. Be sure order this one at the start of the meal. Dessert will often will include a cheese option.
You may also see the word “degustation”. This refers to a tasting menu.
Curious about the wine list? Ask for:
“La Carte Des Vin”.
Well dinner is over and you want the bill. Just say:
“L’addition s’il vous plait”.
What about tipping? A tip of 15% is included in the price of the meal. But if service is good your should leave a few extra euros, between 5 and 10%.
And as always, it’s about slowing down and enjoying the moment and the tastes that Paris offers you.