The family M, 1979. Trip one of a million to Paris.
Continuing on the Paris theme, let's talk about food and eating in general. My first trip to Paris was in 1979. My brother and I were teenagers and suffice it to say, it was not a good scene food wise or hormone wise. As my trips grew more frequently, I ventured away from McDonald's to try couscous, onion soup, pizza and Campari soda. I felt so sophisticated.
After 40 plus trips to Paris, I still get intimidated by eating and ordering when I step into a restaurant. I do a great job of researching where we'll eat, but then fret that I will order the wrong wine, not enough food (Hello McDonald's!), or just hate the food. Why is something I love to do at home - eat out, seem so vexing while traveling?
Maybe because I am afraid I'm going to be identified as a tourist and given a menu in ENGLISH (quelle horreur!).
Here's my advice, relax and enjoy the food. As with all experiences, you will have five good to one bad. You will faint at the prices for some things and feel like you stole out of the cash drawer for others, it all ends up about the same in the end.
Breakfast - If your hotel has it, take advantage of it especially if you need to be fueled in the morning. Buffets are full of protein as well as the boulangerie goods you think of when you think of Paris. If you are lucky enough to have a in room breakfast, enjoy freshly selected and not picked over goods. Skip coffee in the morning, have tea (usually freshly brewed for you) or chocolat chaud.
If breakfast is not available, suss out a local cafe and if you love keep on going back. Conversely, you can find a patisserie such as Erik Kayser and have a sit down pastry and coffee, but it is usually not very comfortable.
Parisians love brunch. I don't get it, but TH loves one place in particular - Sésame - on Quai Valmy on Canal St. Martin. It is tiny spot, but the food is plentiful. Des Gars dans la cuisine is also great for brunch and a steal at lunch! I would rather eat a huge lunch somewhere and walk it off than mix eggs with an open faced sandwich and a brownie at 10 am.
Lunch - I love lunch. I prefer lunch to dinner. Lunch is less expensive and easier to get reservations at some of the posher places in town. In some cases, Michelin starred restaurants have great prix fixe menus for lunch. Many courses for 100 euros per person. Dinner at these places run three times that and you will be completely over catered to and stuffed and have to taxi home. Bring comfortable shoes to change into after lunch and walk back to your hotel. My suggestions include Taillevent, L'astrance and Le Table du Joel Robuchon. Here is a list of other awesome places that I am going to hit on my next few trips.
I am not going to give you a million lunch suggestions, other than you can't go wrong with omelets, salads with chevre, steak frites and the daily dish. Have coffee, skip dessert and go find a macaron to munch in a little bit.
Dinner - One word of advice - if you are peckish or need to eat long before the restaurants open, by all means have a snack. Fake fact - bad decisions and meltdowns between loved ones happen between 5:15-7:15 pm when you are starting to get hungry and nothing is open. Great time to run back to hotel, take a shower, drop off all your stuff and have a snack in your room or the hotel bar before going out.
I like to stay near the hotel for dinner. This can be challenging if you are in an area that is devoid of decent food (office parks, La Defense, the AIRPORT), but most folks are probably not in the category. If I'm tired and cranky, I will visit a local cafe and order an omelet and green salad and call it dinner. If that doesn't work and your hotel room can tolerate the smells of take out, go to a local traiteur (deli serving hot food) and pick up some noshes. I love the hole in the wall places off of Rue St. Honoré.
If we are in the mood for fancy food, we try and hit a nice restaurant, preferably one that takes reservations. We like baby brother restaurants of Michelin restaurants or brasseries around the corner. A great concierge can take your requested list of restaurants and make all reservations for you. If you are lucky, the hotel will even have a list you can fill out on line. If there is somewhere you are dying to try, I suggest emailing the restaurant, the hotel concierge or Skyping them and requesting a table. The more popular restaurants will require a confirmation the morning of your reservation, so make to follow up or you will be eating at McDonald's.
Finally, there is McDonald's. I am not saying it is my favorite place to eat, but they make a decent cup of coffee and have free WiFi. If you are homesick and want to check in via the Internets or Skype, you can do it here better than nearly everywhere, including outside of the restaurant.
The important thing is to be flexible and have a plan at the same time. While this seems contrarian, it works. Have two options to chose from - somewhere close when you are tired and can't fathom walking or taxiing from your destination to the restaurant and somewhere further afield if you still peppy with energy.
Remember to take lots of discrete pictures, but spend your time loving the food and paying attention to your dining companion. You can latergram your finds in your hotel room later that night.
Paris eating links I like - John Talbott's Paris
David Lebovitz - Paris suggestions
Phyllis Flick - Paris notebook