Restaurant Dining in Paris and Our Most Outstanding Meals

I guess you might call this leaving the best stuff until last. This article describes many, not all, of our dining experiences while we were in Paris for three months. You know, we had to keep our strength up for going to school and visiting museums. Also, we couldn’t leave Paris without showing and telling you about the food. Mostly, we figured we would stack all of the food P*rn in one article. Hope we don’t make you too hungry, haha.

Common Themes

For my fellow Americans, a few things I want to point out about dining in France/Europe that are different than common practice in the US.

All prices listed on the menu include tax and most include a tip, meaning that a 12€ burger really costs 12€, not 16€ after tax and tip (and health surcharge). Bills don’t inflate 30% when it comes time to pony up. No tip shaming or tipsy tipping. There is rarely even an ability to pay a tip with a credit card. In addition, almost every vendor supports contactless payment, which is faster, safer, and more hygienic than handing your CC over to a waiter. As such, I use my phone most of the time and only carry one credit card in case the vendor has an issue with their reader. So much easier.

Perhaps because I spent less time in popular tourist areas during our 3-month stay in Paris, I found fewer “cheap” prix-fixe lunch combos than I recall from previous visits. And, unsurprisingly, prices have gone up, too. Still, despite being one of the major capitals of the world, Paris restaurant costs were better than I’ve seen in many lesser-quality options in the US. Of course, getting a little out of the tourist zones tamps down costs, too. So, your great night out in the City of Lights may not break the bank.

Nota bene: Many locals leave town and shops and restaurants close for a few weeks in August. If you have a particular place you want to eat, it is worthwhile to confirm your chosen place will be open and reconfirm your reservations. There are still plenty of good places open, so don’t worry about being able to nosh on something memorable while sipping your Aperol Spritz whenever you arrive. Also, remember, no one will ever bring you the bill, you must ask for it by saying “l’addition, s’il vous plait.”

Bistros can be great to wait for a break in the weather

French Fast Food

Standard French fast food can be grabbed at small cafes and boulangeries (bakeries) all over town. There is usually a tempting selection of sandwiches and tarts to choose from. The assistants will warm them with a quick zap in the oven. These spots are a great way to get some energy to continue with your shopping or museum hopping.

Also popular are kabob and taco shops. Kabobs are as you’d expect, but tacos are… not.

Frankly, Mexican food in France should generally be skipped. The locals just aren’t into anything North Americans would consider Mexican. French Tacos are really a different beast. They are basically some kind of kabob meat with cheese, sauce, and sometimes fries inside a burrito fired on a George Foreman grill. It works ok as fuel, but the Michelin inspectors won’t be visiting any time soon, or probably ever.

Bistro Life

It’s probably a crime in France to dine out without ever experiencing a bistro. This is where you’ll find most of the classic French dishes like onion soup, pate, steak and fries, duck leg confit, burgundy beef, steamed muscles… This is also where you’ll find the classic, impatient, French waiter. Don’t worry, they will still take your order, but you may wait for what seems like forever to get their attention to pay the bill.

The quality and service won’t likely change much from place to place, but the menu can be quite different. Like they all drank from the Kitchen Nightmares cup, the menu selection is often small and prices can vary quite a bit. So it’s good to get into the practice of reading the menu posted outside before you take a seat to see if it is worth wasting time with the impatient waiter while you scour and possibly translate the menu to ensure you don’t wind up with the pig’s foot (I actually sought it out).

Another reason to check the menu is many bistros seem to have few menu items that are not beef or fish. Chicken and lighter salads can be fairly hard to come by. I often found the duck to be a good choice. Thankfully, it’s always duck season in France.

Bouillon Chartier

One notable chain of Paris bistros is Bouillon Chartier. The original location served as a canteen for workers building the Metro a hundred years ago. Those roots are still evident today. Bouillon offers inexpensive, traditional fare. There are often lines out the door to grab a seat at a shared table. While the quality may not be as good as higher-priced bistros, there are still plenty of impatient waiters to go around.

Café du Commerce

Another century-old institution was just 2 blocks down our street, so we had to check it out. The Café du Commerce is well known for its traditional fare and beautiful, open inside seating area. I had been noticing pig’s foot on menus around town and finally took a chance on it. My waiter tried to talk me out of it, but I persisted. It was… an experience. One I don’t need to repeat.


Creperies are typically a hybrid between café and bistro. They were a good choice for lighter fare. Salads are typically available and they usually serve savory crepes (galettes) and sweet varieties, which have toppings ranging from butter or sugar up to rival a banana split. They also tend to be quick and inexpensive. A rare cheap, fast, and good find.

Exotic Fare

Being a world capital, Paris draws migrants from the four corners of the world. After French food, Italian is probably the next most common cuisine. Decent pizzas and pasta are available all over town, in case you get tired of duck (it happens). I even tried a type of pizza from Alsace, flammekuche – a thin pizza with crème fraiche. It was good, but not something I would go out of my way for again.

Although we never took one, there were a couple of dining tour buses we noticed going around town. The idea was you were served food at a table inside a bus driving all over town. This allows a busy traveler to multitask sightseeing with eating. We opted out because it was a bit pricey and we didn’t need to save time by eating while a guide discussed why the boulevards were so wide.

Our neighborhood sported many Asian restaurants: Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian. There were four Korean spots within two blocks. I chose one for dinner and was so pleased I went back twice. Their Korean fried chicken (KFC) was fabulous, as was the curry chicken. I would come back to this place for sure.

Crème de la Crème

Although there are many Michelin-starred restaurants in town, we found a couple of Michelin-rated places (just below a star) that we really enjoyed, so we didn’t feel the need to pay double for something more chic.

Our first finer dining spot was L’Antre Amis. We all preferred the food here. The stuffed shells, grilled salmon, and rabbit rouleaux were all very good. The fig carpaccio was a great way to end a nice meal. Next, we sampled Le CasseNoix. The place was charming and very French. We went with some friends and enjoyed pan-fried duck breast and pork belly ramen. Diana was cooing while she enjoyed her Ile Flottante which is a French meringue floating in crème anglaise.

Nearly at the end of our stay, we went to Arnaud Nicolas for lunch. For us, this was the real deal. The pate sampler, the braised endive, the roast cauliflower steak, and the smoked pork belly were all perfectly done. Their dessert specialty is Baba al Rhum, where they split the soft sponge cake at the table and liberally apply rum and crème anglaise, which is similar to whipped cream but a little more saucy. It was good, but we were a little heavy-handed on the rum. I recommend moderation here for the best experience. This is another place I will likely return to.


One must of course mention dessert, in which the French are second to none. Pictured below are some of the great desserts we enjoyed around town. Still, moderation is worthwhile. Resist the wafer-thin mint, even though it’s only wafer-thin. You’re welcome.


Special mention goes to Berthillon, a 70-year-old ice cream parlor on Ile Saint Louis, in the middle of the Seine. Their ice cream is wonderful and you can get it in numerous bistros and to-go spots around town, but consider going into the original. The room is a throwback to when gentile folks would enjoy a little refreshment in a beautiful parlor. The ambiance is sublime and the ice cream is worth a special trip.

On the whole, you can enjoy a world of cuisine in Paris without breaking the bank, so long as your world doesn’t include Mexico.

Which French foods appeal to you?

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