SF Bay Area
Food and drink that has us seeing gold
The Best ____ in Paris.
Frequently, I and others in the blogosphere are asked what is the best (bistro, boulangerie, vegetarian restaurant, etc.) in Paris. It takes some doing to be polite and indicate that no one of us has been to all 40,000 restaurants, far less every bakery in every neighborhood and that almost any good restaurant can whip up a vegetarian meal.
In addition, speaking of vegetarian places, it becomes difficult to answer requests that center on a search for the perfect table unknown to English-speaking tourists, beloved by the local French residents where one person can have steak/frites, another mussels/fries, a third gluten-free, and someone else vegetarian except on Fridays (I’m not making this up).
One thing that surprises me even to this day of flaming posts, rude internet behavior and clueless cyber etiquette, is how considerate and helpful the contributors to Chowhound France are. PS I had the misfortune to moderate another food website’s UK division and found its posters decidedly unpleasant if not downright hostile.
But getting back to my title; how does one discover Paris’ “best of?” Well, rather than ask a question right out of the blue, doing a search often yields tons of informed opinion from past years from a host of ex-pats, frequent visitors and even passionate once-a-year renters.
Digging just a layer deeper, one comes across the savvy of bloggers, websites and postings from the regular print media; granted some are in French and some require some reading between the lines, but unless reviewers use stars or numbers to rate places, don’t all of us have to seek the hidden swipes and bouquets?
Finally, there’s the level of intel known best by the intelligence community as humint; word of mouth tips, reports from friends and friends of friends and mentions of places heard frequently enough on social media or at cocktail parties as to warrant looking into.
No, no one has been to all 40,000 restaurants, bistros and brasseries in Paris, but there are ways of wending one’s way through the thicket – granted it may take some time, not providing an instantaneous answer to “where can I eat on a Sunday night in the 6th just after alighting from the TGV where I’ll be astonished and can brag about it to my food friends at home.” But if it isn’t fun time spent on looking for the next exciting meal, that meal probably will be a disappointment.
Header image courtesy of Jose deSousa via Flickr
John Talbott was surely born in France of a chef father and food critic mother but spirited away to a forced childhood in America where he learned to cook, write and eat. At 18, he returned for a summer and has been in love with France and Paris ever since. He began reviewing restaurants and privately compiling a list of favorites 25 years ago. Since 2004, he has been involved with web activities at eGullet, Chowhound and now John Talbott’s Paris. He eats out every day he is in France and tries to drag his incredibly understanding wife Colette, children and grandchildren as well as friends along with him.