We are back from a wonderful trip to Paris. A huge thank you to all of the people on the board. I referred to your postings and other links extensively, especially the ones about kids! I also used Clotilde’s book and David Leibovitz’s website. I thought perhaps some of our experiences might help others planning a trip with children.
Some big summary points:
1. The service was so much nicer than I expected. Perhaps this was because we had the kids with us? The first evening we stopped at 2 bakeries and both surprised the kids with special ‘treats.' Yes, we bought a fair amount and it was close to closing. But what a wonderful surprise for us all. We got to try choquettes that way. It happened one other time in the food section of Galeries Lafayette when my 6 year old was eyeing the dolmades appreciatively. I speak some French but the kids don’t...but they had fun practicing their ‘bonjours’ and ‘mercis’.
2. I read in one of the guides about 8pm and 10pm seatings, and was worried about the kids eating that late. You can eat earlier! We stopped at Les Fontaines at 6:30 pm and they were empty on the dining side. We had a lovely 30 E set meal there. We ordered 2 and shared with our older son while our younger son slept on the banquette. (They had an offering for kids as well, but we didn't need that much food. They were fine with our sharing with him.) We also ate at 7pm at Lao Lane Xang when they opened.
3. Having an apartment is always key for our family. We never actually cooked anything, but were able to have simple breakfasts in the room. We also ate dinner/snacks made up of cheeses and breads, fruits and take-out salads.
4. We also took out to parks. Sandwiches in Place des Vosges for lunch was great! Some of the bakeries also had salads and prepared foods, so we were able to get some of our veggies in....
Some places that we got to try--by category:
Bakeries and other treats:
Gerard Mulot – we tried a lot of bakeries and they were all good but we think we could tell the difference between good and great by the end. I dream about having another pain au chocolat here—(and wonder about how much butter is in it!)
Pain et Sucre – the cassis marshmallow! The blood-orange tart was wonderful, but we would have appreciated it more sitting down somewhere leisurely.
Sadaharu Aoki – we got the matcha éclair at Galeries Lafayette. It was good, but wasn’t my husband’s favorite. We’ve spent a lot of time in Japan, and so perhaps the combinations weren’t quite as unusual for us...The cassis cake was yummy.
Berthillon – Fabulous! Expected to be a little under-whelmed, but we had to do it. The line moved quickly and the ice-cream flavors were fresh and rich! We tried grapefruit, agenaise, pistachio and melon.
L’as du Falafel: Messy, fun...and it was good that we got 3. My son’s had all the eggplant in it. Fortunately, he let me share. The guy working the line offered us falafel balls while we waited, tried to woo the customers from across the street, gave us directions to a park, got us extra napkins. He was back from vacation and having a good time at work!
Le Marche des Enfants Rouges: We had the Moroccan food here on a weekday evening and it was fine. But it wasn’t clear to me from the guidebooks that the market is mostly a weekend event. I’m a huge market lover and was trying to get in our market experience, and this didn’t feel like it since only half the place was open. It was enough to get us food and some fruit to take home, but I didn’t think it was worth walking for a mile in the rain with two kids.
Galeries Lafayette: This was great, because we could get a little of all of the big names all in one place! The anchovies from Mavrommatis were my favorite. But we also enjoyed Kayser’s bread, great cheeses and desserts.
Cojean: We were happy to find this in the basement of Printemps. My smoothie (10 pm on a summer’s eve) was amazing. How can a smoothie be extra good? I don’t know---perhaps I was just extra tired and thirsty. But I’d love to replicate Cojean in Seattle.
When the falafel places were closed for Passover, we found a crepe stand at the end of Rue de Rosiers next to the Kusmi tea shop. Fresh and good with several savory combinations for a light meal.
I wish we had done more of these. We didn’t intend to be on the go quite as much as we were. We were a little hesitant about having the kids sit for a long meal, but where we ate out they did fine.
Des Fontaines: It was on the way to somewhere we were walking in the Latin Quarter. The two of us got a set dinner and we shared with my 6 year old. We started there at 6:30 and the service was great. Of the things we tried, our favorites were a delicious volaille (chicken) with mushrooms and the dessert with swimming rhubarb. Overall a very nice meal for 30 euros each.
Lao Lane Xang: We eat a lot of Asian food at home, and wanted to explore Chinatown in Paris. The food on a trip to Laos close to 15 years ago was a highlight and we’re always hoping to find it again. I stopped by Lao Lane Xang (2) at 6:20 pm and they weren’t yet open. I made a reservation for 4. We tried out the pastry at the Asian bakery down the street which was fine, but couldn’t compete with what we get in the Pacific NW. On our way back, I discovered Lao Lane Xang across the street. The host there was dressed more casually. There were fewer tourists and more Asian people in the restaurant. When I asked, they said that they were the same restaurant. I walked across the street and asked them if it would be okay to go to the other side and they said sure. We had the rice-salad, a fish mousse, the Laotian combination special and sticky rice. It was all very good with the fish mousse being most unique for us. There was no dish that we would put on the must-have list, but we would definitely go back and sample the rest of the menu regularly if we could. Service was very friendly, and the price was very reasonable. (I'm curious if they are priced higher across the street.)
Café des Musees: This was right around the corner from where we stayed. We heard good things about it on our last day and so went there for the set lunch. The staff joked around with us and the boys. They smoke their own salmon and we ordered it for the boys and it was great. The fish in our lunches was a type we’ve never had before with tiny green bones. It wasn’t our favorite, but the first course with mushrooms and smoked meat was delicious and we were sated.
Leon de Bruxelles: My youngest son loves mussels and I’d been promising him moules in Paris. I scoured the board in the hope of finding a recommendation for our last night. While I thought I should be able to find them at a brasserie, every one that I looked at didn’t have them on the menu. We ended up getting home late and had given up on any sort of good meal. We got off at Bastille station and I promised to pick from 3 restaurants right outside hoping for something quick. When I walked around the corner and saw Leon, I figured we had to give it a try...(I was encouraged by John Talbott’s comments, too.) I’m glad we did. It was a totally different dining experience than anything else we’d had. It was a big chain with that kind of menu and that kind of service. It was fun in its own way. We ordered the mussels with the simplest preparations and enjoyed them. The frites weren’t great, so we didn’t eat many of them—but we didn’t notice much either. I’m really glad that we went.
Many thanks again for your advice!