We just got back from Paris last night so I wanted to share thoughts on food out there. Thanks to all at Chowhound (as well as John Talbott and Paris by Mouth) for some great suggestions. We are a couple, late-30s, who were there for the first time and stayed in the Marais and tended to be within a 2-mile circle of that neighborhood.
- Arrived via Orly on the redeye. We were staying in a hotel off Rue de Poitou which is a charming, quiet area of the Upper Marais. Slightly groggy this day
- While we waited to check into the hotel, we went to Breizh Cafe around the corner. We thought the place was really cute and it was always packed. Our complete crepes using buckwheat were definitely more savoring that your basic crepe. Made friends with a few Parisian families around us. I'd give the food 8/10, and the charm 9/10.
- We walked that night SW of the hotel toward Spring restaurant near the Louvre. First we stopped for a drink en route on the rooftop of the Pompidou Museum. I knew this would be a wonderful view from reading in advance (which it was!) - what I didn't know what how glitzy the Pompidou would be. That scene felt like South Beach in a Parisian way. Reservations required to sit at a table.
- Got to Spring restaurant for dinner. The 5-course meal was 'very good', and included the best lobster bisque you'll ever have in your life and a solid pigeon. Wait staff there was cute and one of the friendliest you'll see. The food while good had a few boring appetizers, and the meal won't be one we'll remember for that long. I thought the price at 69 euros/per was fair. We'll give it 7.5/10 for the food, and 9/10 for the cute street and the wait staff. This was good but we wouldn't go again.
- This was our Versailles day.
- En route walking to the train, we stopped by 134 RDT for pastries. While there is a lot of good stuff here, we thought the plain almond croissant was the bomb. Unfriendly staff to Americans thought...oh well.
- Lunch was a picnic we brought from one of the gazillion epicieries from the Rue de Bretagne near our hotel. These all seemed the same to me. Overall, we didn't love the sandwiches we bought all trip, but we really liked the pates and rilletes in these stores - yum! Really nothing better in Paris than duck rilletes and a baguette for snack.
- Dinner at Restaurant AT that night. I know there are differing thoughts on this board about AT but we couldn't have been more moved and impressed by the food and the vision at this place. Food and restaurant both 9/10 in our books. The most beautiful dishes I have probably ever seen, and delicious! The 15 course prix fix was small dishes but stuffed us by the end. We capped the night with a glass of wine downstairs, and chatted with Tanaka. AT was probably a Top-15 restaurant of all time for us, and the best and most memorable food we had in Paris. Dinner at 89 euros/person seemed reasonable given the quality.
- This was our day to see the Louvre/Tuileries/Orsay/Luxemborg.
- We got more pastries on route at RDT. The pain au chocolat not as good - stick with the almond croissants!
- Grabbed lunch in the Quai D'Orsay restaurant on the top floor. While this food just 6/10, it was fresh salad and quiche, which tasted good after being pigs for two days. Also there didn't seem to be must better choices around there so you pay for location.
- Friday night was the 'screwup' of the trip. I had originally booked Chez Janou, but when we arrived we found that the restaurant would be closed for a week for unknown reasons. Fine. Speaking to an attractive French couple at a bar, they recommended Les Chouettes. I decided to risk it and go where locals pointed in a last minute call. Uh no. This place reminded me of Meatpacking District in NYC and didn't really fit into the Marais neighborhood. Food and scene just 6/10, although beautiful people abounded. I wish we could take that one back!
- This was our day to go to Sacre Coeur and see Montmartre. What a charming neighborhood! Reminds us of West Village crossed with Umbria. We spent hours just walking around here, and debated later if we liked this or Marais better for future trips.
- We got up early and hoofed it the Canal St Martin to "La Cages des Oiseaux" for breakfast. Cute spot in a grungy neighborhood filled with Brits. Food 6/10, scene 8/10.
- Lunch was a random place in Montmartre for croque madames. Food just OK but at that price level who's complaining? And we met a lot of nice locals with families around there
- Mary Celeste at 7:30 for pre-dinner drinks! Only 2 blocks from the hotel, this place was truly a find. Of all the dishes we had and plan to steal, the deviled eggs here are ridiculous. We had to leave at 9:30 and rued not going the prior night. The bar did have a few Brits/Americans though. Food was 8.5/10, scene was 8/5/10. If we come back to Paris definitely going here again.
- Pierre Sang Boyer at 9:30 at the Oberkampf. This was our second favorite meal of the trip, and we loved it all with one caveat. We sat at the bar, which I recommend. The energy of the place is like a wild punk foodie party. The 6-course dinner at 39/euros per was ridiculously underpriced. Our only caveat sitting at the bar is that we saw them slicing amazing-looking steak and John Dory just inches from our hands, but we didn't get those with our meal, and this wasn't well explained to us - we got chicken instead. If/when we come back, we'll have to choose the "Origin menu" and get the better meats!
- Woke up and walked around the Bastille Market.
- Had lunch at the Marche des Enfants Rouges, which was a lot of fun on a crowded and sunny Sunday. Lots of good stuff here but we tried the Moroccan couscous place which was delicious!
Overall a great trip to Paris for my first time, filled with happy memories. We found 99% of Parisians to be delightful. I can't wait to head back.