Trip Coach: June 17, 2008
Alexander Lobrano, author of "Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City's 102 Best Restaurants," answered your questions about dining in Paris.
Hamilton, N.J.: Alexander, my 17-year-old daughter and I are going to Paris July 3 through 9. It is our first time abroad. We are staying on Plaza de Madeline and are interested in any advice for reasonably priced and casual restaurants and/or cafes to eat both lunch and dinner. Our budget is limited, but we want to enjoy the 'real' Paris!
Alexander Lobrano: Even with the dollar in bad shape, it's still possible to eat extremely well in Paris for modest prices. A few general suggestions, and then some specific addresses.
All-Purpose Money-Saving Tips for Good Eating in Paris
1) Plan to have your main meal at noon when many restaurants offer extremely good-value prix-fixe lunch menus.
2) If breakfast isn't included in your hotel rate, head for a corner cafe instead of paying too much for a generally uninteresting hotel breakfast. Breakfast in a nice cafe can be a fun splurge, too—I love LaDuree on the rue Royale in the heart of Paris, for example, and also Angelina on the rue de Rivoli. Both serve breakfast.
3) Drink tap water. Bottled mineral water only boots up your bill, and soft drinks are expensive in restaurants. By French law, all restaurants are obliged to bring you a "carafe d'eau" if you ask for one.
4) Drink house wine. Since France is a major wine-producing country, even the less expensive wines are good. And happily, more and more restaurants are offering wine by the glass and the carafe as well as the bottle.
5) Picnic! Picnicing is a great way to save some money and also have the fun of visiting one of Paris's wonderful outdoor food markets. The Marche d'Aligre in the 12th arrondissement has great prices and is open everyday but Monday.
6) Go ethnic! Paris has two large Asian neighborhoods—Belleville in the 19th arrondissement and the 13th arrondissement behind the Place d'Italie. Both of them team with great value restaurants, including one of my favorites, Le Bambou, which serves delicious home-style Vietnamese cooking.
7) Get out of central Paris—the best good-value eating is found in the city's outlying residential neighborhoods.
Some of my favorite good-buy restaurants in Paris from my book Hungry for Paris:
Le Mesturet, 2nd arrondissement
Au Vieux Chene, 11th arrondissement
La Ferrandaise, 6th arrondissement
Le Petit Pontoise, 5th arrondissement
Have a wonderful time in Paris, and Bon Appetit! All best, Alec
Venice, Fla.: We will be in Paris from July 1 through 4, and will stay at Le Meridien Montparnasse. Are there any restaurants you would suggest in the area that are good and reasonably priced? Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer. Symphony
Alexander Lobrano: Montparnasse isnt great bargain hunting territory, but the following offer a good feed for a fair price:
Bistrot du Dome, rue Delambre, 14th, 01.43.35.32.20. This is the lower priced annex of the v. expensive Le Dome, one of the best fish restaurants in Paris. Fish is expensive everywhere, which makes the prices here relatively reasonable, especially in view of their excellent quality.
If you don't mind traveling a little further afield, the new Itineraires in the rue de Pontoise in the 5th arrondissement is excellent and a fair buz, as is L Epigramme in the 6th. Bon voyage.
St. Petersburg, Fla.: The D'Orsay used to have a wonderful luncheon buffet. Are there any other buffets in Paris?
Alexander Lobrano: The lunch buffet at the Musee was excellent and also rare, since the buffet format is not common in Paris aside from Asian restaurants and in some chain places. The phrase to look for if your hoping to come upon a buffet is, A Volonte, which roughly translates to help yourself.
Rockford, Ill.: My wife and I are going to Paris in October to celebrate our 6th anniversary, which falls on Sunday the 26th. We are renting an apartment near the Eiffel Tower. Since many restaurants are closed on Sunday, please suggest a restaurant for celebrating our anniversary. Also, would you recommend a day trip to Reims? My wife loves champagne. Thanks, Tom
Alexander Lobrano: Sunday is a difficult day in Paris, but two lovely places to celebrate an anniversary are Le Bristol, the superb restaurant at the Hotel Bristol and Les Ambassadeurs in the Hotel de Crillon.
Re Reims, yes, visiting the Champagne caves is interesting. Visit the website of the Reims tourist office, though, to get opening hours, which vary, and also dont miss the magnificent cathedral there. Monet painted its stained glass window many times.