Trip Coach: June 17, 2008

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Falls Church, Va.: Four days in Paris August 8-12 (bad idea, but unavoidable) before a Burgundy cruise. We're two 60ish repeat visitors, neither impecunious nor high rollers, French speakers, staying in the 5th. Ideas for non-Burgundian bistro dining, more among the French than among tourists? At what hour?

Alexander Lobrano: Three wonderful spots in the Latin Quarter for pennywise food lovers:

Le Petit Pontoise, 9 rue de Pontoise, 5th
Itineraires, NEW and also in the rue de Pontoise
Le Pre Verre, 8 rue Thenard, 5th

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New York, N.Y.: I know it's not the cuisine that Paris is famous for, but I love the city and I happen to be a vegetarian. Can you recommend any restaurants that are veggie friendly where I can have the Paris dining experience?

Alexander Lobrano: A few fun and festive veggie feasts in Paris:

Le Souffle, 36 rue Mont Thabor, 1st: Wonderful cheese souffles, heavenly dessert ones.

Le Jardinier, 3 rue Richer, 9th: The wonderful young chef at this sweet little bistro, a great buy for the money, always has some good vegetarian choices on his menu and is very vegetarian friendly.

La Bastide Odeon, 7 rue Corneille, 6th: This provencale and Mediterranean themed restaurant always has a couple of delicious vegetarian options.

You might also want to splurge on Paris's best cheese course, which is served at the Montparnasse 25 in the Le Meridien Montparnasse Hotel.

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Manchester, N.J.: Just back from super trip to Paris, taking my grandson for first time. I'm going back in late Fall. Of course, the prices and exchange rate are outrageous, but is was still wonderful. Visited Cafe Max, Ave Motte Piquet and found major changes. Max is no longer there. This small, very French restaurant still serves excellent food but the atmosphere of outstanding country style food and ambiance is no more. Can you suggest a place that retains its French flavor at a moderate price?

Alexander Lobrano: You might want to try Le Petit Pontoise, rue de Pontoise in the 5th arrondissement—wonderful cosy dining room, great food, fair prices, or La Ferrandaise, 8 rue de Vaugirard in the 6th arrondissement; it's very popular with book editors and French Senators at noon, and pennywise locals in the evening.

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Collegeville, Pa.: My partner and I will be in Paris for Valentine's Day weekend. We are looking for a nice place to have dinner on Valentine's Day without breaking the bank. Ideally, we would like something in a pretty area with maybe a decnet view. Any suggestions?

Alexander Lobrano: Valentine's Day is problematic in Paris, because so many restaurants impose a high-priced Valentine's Day menu. Places with views almost invariably go this route, too. So here are a couple of ideas for romantic spots that won't be total wallet-busters:

Josephine-Chez Dummonet, 117 rue du Cherche Midi, 6th: Just the kind of old-fashioned Paris bistro that's made for hand-holding on the Left Bank.

Mon Vieil Ami, 69 rue Saint Louis en l'Ile, 4th: Delicious modern French bistro cooking at this stylish place on the pretty Ile Saint Louis. Walk home afterwards along the banks of the Seine.

For both of these restaurants, I'd recommend booking at least a month in advance for a Valentine's Day reservation.

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Milwaukee, Wis.: Would you recommend a few restaurants in the Latin Quarter area? Thank you very much!

Alexander Lobrano: Here are several of my favorite Latin Quarter addresses:

Itineraires, rue de Pontoise, 5th—Talented young chef Sylvain Sendra has just moved to this pretty dining room from his tiny and very successful restaurant Le Temps au Temps in the 11th. Wonderful market-driven cooking, i.e. changes almost daily and follows the seasons.

Christophe, 8 rue Descartes, 5th—Simple little dining room that's an insider's favorite. Young chef Christophe Philippe is a talent to watch for dishes like his grilled duck breast with duck-stuffed ravioli and delicious lemon-cream millefeuille dessert.

Le Petit Pontoise, 9 rue de Pontoise, 5th—Friendly service, fair prices, delicious French bistro cooking.

Au Coin des Gourmet, 5 rue Dante, 5th—This tiny little Vietnamese place is a great bet when you want a meal off from French food; good buy, too.

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Laguna Hills, Calif.: My wife and I will be attending Sorbonne the entire month of July and would love to know some great places to eat or markets in the 5th arr. Also would love to know if you provide walking tours. Thank You!

Alexander Lobrano: The 5th arrondissement/Latin Quarter is a wonderfully gourmet part of Paris.

Visit the wonderful market in the Place Monge, 5th, on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 7am-2:30pm


Here are several of my favorite Latin Quarter addresses:

Itineraires, rue de Pontoise, 5th—Talented young chef Sylvain Sendra has just moved to this pretty dining room from his tiny and very successful restaurant Le Temps au Temps in the 11th. Wonderful market-driven cooking, i.e. changes almost daily and follows the seasons.

Christophe, 8 rue Descartes, 5th¿Simple little dining room that's an insider's favorite. Young chef Christophe Philippe is a talent to watch for dishes like his grilled duck breast with duck-stuffed ravioli and delicious lemon-cream millefeuille dessert.

Le Petit Pontoise, 9 rue de Pontoise, 5th—Friendly service, fair prices, delicious French bistro cooking.

Le Pre Verre, 8 rue Thenard, 5th—Inventive contemporary French bistro cooking.

Au Coin des Gourmets, 5 rue Dante, 5th—This tiny little Vietnamese place is a great bet when you want a meal off from French food; good buy, too.

I don't do walking tours, but I'm happy to recommend Rosa Jackson, a charming friend and colleague who does custom walking tours on food themes. You can contact her through her website: rosajackson.com.

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Heber City, Utah: We almost always order vin de table (or beer) to drink at dinner under the theory that the great wines have a global market, so they will cost as much in Paris as in New York (more in Utah) and that French jug wines--vin de table ou vin de maison--are so much better than USA jug wines that they aught to be drunk just to experience how good cheap wine can be. Is this a mistake?

Alexander Lobrano: No, not a mistake at all, but rather a very shrewd move. The house wines in France are almost always better than average and very fairly priced. And yes, indeed, they're times better than American jug wines because French law prohibits the use of a variety of additives that are common in American wine.

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Woodbridge, Va.: My friend and I are having lunch at the top of the Eiffel Tower this Thursday. I think the place is called Altitude 95 restaurant. It's a prix fixed lunch and credit card information was provided when the reservation was made. What is the tipping etiquette? Thanks!

Alexander Lobrano: I haven't been to Altitude 95 for a while but it is a good way to get at the Eiffel Tower view without spending a fortune. I also recently went to the restaurant at the top of the Tour Montparnasse, and if the view isn't quiet as good as that from the Eiffel Tower, it's still pretty spectacular and the prices at the restaurant Arc en Ciel are much lower than they are at the Jules Verne.

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Alexander Lobrano: Its been a pleasure to share some of my favorite restaurant addresses in Paris with such an enthusiastic bunch of gourmets and Paris lovers.

If you need more information on eating well in Paris during your next trip, please have a look at my recently published book, Hungry for Paris, The Ultimate Guide to the Citys 102 Best Restaurants, Random House, $16.

And do stop by my eating-in-Paris website of the same name, hungryforparis.com.

Au revoir, bon voyage and bon appetit! Alec Lobrano

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