Kathie Clark is back! This time, she lets us in on dining etiquette in Paris, yummy food options, and even gives us a quick French lesson.
6 Tips on Dining Right in Paris
Bonjour, again! In our look at travel to Paris, today we’re going to talk about food. Food and Paris go together like peanut butter and jelly – except imagine if they’d actually invented peanut butter and jelly. A ton of what we eat today (particularly fine dining) stems from techniques the French invented and perfected. The thing that scares many travelers about eating in France is they think it is expensive. The problem is, they’re looking at it like they’d be going to the best, four-star restaurants in their city every day for every single meal. While you certainly have the opportunity to walk those calories off in Paris, is this what you really want to do? As I talked about in our first blog about Paris, I strongly believe in trying to be as “local” as you can when traveling there. That, mes amis, means making friends with the brasserie.
Spend Your Days Dining at the Brasseries
Brasseries are what you think of naturally when you think of Paris. You just might not realize it. When you see pictures of people at quaint tables outside of a restaurant, that’s typically a brasserie. It’s kind of a restaurant/bar/patio combination. They are usually more casual in how you’d dress to go there, although many are beautiful inside and have white tablecloths like any upscale restaurant (this IS Paris, so if you want to wear a ball gown there, have at it!). They have a great menu of classics (which are always posted outside so you can see if it’s for you) and if you visit the same one frequently, you’ll be sure to pick up lots of great advice.
Choose Your Seat Wisely
There’s a secret we travelers don’t realize about brasseries – and no one would dare tell you while you’re there, but I will! There is tiered pricing. The patio is the most sought after space and therefore, prices are higher there. Next is the restaurant itself (inside). Last is the bar. This is particularly important for coffee – which is expensive and very small in size!
Be Patient with the Coffee
I happen to be that person who drinks coffee all day long. With the French Press largely recognized as one of the best brewing devices, I really expected the coffee to be great. Not so much. Not only that, but it’s exceptionally complicated to order. Here’s a good guide to help you order coffee. The easiest thing to do is to order a café crème /ka-fay krem/ – which is coffee with cream. You may have to say “avec sucre” /a-vek soo-krah/ – with sugar) or “avec sucret” /a-vek soo-kret/ – with artificial sweetener). For my next trip back, I intend on bringing something to heat up water with and my own French Press for my room.
Start by Ordering These Fan Favorites
Onto the food itself. Most menus have an English translation, which is very helpful because French is a very tricky language. I have found David Lebovitz to be an excellent source of information. David is a chef from San Francisco who moved to Paris some number of years ago. His cookbooks are hysterical as he alternates between a recipe and a story about getting acclimated to the city. Be sure to check out his blog post on ordering food.
My favorite food to order is a croque monsieur. It’s like an open faced ham and cheese sandwich, but with an amazing white sauce on it. Almost everything is served with a little salad. You don’t have a choice of dressing, but that’s okay. You will fall in love with the default mustard vinaigrette. Some brasseries even have more fancy and traditional dishes like Coq au Vin (chicken in wine). Let me tell you, I’m not a chicken eater, but I could eat Coq au Vin every day of my life! One of my favorite little finds was saucisse with aligot (sausage and mashed potatoes). The potatoes are very sticky and have cheese in them. Simply amazing.
Don’t Tip Like an American
You may have heard that it’s rude to tip in Paris and that is definitely true. Gratuity is included in their pricing already. If you received great service, you may tip a few euro (generally your change). Tipping 20% as we do in the States would be rude. They consider it their job to provide great service and tipping suggests otherwise.
You Can’t Rush a Good Dinner in Paris
Last, but not least, if you expect your bill to come right after dinner, this will usually not happen. You could sit there for hours. You must ask for it by saying, “l’addition sil vous plait” /lah di-sheon sill vu play/.
Don’t be afraid to try new cuisine while you’re in Paris. It’s all amazing and will change your outlook on food. Stay tuned for more insight into travel to Paris!