“The sweetness and generosity and politeness and gentleness and humanity of the French had shown me how lovely life can be if one takes time to be friendly.” ~Julia Child
I knew I met ‘my people’ while visiting Paris. Welcoming and proud, with passion for food and art, a love of fashion, embracing life, Parisians embody the traits that whisper home.
I could go into great detail about the reflections of light on blush toned buildings that brought tears to my eyes, the ornate architecture or the vibration of the city. But, today I’m sharing a little bit about enjoying my favorite past time, eating.
Sitting down to dine in Paris is an experience. Whether you choose a modern stylish restaurant, bistro or a classic brasserie, once seated the table is yours. French culture emphasizes that a meal is never to be rushed, but fully savored and enjoyed. A principle I whole heartedly embrace.
A meal in France includes an entrée (starter), plat (main course), and dessert. I recommend ordering one item from each selection, with wine and cheese.
10 Tips for Dining in Paris
1. Friendly Greetings – When you enter a restaurant (or anywhere in Paris), always greet with “bonjour” or “bonsoir”. “Merci” (thank you) and s’il vous plaît (please) are a given for proper manners. Be polite, show respect for the beauty of the French language.
2. Try to Read the French Menu – Most restaurants will have an English version, but putting forth a little effort and asking for assistance goes a long way. Show respect for a new culture while expanding your language skills.
3. Order De l’eau plate – A carafe of still water placed on the table is both refreshing and affordable. It’s nice to refill your own glass without the constant interruption of pouring as seen in many American establishments.
4. Try a champagne aperitif – It is quite common to order a glass of champagne at the beginning of the meal.
5. Eat like a Parisian – Order what is offered on le menu or la carte. Do not ask for substitutions or changes to the dishes. Enjoy all the local ingredients, and full flavors the chef has so intricately prepared.
6. Ask for Wine Pairings – Often a sommelier is on staff to assist with selecting a suitable wine to compliment your dish of choice.
7. Don’t Eat with Your Hands- The French consider it very impolite to eat with your fingers. Use the cutlery provided to savor small bites of each dish slowly while you sip your wine. Yes, burger and frites are even eaten with a fork and knife.
8. Don’t ask for Ketchup! – Ok, this is also a rule in my home. Savor the flavors of the food that has been so thoughtfully prepared for you. If you must have a condiment, french whole grain mustard or mayo is less frowned upon.
9. Politely Request the Check – “L’addition, s’il vous plaît.” ( check please)
The bill will only be delivered to your table upon request it. Simply catch the eye of your serveur or serveuse and ask for the check.
10. Service and Tips – French waiters and waitresses are paid a living wage. Therefore, they do not work for tips. Most are servicing multiple tables at once and do not have time to dote on patrons. Tips are not required though leaving 5-10% extra for good service is appreciated. Enjoy the lack of interruptions and a slow dining experience.
Restaurant Recommendations in Paris
Wandering through the narrow streets of the arrondissements with a desire to fuel my hunger in local petit-déjeuner, déjeuner, and dîner resulted in several delightful choices. I must admit that my first bite of the croque forestier at Buvette, was so pleasurable that I treated myself twice more during my stay.
Buvette: “dedicated to the enjoyment of eating and drinking” – A wine bar, cafe, and restaurant opening early and closing late, is at the top of my list.
BREIZH Café : Buckwheat crepes filled with ham, cheese, caramelized onions and mushrooms. Visit for breakfast to reward a climb towards Montmartre and dine while watching the city buzz around you.
Le Pain Retrouve: A classic Boulangerie that draws you in with its aromas of overflowing shelves abundant in artisanal breads, pastries, and quiche.
Le Bon Georges : When I dream of a French Restaurant this is where I want to be. Tartare du Chef, Fromages du Moment, and Choux pistache-fraise all perfection.
La Maison Rose – Fresh, unique and delightfully French. A quintessential local restaurant in Montmartre whose take on flavors and presentation are surreal. Be sure to make a reservation.
Chez Guehu (et Niko) – Mussels with baguette for dinner followed by a rich tarte tatin in a bay window with dripping candles. Quite the romantic dinner with ton amour.
Stohrer – The oldest bakery in Paris, serving a pleasing Paris Brest.
Le Tablier Reims– A quick trip to Reims for cheeseburgers is a fabulous idea. Probably the best burger I’ve had the pleasure of consuming. A perfectly pink patty and a center filled with melted Chaource. Oh yeah, NO KETCHUP!!!
Loup Paris – Sit at an outdoor bistro table, enjoy escargot and frites while people watching.
Café de Flore– Bustling atmosphere full of fashionable patrons. Sip a café to channel your inspiration.
Marché Monge – Parisian market offering meats, seafood, cheeses, dried fruits, produce and fresh flowers. Located in the 5th arrondissement of the Latin Quarter near Notre Dame. I could spend hours sampling and discussing the food with each vendor of whom are all eager to share.
In Paris, you can purchase cheese from the fromagerie, a warm baguette from the boulangerie, charcuterie meat at the boucherie, and bottles of wine at a wine shop. Sourcing the best choices from each establishment then packing a picnic basket.
Parisians love to spend time at the park (parc) or garden (jardin), snacking on food, listening to music, and enjoying the company of friends. So why not join in the fun?
Might I suggest filling your picnic basket with a camembert layered with truffle, some prosciutto, a lovely red wine, and a rich pastry. Throw a blanket down in the grass in the picturesque Luxembourg Gardens. Or grab a chair in the Jardin de Tuileries next to a fountain watching the ducks play. Snack, sip, close your eyes, laugh and for a moment enjoy being a Parisian.