Aux Trois Petits Cochons, Ave Maria, Bouillon Chartier, Brasserie Julien, Breizh Café, Café de l'Industrie, Candelaria, Chez Louisette, Coffee, Dinner, Drinks, guinguette, L'Absinthe Café, L'Entrecôte, La Chaise au Plafond, La Crêperie de Bretonne, Lézard Café, Le Bistrot des Compères, Le Gai Moulin, Le Marsangy, Le Pré Verre, Le Relais de Venise, Le Relais de Venise - L'Entrecôte, Le Train Bleu, Les Enfants Perdus, Lunch, Marais, Marché aux Puces, Mariage Frères, Métropolitan, meals, Open Café, Pamela Popo, Pramil, Restaurant Hélène Darroze, Saint Paul, Tellus, Ze Restoo
Many Paris restaurants allow online booking on the TripAdvisor-owned website (and app) The Fork, and not infrequently substantial discounts will be offered there.
I had so many great meals in Paris the past few years that it’s difficult to select just a few restaurants to recommend. But here are some relatively inexpensive favorites:
- Niçoise salad at La Rotonde, 105, Bvd du Montparnasse.
- Dinner at gay-friendly Lézard Café, rue Tiquetonne, 2ème. Sadly, Le Loup Blanc closed in 2014.
- I particularly liked a neighborhood place near Arts et Metiers, l’Absinthe Café. The food is ordinary but the atmosphere feels very authentic. Update 2014: I was shocked to see an English menu including touristy items. I didn’t eat there but I’m afraid it may have gone over to the dark side.
- I loved Café de l’Industrie, near Bastille. Good food, charming atmosphere and Cambridge-y staff.
- Dinner at either of two places in the Marais will offer a très-gai clientele and ok food at reasonable prices: Ze Restoo or Le Gai Moulin.
- This restaurant in the Marais is a bit more expensive but probably worth it: La Chaise au Plafond. Same kitchen and menu as the pricier Les Philosophes next door.
- An authentic Breton meal of of gallette (salty) and crêpe (sweet) can be had for peanuts at La Crêperie de Bretonne on rue de Montparnasse. I also enjoyed the more expensive Breizh Café with Zhizhong in the Marais in 2014.
- Bouillon Chartier is a restaurant whose stated aim is “to satisfy the belly without hurting the wallet.” You’ll be seated with other patrons if it’s busy, and I’ve gotten into some interesting conversations there.
- Beyond touristy, but also strikingly authentic, is an old restaurant deep in the Marché aux Puces, Chez Louisette. The food is unpretentious and our waiter was downright surly. But the ambiance is gemütlichkeit, evocative of a riverfront guinguette, with a two-man band and a series of quite-good singers belting out French classics.
If you feel like spending a bit more — but not insanely much — here are a few fancier options. You will find more tourists here, but they are busy for a reason.
- Dinner at Aux Trois Petits Cochons (The Three Little Pigs), formerly on rue Tiquetonne in the 2ème, has now reopened near métro Abbesses in Montmartre. I had a good (if not great) meal in the new location and it gets nice reviews.
- Steak, any time of day, at Le Relais de Venise – L’Entrecôte at Porte Maillot.
- Le Marsangy was a charming neighborhood restaurant on Avenue Parmentier serving traditional cuisine. The service was impeccable: I had the impression that the entire operation was composed of the chef and the waiter, and that they had been doing this for a long, long time. I will not soon forget the millefeuille d’avocat aux écrevisses (photo). Unfortunately, it was sold in 2014 and under the new management it is no longer recommended.
- One of the marvelous restaurants that my friend Jacques introduced me is Brasserie Julien, in the 10ème just beyond Porte Saint-Martin. The room alone is worth the price!
- Mariage Frères in the Marais is 100% touristy, but also absolutely wonderful.
- Alexis introduced me to a good Provençal restaurant, Le Petit Niçois, in the 7ème (though on a subsequent visit in 2014 it was filled with tourists and the food seemed less distinctive), and to trendy Les Enfants Perdus in the 10ème, near Canal Saint-Martin.
- I had some fine meals in prior years at Le Pré Verre in the Latin Quarter. Update: In 2012 found the service brusque and sloppy, and it seemed that all the other diners had been referred by the Rough Guide (as I had been initially). Off my list.
- Jason and I had dinner in 2014 at Pramil, a restaurant in the Haut Marais that I found in the Michelin guide. The menu was terrific and we thought the food was excellent, and good value for money. The only odd thing is that all the other diners were rich American tourists. If strings of pearls don’t bother you, then you should give Pramil a try.
- Jaime and I enjoyed a dinner in 2014 at Métropolitan, in Saint-Paul. We had no reservations so we ate under a strict time limit, but nevertheless really enjoyed ourselves.
- I had a terrific meal with Jacques at Pamela Popo on rue François Miron in Saint-Paul in 2014. Food, service and ambiance were all excellent. Not cheap, but worth it.
For a special occasion, when cost is no object, I can suggest two restaurants where I’ve had extraordinary experiences:
- Quite possibly the most beautiful restaurant in Paris is Le Train Bleu, in the Gare de Lyon. Jacques took me there for my farewell dinner last year. The room is absolutely stunning, and the service was impeccable. The food was good, although in all honesty not as impressive as the rest of the experience. Here are all the photos: LeTrainBleu
- Both 2010 and 2011 I had lunch with friends at the Michelin one-star Restaurant Hélène Darroze. The food in both cases was truly spectacular. Our waiter was the same both times and he was superb. I had an odd feeling in 2011 that the assisting waiters were a bit abrupt, even surly. Taka and I ate dinner there in 2015 with his partner. I had booked a 65 euro prix fixe menu for the less-expensive downstairs dining room but it was full so we were bumped upstairs, for the same price! The entire experience there was wonderful — ambiance, food and service — right up to the end when there was a long wait for our dessert and again for our check. I’m sorry not to be able to give an unqualified recommendation, since the food itself was wonderful.
Coffee or drinks?
- My gay friends will inevitably find themselves meeting for drinks at L’Open Café, on rue des Archives in the Marais. It’s a wide-open place, friendly in the afternoon and jammed in the evening.
- My favorite gay bar in Paris is Le Duplex (not to be confused with the straight club near Etoile of the same name). It’s a neighborhood place at which you can meet someone and actually have a conversation. The crowd is on the mature side but the fulll age range is represented.
- A trendy restaurant near Canal Saint-Martin is Chez Prune. They require you to eat a meal during dining hours though, and the servers have a serious case of attitude. The last time I went they were positively rude, though I was wearing my ridiculous floppy hat so I may have deserved at least some of their scorn.
- La Gare at La Muette (16ème) is quite classy. I just have coffee there because the rest of the menu is quite expensive.
- Yet another good place for a later afternoon drink is Café Beaubourg, a stylish bar overlooking the plaza in front of the Pompidou Center (of all places!).
- Later on in the evening if you want to hang with the cool kids — and don’t mind paying $15 for a cocktail — check out the Experimental Cocktail Club in the 2ème (or several other places). It’s actually friendly! Update 2013: I gather that on weekends they now have a rule that men must be accompanied by women. I would like to think that this is to keep out rowdy straight guys but it has the effect of keeping out gays.
- Alexis introduced me to a similar cocktail bar in 2014: Candeleria. You enter through a tiny, garishly-lit taco place, then go through a door at the back (like an old-time speakeasy) to a large, classy bar. The cocktails are dauntingly complex, and pricey at 12-14 euros. But the overall experience is special. Reservations are recommended, but when Jaime and I were turned away we were redirected to the Mary Celeste, a few blocks away, whcih is similar.
- Almost as cool, and much cheaper, is Avé Maria in the 11ème. Can be a bit of attitude here, tho.
Suggestions from other sources, that I haven’t tried myself:
- New York Times piece from Jaffar: In Paris, Restos for Fashion’s Restless
- I ran across Abri at Paris by Mouth. Alexis and I almost walked by it because the space is a sandwich shop during the day. Worth a try sometime perhaps but the ambiance is fast food.
- Alexis suggested Albion.
- Elliot’s suggestions:
- Looks like I’ll have to come back to Paris!