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Top Tips For Eating Out In Paris

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People travel to Paris for a variety of different reasons, ranging from business trips to summer vacation.  Whatever the reason for making the trip, you will find your visit to the City of Light much more enjoyable if you take advantage of the many opportunities to dine on the fine French cuisine that hundreds of Parisian restaurants serve there.

By fine French cuisine, I don’t mean the standard steak-and-fries fare that one finds in the city’s myriad cafés.  Nor do I mean the exquisite haute cuisine that is served in expensive restaurants. To me, fine French cuisine can be found in mid-range restaurants where the price for a three-course meal varies from around 28€ to 35€, excluding beverage.

Thanks to the Internet, finding quality restaurants in this price range requires only a bit of research.  Determining which restaurants to choose from among the hundreds that you find there will be easier if you give some thought to the following suggestions.

How to Plan a Delightful Dining Experience for Your Next Trip to Paris

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Determine in which quarters you will spend most of your time while in Paris.  Do you plan just to hit the major sightseeing spots and then quickly move on to Belgium?  If so, this will limit your time in the areas in which you will find good restaurants.  It also increases the chances that you will fall into restaurants that cater mostly to the tourist trade…not always a great choice.  Many fine restaurants can be found off the tourist circuit and getting to them requires only a little extra effort.

Be prepared for a different dining experience

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Determine whether you are truly ready to try French cuisine.  Many travelers aren’t open to new dining experiences and abhor the idea of eating foreign food.  I once dined in a Parisian restaurant with an American woman who ordered a chicken dish baked in filo dough.  When it was served, she raised the plate high and studied the confection for the longest time.  Finally, she lowered the plate and, with what seemed to be great reluctance, began eating it.

Determine whether your budget can support a meal in a mid-price-range restaurant.  A price range of 28€ to 35€ translates into roughly $29.40 to $36.75 at today’s exchange rate.  Yes, this is expensive by American standards, but Paris is an expensive city.  If you don’t want to spend this much, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to find a fine-dining restaurant.  It only means that your search will be a bit more difficult.

Determine whether you want to order wine with your meal.  The French drink wine with their meal as a matter of course, but that doesn’t mean that you have to.  Ordering two glasses of wine will increase the bill by roughly 33% or more.  If you want to order wine with the meal, but don’t know much about French wines, ask the waiter to make a suggestion.  They are usually quite knowledgeable about wines and no, they won’t necessarily suggest the one with the highest price.

Travel, timing and talking – aspects of dining in Paris

Determine how far you are willing to travel from your hotel to get to the restaurant.  After a hard day of sightseeing or shopping, you generally return to your hotel and then prepare to go out for dinner.  How far are you willing to travel to get to the restaurant that was recommended by a friend or whose name you found on the Internet?  Use the Paris metro service Web site to learn precisely where the restaurant is located, the closest metro or bus stop, and the amount of time it will take to get there.

Determine whether you are willing to wait until 7:00 p.m. or later for dinner.  The French begin their evening meals later than Americans.  If you cannot tolerate the idea of waiting two more hours for your meal, you will limit your choice of fine restaurants.

Determine whether you can learn to enjoy a meal the way the French do.  The French enjoy conversation with their meal…lots of it.  They generally don’t rush to the next course or rush to get out of the restaurant.  They also enjoy the presentation of the dishes – the way the food is organized on the plate.  And they enjoy sipping wine with their meal and commenting on the aromas emanating from the glass.  If you are not open to new dining experiences, this will limit your appreciation of the meal.

Lunchtime menus are often cheaper than dinner menus

And finally, for delightful meals at upscale restaurants whose prices you generally can’t afford, take a close look at their fixed-price lunchtime menus.  My wife and I occasionally have lunch at the haute-cuisine restaurant La Truffière, where we enjoy exquisitely-prepared dishes and top-notch professional service at a price within our budget.

Bon appétit!

Tom Reeves gives gourmet walking tours of Paris and publishes a weekly restaurant review on his Web site Paris Insights.  He is also the author of a dining guide entitled Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light.  It can be purchased at the following link:  http://amzn.to/219LraJ

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