The most formidable challenge in Parisian exploration may very well be deciding on a place to eat. It is a city known globally for its culinary prowess, after all, and its dispersion of restaurants, cafes, bistros and brasseries is truly daunting. So how do you settle on just one? This topic alone is worthy of its own literary canon, so to save time, we won’t try dissecting Paris’ 40,000 individual establishments here. Instead, we’ll focus on some simple things to know in order to navigate this prolific culinary cornucopia with some semblance of ease and confidence.
For starters, it’s good to make a distinction between dining in Paris and eating in Paris. Those looking to experience classic French dining are advised to bring an abundance of patience as well as an abundance of money, as meals are meant to be savored and Michelin rated restaurants can cost almost as much per person as a weekend getaway to the coast. They also need to be booked well in advance (we’re talking days, folks, not hours), and wardrobe propriety at such establishments is a must. If, however, you’re willing to sacrifice the frills and snobbery for a well-made, inexpensive meal on the go, there are a plethora of options available provided you know where and/or how to look.
Again, due to the fact that you can find great deals and great food in any of its 20 arrondissements, for the “where” we’ll refer you to both our selection of highlighted restaurants and our list of really helpful websites that specialize in getting you fed right in Paris. For the “how,” however, there are a few things you should know if you’re going to grab a meal on the fly. Firstly, just about every restaurant in the city will have its menu posted at the entrance, so before entering a place take a look from outside to see if it’s something you’re willing to pay for. Secondly, meals “du jour,” or set price meal combinations, are commonplace here, providing a significantly less expensive alternative to “a la carte” options. Thirdly, lower prices and more authentic meals are harder to find in the most touristy areas of the city, so be wary of finding “true” tastes of Paris around Champs-Elysees and the like. Happy hunting.