For the last 30 years The Food Lover's Guide to Paris has been the go-to food-related travel guide for anyone wanting to know more about navigating the Paris dining scene. The first edition, released in 1984 was a huge success and has been revised several times over the years. Much about the landscape of French cooking has changed since the 4th edition was released in 1999 and to mark the 30th anniversary of this guide Patricia Wells has written a much-needed update. Fortunately it was released just in time for the early planning stages of my trip and I found it an invaluable resource that helped me understand everything I could possibly want to know about dining in Paris.
Finding information in this book remarkably easy, the restaurants are divided into three main types:
- Restaurants, bistros, and brasseries (restaurants, bistrots, et brasseries)
- Cafés and casual bites (cafés et tables décontractés)
- Wine bars (bistros à vins)
They are further divided by arrondissements and price-range. Don't worry if you don't immediately understand what that means, as a first-time visitor to Paris I didn't understand that the city is divided up into 20 different districts, called arrondissements. This book is divided up the same way making it easy to find a restaurant in the arrondissement you're staying in or traveling to on a particular day. For each arrondissement you'll find several recommended restaurants with complete contact information, closest métro stop, hours, prices, atmosphere, and whether reservations are recommended or essential. I have noticed that the 13th arrondissement where we are staying is not particularly well represented in this book, which is a shame because we discovered several hidden gems during our visit.
Before reading this book there were a number of things I was unaware of, but most importantly was the fact many of the more upscale restaurants require reservations weeks, or often months in advance. Unlike restaurants in America where you can walk in and find a table after a bit of a wait, reservations are absolutely necessary and often-times need to be made months in advance if the location is particularly popular. If you don't speak French and are worried about this, don't be afraid to ask your concierge to help you secure a reservation or suggest a dining location for the evening. I've found their wealth of information to be incredibly helpful when I'm traveling to a foreign place and they're always more than happy to help any way they can.
If you aren't looking to dine in the more upscale restaurants and don't have your heart set on dining at a particular location, then you may not find the restaurant section of this book particularly helpful. Rather than making reservations each evening for dinner my husband and I opted to wander the streets near our hotel until we stumbled across something that jumped off the menu at us. Every restaurant we passed had a menu posted outside and we often stood there for awhile debating the various choices before stepping inside, or moving on. I think this method of choosing our dining locations worked well for us since we wanted a more relaxed trip and didn't want to keep rushing around to keep reservations. Because we didn't limit ourselves with a reservation made in advance we were better able to tailor our dining to our current moods. Some nights we opted for traditional French cuisine and other nights when we were more tired we enjoyed the more laid back mood of one of the many corner bistros. One night during our wanderings we discovered an upscale pizza parlor where we saw guests eating pizza with a knife and fork. The novelty of that immediately appealed to me, so we added the restaurant to our list of places we wanted to dine. I have to say, it was the best pizza I had eaten in a long time. If you are at all worried about dining in Paris, don't be, the selection is varied and you'll find something new every few feet as you wander along the streets.
While I didn't find the restaurant portion of the book as helpful, I did love the sections titled Where Am I, Anyway? and What To Expect at the Table. These sections gave me an excellent idea of what differences to expect when dining in Paris. The advice about paying the bill, tipping, and the use of credit cards were especially helpful to a first-time visitor of Paris. Dining in Paris is quite different than dining in America, you can expect to spend anywhere from 1 - 3 hours enjoying your meal. If you're in a hurry, you may want to opt to eat at a bistro or brasserie where the meals are more simple and take less time. We discovered early on that when it comes to dining in Paris it is best not to be in a hurry, service often moves slowly. I don't consider that a negative, just something different than I'm accustomed to. It does mean that you have more time to enjoy your food and the company of your dining companion. I never once felt rushed to complete my meal which is often the case when I'm dining back home.
Restaurants aren’t the only thing you’ll find listed in The Food Lover's Guide to Paris and I found the chapters dedicated to other food related specialties much more useful. You'll find chapters dedicated to:
- Markets (marchés)
- Bakeries (boulangeries)
- Cheese shops (fromageries)
- Chocolate shops (chocolateries)
- Pastry shops and ice cream (pâtisseries et glaces)
- Wine shops (caves à vins)
- Specialty food shops (specialtiés gastronomiques)
- Kitchen and tableware shops (pour la maison)
If you're unfamiliar with Paris and don't speak French, then arranging to travel abroad can be a rather daunting task. Even though I didn't find the entire book useful I still highly recommend picking up a copy so you can get the lay of the land before your travels. Make sure to check back next week for my list of must-see places during your visit to Paris. Until then come follow me on instagram for photos of some of the places I visited during my trip.
Where to Purchase
Amazon - The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris
This book was sent to me for review by Workman Publishing Company through NetGalley. As always, all opinions are my own.
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