Dining and Drinking, Paris
La Rotonde de la Muette
12, chaussée de la Muette, Paris 75016
Don't get sucked into eating at this restaurant in the 16th arrondissement just because it's convenient to the Marmottan! Although it's listed on one of my new favorite Paris websites, Philocafés, the food was just "okay" and I couldn't highly recommend it. I made the mistake of assuming this was like the historic café in Montparnasse, La Rotonde, which goes to show you where assumptions will take you.
I'm not one who expects to get chummy with her servers and expect an aloof yet professional staff but the personnel here was rather distant, both physically & personality-wise. Because it is near the Musée Marmottan, out in the 16th arrondissement so I thought it would be a safe bet, meaning out of the touristy sections, but I was wrong.
Out of three trips to Paris, this is only one of two places with which I've ever been dissatisfied.
For 31.50€ I had a Filet de "bœuf de Cantal" grillé (grilled fillet of beef from the Cantal region)(with frites) and a fromage blanc au miel (white cheese with honey) accompanied by a 1/2 carafe of the house wine. Not bad but for that price I've had better.
Photo Credit: Pages Jaunes
Unique Suggestions: Go to the Musée Marmottan. Too bad they don't have a café on-site like the Louvre, the d'Orsay or the Centre Pompidou.
Fun Alternatives: It seems like all the good restaurants in the 16th are north of Palais de Chaillot so if you find yourself in this area pick up a sandwich (and some macarons) at Boulangerie Paul, located at 44 rue l'Annonciation, about a block or 2 past La Muette Métro station.
Or if you're on your way to la Tour Eiffel after this little jaunt then go to one of my fave small not-well-known restos, Restaurant Chez Ribe at 15 avenue Suffren, 5 minutes south from La Tour.
Photo: August 2005
Ok..I have to admit....I was wondering what was so special about the "French Breakfast" that I saw advertised everywhere we went sooooo.....as a typical tourist (the first time I went to Paris was in 1999)(I have been to Paris 10 times since) I sat down at an eatery and ordered a "French Breakfast"....and boy will that be the last time I ask for the "French Breakfast"....for 20 Euros....you get a crossiant, butter, 3 ounces of hot chocolate, 3 ounces of orange juice and a small baguette bread !!!!!! I really thought the waiter was kidding when he told me that was it !!! ARE YOU KIDDING !!!!!! 20 Euro's.......the waiter probably laugh as I had the word tourist ALL over MY FACE !!!!!!!! Ignore all the signs and pick your self up 10 pastries and a gallon of Orange juice and have it on a sidewalk watching the world go by for 10 Euros !!!!!!! McDonald's is a lot better for 3 Euro's !!!!! and if you must have bacon, eggs, bread, the FULL AMERICAN version of breakfast..be ready to PAY thru the ROOF...going rate was 35 euro's for an American style breakfast !!!!!
It is more difficult to eat badly in Paris than in many cities, but there are places which look for a fast profit at the expense of the tourist who will never return. Avoid signs that say “Menu Touristique ” – they may be fine, but places that attract local people are far better.
Unique Suggestions: Most restaurants have several set menus (menu prix-fixe ), as well as à la carte , from which you order separate dishes. By law, menus must be displayed outside the restaurant. Set menus, which may include wine, are usually excellent value, the cheapest one often costs as cheap as €7.00.
The price of dining out in Paris can be astronomical : escargots, truffles and Fois gras don't come cheap in life.
Even the restaurants (such as the tons around the Latin quarter) which seemed to offer a reasonable 'fixed' price menu will inevitably find a legal way to 'bump up' the bill.
The price of drinks is the most obvious extra with a half-litre costing up to a 10 euro note, and a carafe of wine twice that. Restaurants also add 'service', 'cover charge', 'chefs booze fund' or 'tax' on as well - and you have little way of knowing if they are being reasonable. And that is all before they start sniffing for a tip.
Unique Suggestions: Read the menu carefully, and ask for prices that are not marked !
Fun Alternatives: Stick to take-away outfits, or eat in less touristy place. A chinese out at La Defense for example will be cheap in comparison, and without those dreaded 'extras.
Check your bill!!! Make sure that you know in advance what you need to pay.
During our 2-day stay in Paris, 4 times our bill was inaccurate. This made us feel like they were doing it on purpose. Is it because we were tourists or because we were a bigger group, I don't know, but I no longer trust the Parisians.
Every time, there was one item that was not correct. E.g. we ordered soup of the day, and they charged us fish soup, 1 EUR more, we ordered sandwich with cheese and were charged sandwich with tunna, 1,5 EUR more, steak and were charged another steak that, of course, costed more. Do you see the trick? Of course, every time, they apologized and told us it was a misunderstanding. After 4 times I no longer believed it. :-(
Please note that I only took a pic of this restaurant and did not go inside. They are probably not involved.
Walking in the Latin Qtr. you will definitely not miss Rue St. Severin and Rue de La Huchette off of Blvd. St. Michel. They are two of Paris' medieval streets, cobblestoned, tiny. But they are loaded not only with the typical TT (tourist traps) but also another kind of TT: Greek restaurants. The guys stand in the doorways beckoning passersby to eat at their restaurants. And if they are not eyecatching, then out come the dinner plates that they smash at their feet. Hopefully by doing this your attention is theirs. Mostly the food is overpriced and not of the greatest quality.
Cheapskatin' in Paris
Did you silently scream "quel horreur" when you saw the bill after downing a couple of drinks at a restaurant? Or get frustrated when you can't find affordable grub near the Eiffel Tower? Chances are, well, you just didn't find the right places to go. Or know the rules. Don't be put off- Paris can be affordable, and often in the most unexpected arrondissements. So stop trying to sweet-talk your way through with the waiter. Just take the bill, pay and don’t look back. Unless the waiter/waitress is breathtakingly cute and somehow asked you for your phone number.
Mind you, I'm no expert, but after living in Paris as a stagiare for almost 2 years and living on a pittance, one is bound to know a thing or two about hanging out in the city with 5 €(fine, make that 10) in your pocket.
Here's a few tips on how to live cheap (whether for a day, a week, or more) in Paris.
We all know how the French (and francophiles alike) are obsessed with their daily Joe. The rule of thumb is obviously trying out coffee in a Parisian cafe. The most important thing, however, is to know where you stand in a bar. If you are that short on cash and still want that Parisian-cafe-experience, drink your coffee au bar. Going straight up to where the bartender/barista/owner is and drinking your coffee there can save you anywhere between 50 cents to 2€. Often there are stools at the bar- and no Parisian dozes off into space at their coffee like people at Starbucks do, anyway. Stay more than 20 minutes at the bar and er…well, pay up is your option. Call me a know-it-all, but I'm the only person I know who's stayed more than 20 au bar (because I am terribly, terribly cheap).
Second thing to keep in mind: call. it. right. Ask for your coffee the way a Parisian would. I haven't seen anyone getting ripped off because of lacking access to this lexicon, but I have certainly seen the quality of their cafe decrease as a result (indicator: amount of chocolate sprinkle or whipped cream on a cafe viennois. Very scientific). Don't ask for an espresso unless you want to buy a Nescafe machine, for god's sake. That cup of magic black brew is a cafe. A macciato is a noisette. A latte is a creme. And cappucino is well, a cappucino. If you want a latte with lots of whipped cream on it? It's not creme avec...er, creme, but a cafe viennois. And a carafe (jug) or a verre d'eau should come for free with every coffee. You might need to ask for it, but every Parisian restaurant should serve tap water for FREE, coffee or no coffee with the order.
If grabbing a cafe and people-watch on a terrace in Saint Germain is your thing, be reminded that it IS an expensive area of Paris. If you insist on going to Les deux magots for your cup, a cappucino there is probably 5€. A salade probably at 15. So make sure you got bills in your pocket. Some restos (that’s right, they call ‘em resto!) don’t take credit card if your bill is too small. There are other options, too. Take a walk around the area. From the exit of metro Saint-Germain de Pres, Near the Cathedral and the rue de Rennes there are quite a few cute bars. Hop in during happy hour and you might be pleasantly surprised. The true finds, however, lies near the Academie Nationale de Medecine and the Ecole des beaux arts. You'll be happy to find a 1.2€ espresso ("Café") in the bar aux deux academie; or, a 1.50 € machiatto ("noisette") in a cute little bar on the corner of rue des beaux-arts. And there are few others like them, too. There's a secret joy to be surrounded by students and researchers from the ENA or the Academie while stealing a peek at the cute guy scribbling in his sketchbook on the stool next to you. Yes, I am that shallow.
And on your way to get there, don't forget to hop in Ladurée- the French landmark of dessert heaven. Go to this location to buy macaroons and you'll skip the line at their store on the Champs Elysée.
The best thing about hanging out in the Saint-Germain area, however, is having a picnic on the Pont des arts. A wooden bridge normally filled by young people and beer-sellers, it is the best place for a relaxing picnic, a read, or a short break- all for free- while enjoying a magnificent view over the Seine River and the Rive gauche of Paris. Keep in mind, however, that there are no supermarkets near the Pont des Arts, so go with a sandwich (better yet, bread and cheese and wine) to enjoy a lovely evening before ka-chingin' it in the Parisian night life.
Let’s continue with beer, grub, sandwiches, fromage and everything in between in our next encounter. Mais oui.
Make sure you are clear about how much food you want to order. We mostly had positive experiences with Parisian dining, but it seemed that some places deliberately brought us (and charged us for) more food than we wanted. For example, a pizza place near Montmartre brought two pizzas when we only ordered one, and the server insisted that we pay for both (When two pizzas for two people was a ridiculous amount of food!) Other places charged us for extra croissants we didn't order, etc. And if you forget to ask for a carafe of water (une carafe d'eau), expect to pay 3,50 Euros for a small bottle.
In the popular tourist areas (e.g. Next to Notre Dam) there will be busy and bustling coffee shops. We jumped off the metro and headed into one for a quick coffee before we visited Notre Dam.
On arrival the extremely over friendly waiter took our order for coffee. We told him we wanted two coffees. He reiterated to us - oui, two large coffees. we didn't click, he brought us two extremely large coffees (in a soup bowl sized cup) and an extremely large bill to accompany it.
Surely the biggest and most expensive coffee I've ever had...
Unique Suggestions: Watch out for the subtle supersizing!
Don't eat in the Saint Michel area, in the cluster of pedestrian streets around rue de la Huchette.
It is disgusting, dirty, overcrowded,and not so cheap. You can eat delicious French food and drink wine for very cheap in Paris.
Also avoid crepe stands near Brasseries in touristy places. The crepes are greasy, made with bad quality ingredients. Yuck!!!
Go to a proper crepe restaurant, with tables and chairs and everything. It is much much better, and not necessarly more expensive. Order cider with your crepes!
Unique Suggestions: If you feel like having a snack and it's 3 AM and you're drunk, it doesn't matter what you're eating anyway
Fun Alternatives: If you feel like having a snack and you're sober, go to a backery and order some pastry. Yumm!!
I try to avoid mediocre restaurants that cater to tourists, and I am sometimes skeptical if the menu is in English or if the place has a sign that advertises they speak English.
Unique Suggestions: Non... Not in Paris. Life is too short.
If you encounter one of the "trap" restaurants or cafes on the Champs Ellysees, Blvd. Montparnasse, Latin Quarter, or anywhere that advertises "loudly&proudly" in English,
more and more french restaurants are putting little lines in English on the cartes.
I personally hate it.
Fun Alternatives: Get a Marling Menu-Master for France. (I have three: one for France, 1 for Italy, and 1 for Germany.) These are useful little tools for reading menus in any language.
Then look for smaller places off the main streets that have a lot of locals eating there.
Your hotel conscierge should most certainly be able to help you find good local places to eat. With a little practice you will be able to use your menu-master to decode any menu in any language.
"Emince de Volaille?"
I'd love reheated slices of roast bird (probably chicken) in it's juice and mild sauce for $10. (menu-master pg. 69)
You can find a Marling Menu-Master for France at many places online, such as Amazon.com and others. Check it out here:
you can buy Marling here
My advice, for what it is worth:
Don't waste your valuable time and money on mediocre cuisine in tourist traps.
The second foto of a red Latin Quarter Menu is by Anthony Atkielski
I once sat with my friend at the cafe opposite to Moulin Rouge,he wanted beer so he ordered one and i didn't feel thirsty so i just sat.Minutes later,the waiter served me tab water with lemon sliced.Turns out they charge me at the same price as one pin of beer what my friend drank!! Jesus... I didn't order that god d*** tab water...
Unique Suggestions: If you really need to sit at the cafe with your friends so you must order something more classy than the t ab water :S
At the restaurant, the menu has a fixed price including the dishes and the tip but NOT the beverage. If you ask for water, the waiter will bring you a bottle of water (still or sparkling) which will be added to the bill.
2 sentences can help you to save some money :
1) 'Avec une carafe d'eau s'il vous plait' (with a carafe of water, please)
and when the waiter come back with the meal,
2) 'Excusez-moi, vous avez oublié la carafe d'eau' (I apologize, you forgot the carafe of water).
The 'carafe d'eau'' is free (the refill too) and they are reluctant to supply it.
Fun Alternatives: No. You cannot bring your own bottle of wine. Sorry.
My wife and I figured out one very important gem of information while eating across Paris - if it is withing viewing distance of a monument, museum or any kind of tourist attration- the food will suck and they will treat you like crap.
Everytime we went to grab a lunch next to where we visited, hungry and sore feet, we'd walk into a place and they would stick up upstairs with the other American tourists. Everytime! I mean downstairs was for locals and we'd get screwed with the new waiter or rude one and be in a back room. They really, really could give a crap about you. Plus is usually was 2 times as expensive.
Unique Suggestions: Just grab a glass of wine and an appetizer to hold you over until you can find somewhere good. Trust me.
Fun Alternatives: Have a snack in your bag or grab a lite bite and then walk another 4-5 block away from the attraction and you can find something so much better. This worked everytime - 4-5 blocks off the main strip there we all kinds of great places to eat who welcomed your business.
FYI this tip applies to Rome too.
In Paris restaurants must display their menu prices in the window or in easy view for the public. We found places that did not have their coffee prices listed would completely rip us off. At one place we paid 9.50 Euros for one coffee and one short black seated at the bar!
Unique Suggestions: Enjoy the coffee!