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La Caleche: Warning against Fondue Savoyarde !!
Before you order this much hyped local dish, note what it is exactly:
A bowl of melted cheese, accompanied by dry bread crumbs !!
22 Euro per person.
- no meat
- no vegetables
- no salad
- nothing else.
We sat 5 minutes waiting for the other fondue items to arrive, before realising this was it !!
The sauce is good, but without anything else it is like a nice pepper sauce, but no steak.
Order the raclette, is our best advice. It comes with side dishes.
La Caleche: Go here for a great meal and nice atmosphere
We originally went to another restaurant across the street, and were put on a waiting list. However, we decided to go somewhere else after observing the atmosphere a little closer. I wish I remembered the name of that restaurant! However, we were lucky to find La Caleche. The minute we walked in, we knew it was the place. The decor was interesting and the atmosphere warm. We were seated immediately, were served well, had a great meal with great service at decent prices...what more can one ask for? The menu is huge, so lots to choose from.
La Caleche: Very Good Traditional Food
La Caleche has some of the best fondue, raclette and other traditional dishes, but has a large menu with non-cheese items too (for those who are not fans of cheese). The restaurant prices are higher than some others in town, but the food will not disappoint. It is a popular restaurant and in the main tourist area, but is definitely not one of the downscale 'make a quick buck and sell overpriced so-so food' places at all. They are serious about the food quality and offer a choice of the very traditional such as raclette, or more creative twists on some of the traditional cooking like the scallops in a balsamic sauce.
The interior is very interesting - like walking into someone's antique collection including a full carriage (minus the horse) and other various large items, cockoo clocks, a huge collection of old copper kitchenware and even an old kitchen sink and iron bathtub (yes check this out on the way to the toilettes upstairs). It is a bit less twee in the 'caves' area downstairs, so if you don't like that sort of thing you can request a table below and admire the large wine collection at the same time too.
Often in high season they will have live traditional music one night a week (check the restaurant for postings).
The other bonus is that the restaurant is large (despite its small storefront) and seats over 300 so normally you can find a table here even in busy season after a short wait.
(PS - the english dictionaries I have seen list both fondu and fondue as the proper spelling of this dish -- I seem to use both variants in my pages as I can't make up my mind which I prefer).
Favorite Dish: Coquilles de Saint Jaques (scallops), and for my husband the Agneau (lamb). Lovely sauces, beautifully presented and very good.
Also the menus (fixed price with several dishes to choose from) are a good way to go for those on a budget as menus are priced reasonably - from €18.
La Cremerie du Glacier: Hidden local gem with Savoyarde comfort food
This restaurant has been run by the same local Argentiere family since 1926 and is steeped with regional history. (There are at least 2 completely independent and seperate restaurants called the 'Cremerie du Glacier' in the valley -- since both cheese and glaciers are quite common here -- this is the one in Argentiere)
Completely traditional Savoyarde 'comfort food' such as fondus, croutes, omlettes and gratins. Croutes are very fancy cheese-on-toast with wine and a sauce. Gratins are a mixture of potatoes, cheese and other ingredients baked in the oven. Farcon is a special dish and has to be ordered in advance and requires at least 5 people (long preparation time). Casual and cozy atmosphere.
Favorite Dish: Fondu with wild mushrooms or croutes with wild mushroom sauce. The owners choose the absolute best cheeses from the area, and best wild mushrooms (some picked by local mushroom hunters - and validated by experts before being sold - from the surrounding forest covered mountains).
Reservations definitely a must in high season as they fill up fast!
You can ski here from the Grandes Montets piste (on the way down look for the signs on the right of the piste in the woods).
Le Taverne de Chamouny: Good Traditional Savoyarde food plus variety
This is a 'touristy' restaurant in the center of town, yet has consistently very good food (unlike some of the other spots that cater to tourists!). It also has a variety of seafood available, and other regional dishes beyond the typical cheese and pork recipes (though they do also have pierrade, raclette, fondue etc.) Also specialties from Alsace (such as chacroute - saurkraut with various meats or fish).
The prices are definitely tourist prices (ie high!). The name is taken from the old-fashioned way to spell 'Chamonix' (you can see this spelling on old maps) -- so all the Parisians are entirely wrong when they say the name of Chamonix as 'Chamouneecks' - the 'x' is definitely not supposed to be pronounced!
Favorite Dish: Mussels either in curry or white wine sauce - are lovely and fragrant. Spicy fish soup served with cheese and mayonaise sauce and croutons on the side, or the hearty french onion soup are also very good (these filling 'entrees' can easily be your entire lunch).
We have not had a bad meal here yet. Also they serve a special 'game' menu in Fall hunting season (very very expensive). Fresh lobster also available (in tanks).
**Unfortunately I have to update this tip slightly. The food here is still very good, but I recently had a very bad waiter experience here - so I will amend my recommendation to say that the service can be uneven (it was very very slow to get waited on - we clearly had the worst waiter that day and were waited on after several tables who came in after us) and even rude (we got a rolling of the eyes while the waiter was waiting for a small child to order). There is just no excuse for that kind of attitude towards a child.
Le Bartavel: Good daily specials and pizza, fast service
A smaller restaurant, in summer with outdoor seating and in winter with 'apres ski' heaters set up outside. The daily set menu specials are often very very good and unusual. Otherwise, typical savoyarde food leaning towards an Italian influence such as pizza, pasta, cheese dishes.
Favorite Dish: Pizza here is very good.
It's a typical restaurant in haute savoie style...with a lovely wooden interior...dark...and with plenty of local specialities...which I would not call healthy. Then again, it was the traditional food of mountain farmers...whose work was really hard...and who needed a diet full of calories.
Favorite Dish: Raclette au feu de bois and local cold meats and sausages
Lena's Creperie: Delicious crepes - get a table by the window
An excellent small restaurant specializing in crepes. It's a perfect place to go if you're on a budget and there is a fantastic view of the river rushing by.
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This restaurant has the most amazing view of the Chamonix valley. The food is tasty and the main meals are good value.
Favorite Dish: Carbonara - I've never had the fried egg on top of a carbonara before.
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