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homard bleu / avocats

You’re probably thinking that I’m a little crazy saying that a meal that’s going to set you back a hundred bucks is a bon marché. I don’t know about you, but that’s not pocket change, even for a bon vivant like me.

merlan argenté rôti su la peau

The first time I went to a three-star restaurant in Paris was about six years ago. After my female friend and I got our menus (women don’t get menus with prices; high-end French restaurants are not always equal opportunity operations), she grabbed the menu out of my hand, allowing us equal opportunity to both almost pass out at the prices.

She was from New York City and to be honest, I don’t think Manhattan or San Francisco are considered cities for fine dining at bargain prices. The pre-fixe menu was €405. Per person. Good gosh, that’s a lot of money, especially if you add a bottle or two of wine to l’addition. I know there are a certain amount of people love to dine at that level and are happy to pay the price. And normally, I’m not one of them.


But sometimes one must eat their words and I did dine at a three-star restaurant and the roasted chicken for two, priced at €180, was so good, I thought I was going to pass out. And this time, not because of the check.

When you eat in one of these temples of haute cuisine, you’re not just paying for the chicken on the plate, but you’re paying for all the accoutrements that go along with it. One thing folks often use as a barometer for a “good” restaurant is how much food is on the plate, and that’s it. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they didn’t like a restaurant because they didn’t leave gut-bustingly full. In these types of places, you’re paying for the service, the location, the linens, and the seven people hovering nearby, making sure everything is a-okay. Heck, they’ll even take you to the bathroom, if you want. (I usually just have them point the way, then I take if from there.)

egg with lobster:asparagus emulsion

You likely aren’t racing to the phone to reserve a seat to eat a chicken that costs the equivalent of a couple of months of cell phone service. And you’re probably going to think I’m out of my mind for suggesting that on your next visit to Paris that you can have possibly have a similarly transcendent experience for a fraction of that cost. But many two- and three-star restaurants in Paris offer a special lunch menu that runs between €65-€80 per person, which is a great dining deal.

foie gras au natural en gelée à l'amande

A lot of folks come to Paris on a budget. That’s fine; there’s plenty of places you can eat well for less than half of that. (You could also drive a used car, or own a spiffy new one…it’s your choice. They both serve the same function.) And I was recently amused reading comments in an article about budget dining in Paris, where a reader suggested going out for Pho (Vietnamese soup) was a better for the author, whose suggestions ran in the vicinity of €15, to save a couple of bucks, which is ridiculous. I like Asian food myself, but that’s like going to Tokyo for a week and ordering a peanut butter sandwich because it’s a bit cheaper than a bowl of ramen from a noodle stand.

Doing the math, since in France tax and service are included (which is about 20% of the check) that meal is actually valued at €55*. If you went to an upscale restaurant in New York or San Francisco, you’d easily pay much more than that.

I checked dinner menus at two excellent restaurants, Craft in New York City and Boulevard in San Francisco, and main courses average $35-$39, and neither includes tax or tip, which brings them up to a similar price. And that’s only for one course.

white asparagus

Le Grand Véfour, Taillevent, Le Bristol, Les Ambassadeurs, Ledoyen, Pierre Gaignaire, and La Grande Cascade, where I recently enjoyed an outstanding meal (as shown in these photos), are some of the starred restaurants that offer special lunch menus.

Some critics say that the best way to experience these restaurants is to order the full-on menu dégustation, which can run upwards of €300 per person. That’s great. And if they feel that strongly about it, ask them if they’ll pick up your tab.

macaroni facis au céleri rave, foie gras, truffes noires

A tip: Normally they waiter will present the regular menu first, and then bring the supplemental one. If they don’t, just ask. Some, like Le Jules Verne, don’t offer special menus on weekends, or conditions may have changed. Check the websites or confirm when reserving to avoid surprises.

bread basket

The bread is usually house-baked and the butter is invariably equally amazing. I’ve had the best butter of my life in three-star restaurants, and one was kind enough to point me to a shop that carried the same one. That alone was worth the price of the meal.

chocolate tart with salted caramel ice cream

Don’t feel embarrassed; the waiters, the hosts, and rest of the staff couldn’t afford to normally eat there either. They would likely order the special menu themselves, and they’re not looking down on you.

Do be aware that extras, like a pre-lunch glass apéritif or adding the cheese course, can each add €20 or more to the tab. Those you might not want, but do order coffee, since it generally includes little treats, like macarons and other mingardise to send you off on a sweet note.

macarons, paris-brest, financiers

Of course, not everyone can or wants to spend that kind of money on a meal. It’s not Paris on $10 a Day. But for less than a hundred dollars—around what you’re pay for a visit to Disneyland Paris, you can have a sumptuous Parisian dining experience that will last for a full afternoon. And you’ll likely save a little extra by skipping dinner that night, too.

*Due to currency fluctuations, the exchange rates change. Restaurants in Paris, of course, set prices for local clientele. So for the sake of comparison, I used dollar and euros as a point of reference, even though they are not always equivalent.

Note: This post was prompted by a recent meal which was part of a special lunch designed to showcase the talents and menu of chef Frédéric Robert at La Grand Cascade, tucked away in the Bois de Boulogne, in Paris. The meal was complimentary and normally costs €65 without wine, €85 with two glasses of wine. The photos are taken of the food that was served at lunch, which changes daily.

The tubular pasta dish, shown in the post, Macaroni farcis au céleri rave, foie gras et truffes noires gratinés au parmesan was filled with celery root puree and foie gras, and perfumed with an entirely unreasonable amount of black truffles, and is the chef’s specialty, which wasn’t on the €65 pre-fixe menu that day. I don’t know if it makes it there, but the woman seated next to me offered me a bite, and it was one of the best things I ever ate.

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Paris Dining Archives


    • Mark

    All these restaurants sound amazing. I can imagine the kinds of things on these menues. I can’t wait to visit Paris again.

    • Hannah

    I think this is a wonderful post. Look, I’m a recent graduate who just spent four months travelling, and I didn’t do any restaurants like this. But I spent a lot of my money on food, because I was travelling for the experience, and I wanted to have Pierre Herme treats and proper cheeses be a part of my memories.

    Maybe next time, I’ll be able to stretch that desire to a 180 euro chicken… but I’ll have to find the job first! :P

    • lee

    A good meal can change your life. I was on business in NYC once, and had dinner in a French restaurant which was about three times as expensive than what I would normally pay for dinner out, and that was just the fixed price menu. The food really was amazingly good. The best part was the vegetables were ones I loathed but I had paid for them, and so I tried them anyway. The way they were prepared was delicious. It inspired me to try cooking in different styles at home. I now eat many more vegetables than I used to now that I am armed with the knowledge that they really can be tasty.

    Thank you for posting these recommendation. I have also had very expensive meals that were nothing at all special. I wish I were going to Paris so I could try them myself.

    • Simon Food Favourites

    looks and sounds wonderful. i’d pay that to try. i never know where to go for a nice 2-3 star meal in paris. the La Grand Cascade website on the other hand is soooo annoying. damn those over complicated flash websites which try and include all the bells and whistle. it’s so 5 years ago. :-)

    • Barbra

    Having just returned from NYC I can back up what you say about prices there — I experienced sticker shock repeatedly during that trip.

    And thanks for identifying that pasta — it looks amazing. But you forgot to mention Les Broches à l’Ancienne :)

    • David

    Simon: Many European websites have flash, or worse…annoyingly loud music when the page opens. I’ve told them repeatedly that nothing makes people click away faster than those things. Plus it makes it hard to link to their sites. But I do often link just because people can read menus and get the most up-to-date information from the sites.

    Barbra: Would love to try that rôtisserie, and am still trying to find the website that recommended it : 0

    Hannah: Well, the €180 chicken was pretty amazing, but for one-third of that, one can dine in similar splendor at lunch. Although I’ve had good, and just okay, meals at Le Grand Véfour, to be able to sit in that amazing room is an experience unto itself.

    (But it is also true that you can spend just a few euros on a macaron at Pierre Hermé or buy a wedge of cheese, and have a wonderful French culinary experience as well.)

    • Zia Elle

    Really a great dinner!!!

    I don’t like spend so much, but I’m sure you cannot have a very good dinner just for €10. And for sure a lot of restaurants ask too much for the kind of service they do. So a middle way may be the best.
    Nice pictures!

    • Guillaume

    I’m reading your blog since a long time and I love it because I love food like you and I’m French (not from Paris but I sincerely understand you).

    Great article, you are right, lunch meal are not so expensive for a divine food experience.

    Keep up the good work,

    • Marlene

    Years and years ago, many used to be shocked by the cost of eating in three-star restaurants and asked, “How do the French do that?” Well, the answer is not that often—these are reserved for special occasions or just once a year…

    Of course, since then, the rising euro has made even these expensive places even more extraordinarily tres cher. But, sometimes you just want to do it!

    In October, I had lunch at Pierre Gagnaire’s on rue Balzac. An amazing sublime experience! I ate there five years ago—and am now saving up for my third time, five years from now! To me, worth every bit of the cost. I would rather eat one grand, fabulous meal than twelve, twenty or so mediocre meals.

    David, you mentioned the breads. At Gagnaire it was truly the best bread I have ever had. Small baquettes with the most perfect crust and color, the interior tender and flavorful. The ends were lengthened and twisted (even longer and more extreme than the similar ones you show in the bread basket), there were chestnut-shaped breads made with chestnut flour and brioche like I’ve never tasted before. The presentation of the breads was a work of art in a ‘basket’ of silver rods that radiated from the center.

    • Amy

    No picture of the chicken????

    • Charlotte K

    Sounds and looks wonderful.

    But one of many memorable aspects of eating at Chez Panisse for me is how reasonably priced it was, particularly given its historic place in American cooking & food history. It continues to offer an amazing value, with both prix fixe & a la carte. (No affliation, I mention it because you worked there).

    • Caffettiera

    While I don’t mind driving an old car, so long as it is safe and brings me where I want to go (and I trade it happily for cycling, whenever is possible :) ), I am more than ready to splash out on food. In the end, food memories are among the happiest and most detailed ones for me, and I am more interested in visiting a grand restaurant than Eurodisney. Besides, I think that as much as we need to make proper nutrition accessible to everybody, we also need to keep cultivating l’art pour l’art and try and maintain islands of excellence.

    Thanks for the useful links, I’ll try one or two for sure next time I am in Paris. I have actually heard that there are many high class restuarants also in Germany, where I actually live – does anybody have any recommendations for one who makes good lunch deals in the Duesseldorf/Koeln area? Thanks!

    • Louise

    A word of caution.

    Last year my partner and I dined at Le Grand Vefour. We thought long and hard about which fine dining establishment to spend our hard earned cash in, and in the end decided on this grand old dame because of the history as much as the food. I made sure when booking that we confirmed the Prix Fixe option before hand. The cost was very reasonable, at least compared to a la carte and well, we still got to dine in this beautiful old restaurant, recently restored by the Louvre.

    The food was amazing if overly rich for normal tastes. Truffle, Foie gras, cream, butter, and an incredible cheese trolley…. but what else would you want? My partner overdid it on the cheese course and was nearly sick the next day when we visited a wonderful fromagerie in St Germain. But sorry I digress…

    At the end of the night, we got our bill, and surprise, surprise, it was a lot more than anticipated. When we inquired and reminded them we had the pixe prix, we were told that indeed we had not. All of a sudden there seemed to be a language barrier.

    In the end we paid our bill rather than spoil the night haggling over it. We were disappointed, but it was worth it I guess. It just would have been SO much better if it was more like the amount we had expected.

    • Beth

    Thanks for the tips David! I am beginning to plan a trip to Paris for this time next year, and I am scouring your website for tips.

    I also just ordered your newest cookbook, and I can’t wait for it to arrive!

    • craigkite

    “Paris on $10 a day.” I remember the books, and my first two visits using them. Lodging was dodgy, food was an adventure, and walking was cheaper than the Metro. Forty years later, and a meal for one that comes in around $10 is going to be very limited. Thanks for the reviews.

    • Ciaochowlinda

    You wouldn’t want to eat these way every day (well, maybe some would and maybe some with deep pockets and large stomachs could) but for a special occasion and a trip into what fine cuisine is like, it’s worth it to splurge once in a while. Best meals I ever ate were at Le Bernardin in NYC and at Hotel Meurice in Paris, where I felt like I was a guest at Versailles and they were worth every penny (or centime).

    • The Teacher Cooks

    What a great post about your dining experience. Dining at this expense is a treat for maybe once a year, but it is very worth it.

    • Joseph D’Antoni

    David, don’t forget l’arpege, which is 3* and ridiculously expensive for dinner, also has a lunch tasting for € 135.

    • Magda

    this sounds and looks so good! I believe it is worth spending this sort of amount of money, especially if you are visiting Paris, or any other amazing place, possibly once in your life. It is an experience you will remember for very long time. Some people spend so much money on shoes and it seems ok ;)
    and I thought a visit to London Indian restaurant that cost me around £60 was expensive, but they did not have a star :( food was very good though :)
    I would love to try it once.

    By the way, how much does a chef working for a good restaurant earns? I have no idea and would love to know.

    • Dan | thesamovar

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention what I think must be the best value 3* restaurant in Paris, L’Astrance. They have a 70 euro lunch menu, and it’s not at all a cut down version of their other menus, you get around 10-12 courses with it (although they call it the ‘3 course’ menu). The only difficulty is getting a table, you need to book a month in advance and they’re only open Tuesday-Friday (and they close often for holidays). Here’s a write-up of one of my trips there.

    • krysalia

    to have the best of both worlds (gastronomic experience AND being on a budget !), there is a very good deal to know : les restaurants d’application, training restaurants from the waiter’s and chef’s schools.

    Usually the meals have great quality and are pretty traditional (in a good way I mean), the service is pretty good too since all those students perfecting their techniques are working under the constant watch of their teachers. It’s really a bargain when you consider that the meal served usually costs 15 to 20€,while the same food and service would probably cost 60 to 80€ anywhere else (service included).
    There some écoles hôtelières (restaurant schools) everywhere in france, and I think anyone who loves french gastronomy and has a skinny wallet should give it a try :) .

    • Dani

    My husband and I went to the Ritz and had an exquisite meal that we had ¨bought¨at an auction fundraiser. We spent less than what the actual meal would have cost so that probably added to the enjoyment factor. But I tell you, aside from the incredible food, having 7 or 8 people fawn on you for the evening is something I got used to fast!!!

    • Anne

    Lunch is definitely the way to go — same great food, same terrific service, so much less expensive. Go with the set menu and enjoy. Plus what a wonderful way to while away the afternoon!

    • krysalia

    here’s some menu examples from th espthc, one of the paris schools (just the first result on google, I don’t know them nor any other paris schools, but it gives an idea of wht you can have for which price) :

    Lundi 26 avril 2010 17 €
    Ou Salade niçoise
    Dorade grillée, beurre blanc, gratin niçois
    Ou Lapin sauté Duroc
    Plateau de fromages
    Ou Dessert du jour

    Mardi 27 avril 2010 19.50 €
    Macédoine Mayonnaise
    Ou Saucisson en brioche
    Turbotin François 1er, pommes anglaises
    Ou Estouffade de boeuf Bourguignonne,
    carottes Vichy
    Plateau de fromages
    Bavarois rubanné
    Ou Cerise jubilée.

    • Diane@2stews

    As a flight attendant I “have” to dine out in Paris once a week, I prefer to keep the price at about 30-40 euro for a fixed price menu. There are many fine local and family run bistros that serve wonderful meals, and I have my list of regulars. These have been my favorites. I agree with you, why would I have Asian food when in Paris. Sometimes for a l treat I prefer to try something a little more special. Since I arrive in Paris in the morning and sleep through lunch, I haven’t been able to take advantage of the luncheon prices at the more high end establishments. Someday.

    My friends and I have had some of the same experiences as Louise in regards to the bill, but that is a rarity. Sometimes I have tried the older, tried and true restaurants and have found them to be uninspired and just resting on past laurels. Other times they have lived up to their reputation. Word of mouth is invaluable. Living in Paris helps with feeling the dining pulse, so thanks David for your thoughts on these restaurants. I’m going to start saving now for a visit to Le Grand Vefour!

    • David

    hi Dan: Yes, there are a number of starred restaurants in Paris that offer special lunch menus. As mentioned in the post, I was just listing some of them. L’Astrance has only 20 or so seats and is very difficult to get in to.

    Louise: That’s a shame. Normally restaurants at that level should, and do, make sure the customer is satisfied. But sorry to hear about what happened there. I did have some friends reserve at another place, only to find out that on weekends, there is no pre-fixe menu. In the end, the restaurant make them a special menu at that price.

    Marlene: I haven’t been to Pierre Gagnaire, but am looking forward to going…someday!

    • JB in San Diego

    Great post… I understand this was a special event – do you think you would take photos in a 3-star place if it wasn’t a showcase dinner? I know food bloggers in NYC snap photos in some of the fanciest places there, I’m just wondering if a fancy Parisian establishment would take kindly to that.

    • Kathleen is Cooking in Mexico

    I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to dine in Paris (the verb “to eat” seems too plebeian for such a location), but you have given me a window so that I can experience this vicariously — armchair dining, if you will. Until I get to Paris, I will better appreciate the fine dining available in Puerto Vallarta, where, believe it or not, you can spend the same amount of money for gorgeously prepared, European-influenced cuisine.

    Stellar photos, as always, David.

    • David

    JB: When I go out to eat, if I want to take a picture, I do it quickly and only do it if it won’t interrupt the flow of the meal or the other patrons experience. Restaurants, especially at this level, work very hard to make sure diners have a pleasant experience. Generally speaking, if you follow those rules and be discreet…you don’t have to hide, but no flashes or tripods…it’s ok. I have a small Lumix LX3 that slips in my pocket and is less-intrusive than my larger DSLR, which I often bring if I plan to snap photos. (More about what photo equipment I use: My Food Photography Gear.)

    kathleen: I love Mexican food and you’re fortunate to live in a place where the food, and cost of living, is much less. I also think that one can dine just as well on a $5 burrito or plate of tacos, as one can dine in a 3-star restaurant. As long as it makes you happy and tastes good, that’s what is important.

    • J2Kfm

    That’s a rather tongue-in-cheek post, yet worked on many levels. For one, I can not imagine enjoying my meal when hundreds of dollars went into some random spiffy molecular (whoops) unrecognizable items.

    • Sharon

    We love eating lunch at higher end restaurants when we travel. You get to experience the ambiance, cuisine and service for much less money. Thanks for the tips! Someday I will make it back to Paris!

    • Roberto N.

    Back when I was at the Vernet we used to have a sweet lunch deal too. Don’t know if Chef Briffard is doins as well at Le Cinq. Best one I had, however, was at Violon d’Ingres, Loads of truffles for a 45 Euro menu.

    • Bonnie

    Believe it or not, my friends were part of the Pho crowd when they went to Paris. Paris! of all places to eat Vietnamese noodle soup, of course they also mentioned afterwards that it wasn’t exactly the best noodle soup they’ve ever had, if you know what I mean. We decided on the other hand to go try a true Parisian restaurant and was much more satisfied at the end of the night.

    • Jenny

    Great post. Very informative. When we were there last Christmas, we had meals at 2-3 star restaurants, bistros as well as Pho! You’re right in that when you pay north of Euro 400 per meal, it’s not just all about the food but the whole dining experience! We had a most memorable meal at L’Arpége, one of the most expensive meals we’ve ever had but well worth it. I’ll be going back to Paris this summer and as much as I want to, I’m sure I won’t be having daily meals at those fancy restaurants. What’s a realistic amount that you’d need a day – b’fast, lunch and dinner? Nothing overly fancy but still provides the beautiful taste of Paris. Merci.

    • Cyndy

    David, when I tried your butter link, (“same one”) that supposedly went to the kind of butter you like best, it went to the same page as the “macaron” link. But I couldn’t find a reference to butter there. I think I’ve read about what butter you like, but could you please name the butter or point us to the link where you talked about it? Or tell me what the heck I’m doing wrong?! I could be staring right at it and not seeing it. Thanks!

    The links got crossed but they’re fixed now. btw: I’ve gone back and forth on butter, and am now in the Bordier camp. But things can change any minute… -dl

    • Jane in Denmark

    Thanks for an intriguing post. I’d gladly pay 80 euros for a fine dining experience. That is indeed a bargain.

    Krysalia – what a great tip. We have eaten at a training restaurant in Vermont, and the food was fabulous. I never thought of trying it in France. That is an adventure to look forward to on our next trip.

    • The French

    Love this post, David. I think for many people, spending this kind of $ seems like a waste, because there’s nothing to take home, nothing to show for it. Perhaps that’s an American thing. We’d rather eat crap on the cheap and then buy an X-Box. There was a time when about 40% of our budget was spent on food, but over time that has dwindled. I do think it’s changing though. Slowly but surely. Why I love this post is that it’s a great reminder that food isn’t just about filling our bellies and moving on to the next moment, but it’s about an experience, one we may remember for a long time. Unfortunately when I was in Paris, I was on $30 a day and ate cheese sandwiches and drank cheap wine…which actually wasn’t that bad! When I go again, I plan on eating less expensive most of the time and then splurging on one rockin’ meal. Thanks for posting:)

    • Sasha

    Oh David, every time I read your blog I tell myself that I wish I had known about it when I went to Paris a few years ago. Well, maybe someday I’ll get to go again and try your wonderful recommendations.

    • Pam

    lunch is so perfect for a fabulous meal…after which you can self-righteously walk it off a bit and still sleep well that night. have been providing a link to your blog to all the folks who stay in our Paris apartment…and recommending “The Sweet Life in Paris” as required reading ahead of time. thanks.

    • Marie

    Thanks so much for this post, David! I saw the pics when you put them in the Flickr stream, but couldn’t remember the restaurant. We’ll be there next Tuesday (as long as the volcano doesn’t ruin things) and might make this our special treat for this trip.

    Keep the good stuff coming!

    • Corine


    I just started reading your book and was thrilled to come across your blog. I love food myself. I attended culinary school but had to stop for my kids. I intend on going back and experiencing Paris myself :) The dishes in this posted are mouthwatering. The most expensive lunch I ever ate was at The French Laundry. I read a book on chef Thomas Keller and had to have his food. I was more entranced with his methodology of cooking and philosophy about the ingredients he uses. Nothing beats the service in a place like that. We had 8 waiters for our one table of 4 and they danced around us for 4 hours….magnificent!

    When I go to Paris I definitely would love to have at least 1 fine dining experience. Thanks for the insight and recommendations. I will be visiting your blog often and cannot wait to finish reading The Sweet Life in Paris :)

    • Amy

    My husband and I took advantage of the prix fixe lunch at Le Grand Vefour last October and it was the most memorable meal we’ve ever had. We started with glasses of Taittinger champagne and after a dizzying array of dishes (the dessert course(s) alone were worth the visit), we ended with le cafe. After 3.5 hours, we stumbled out of the restaurant and recuperated in the Palais-Royal gardens. I still can’t believe the relative bargain of the lunch menu. Thank you for bringing this to your readers’ attention, David!

    • Jenny

    wow — $550. per person for dinner or $1100. for two — that’s a monthly payment for a small house!

    • tobias cooks!

    great info. thank you so much for the links and descriptions. the photos you took are fabulous.

    • Will

    Were the mouth-watering photos for this post taken with your Lumix LX3?
    I’m normally a cheapskate when dining out at home, and will usually order one of the cheaper entrees, but when I’m in France (and notably Paris) I don’t mind spending more than my usual on a meal. It’s part of the experience, and let’s face it, few cultures are as dedicated to an incredible meal as the French.

    • Rosanna

    What a fabulous treat to have lunch at one of these establishments! I love finding out the little secrets and even though I travel on a budget, am going to splurge on a great lunch the next time I’m in Paris;)

    • Jasmine

    Great post! Would love to try out your recommendations if not for the kid in tow. What’s the policy on kids in fine dining establishments in Paris?

    Though we once did bring the kid with us for a 3 hr experience in Manresa in California. The kid had a great kiddie meal of amuse bouches, Parmesan pasta and dessert sampler for the bargain price of $20!

    • Barbara

    My daughter lived in Paris for 7 years in the early 90’s so I got to know it very well. I’m sure there are bad meals in Paris, but I never had one. I loved the city AND the food. Your photos are lovely…the bread basket it something to swoon over and I know what you mean about the butter.
    My daughter’s favorite restaurant was Chez Georges. I brought my granddaughter over last year and we went there once again. Lovely.

    • Kathy

    OMG! Fabulous photos! But, no descriptions under each pic! I wanted to know what each dish was….. I leave for Paris in June for 6 months. I am very excited! I shall definitely try some of these restaurants for lunch. What do you think about their attitude about serving a woman alone? Would they be nice? Will it be hideously awkward? Because I will be alone much of the time, and the times I am not, I am not at all sure I will be with people willing to spend their last euro on the ambrosial pleasures of fabulous foods…..While I could die for the opportunity. I would rather see and taste wonderful foods than just about anything. Those photos just made my little heart race! Thanks, David… Any input would be helpful…

    • Christina Brandon

    Your new cookbook finally arrived today and it immediately fell open to Coconut and Tropical Fruit Trifle..Oh be still my heart! Unfortunately I do not live in a large metropolitan area where good fresh mangoes are readily available. Would it be possible to use the mangoes that come in a jar and should they be heated? I realize that the real flavor is lost in the bottling process but there are times when one has to substitute or should I simply use another fruit like peaches? Reading ” Ready for Dessert” has me seriously contemplating making desserts …something that I just stopped doing when I went back to work and the children flew away.. Everything sounds fabulous. I cannot wait to make the pear tart…one of my favorite things and something very much like a torte my mother used to make….There are so many good things in there..Thank you..

    • Frank

    I greatly enjoy reading your blog and have a few of your books. My partner and I brought my father-in-law from NYC to Paris about 1 1/2 years ago to visit with his cousins (who are Parisian). We had an outstanding lunch at Jules Verne (and I discretely photographed the entire meal). We chose to have lunch there not just because of it being less expensive than dinner. Eating on the 2nd level of the Eiffel Tower during the day comes with a spectacular view of the city.

    Quick question:
    What did you mean by your tip “Normally they waiter will present the regular menu first, and then bring the supplemental one.” What is the difference between the regular menu and the supplemental one. Is the regular menu the menu dégustation?


    P.S., a few years ago we met our French cousins at Vandermeersch Patisserie
    to sample the luscious Tarte Griotte after I saw the photo on your blog. Thanks for the tip!!

    • MaggieB

    The dining experience, along with your pictures, certainly make the whole dinner appear to be an affair to remember! I just don’t know that I could really enjoy the meal knowing what it costs! This American loves to eat her way through Italy, and have done just that a couple times. I guess I will have to start saving more before a trip to Paris!

    Thanks for a peek into your world,

    • ben wolfson

    They both serve the same function.) And I was recently amused reading comments in an article about budget dining in Paris, where a reader suggested going out for Pho (Vietnamese soup) was a better for the author, whose suggestions ran in the vicinity of €15, to save a couple of bucks, which is ridiculous. I like Asian food myself, but that’s like going to Tokyo for a week and ordering a peanut butter sandwich because it’s a bit cheaper than a bowl of ramen from a noodle stand.

    After all, what connection is there between France and Vietnam?

    • David

    Will: No, I used my Canon Rebel for these shots. Some people like their Lumix but I find the quality of the photos not as good as my DSLR. btw: If you click on the photos, on my Flickr page, under ‘Additional Properties’, you can see what camera was used, as well as other details about the pic.

    ben: Even though pho is actually a derivation of pot au feu, and I like bahn mi a lot, I’d still say a French baguette is better than the Vietnamese ones they use for those sandwiches. Since there are lots of very good Asian restaurants in the states (authentic Asian places are just starting to be more widespread in Paris), I generally advise folks to stick with French food while here. Although the lines at McDonald’s means that folks still miss that taste of home, or elsewhere, I guess.

    Frank: I love Vandermeersch! Too bad it’s so out on the fringes of the city. Often in 3-star places they will have you the grand menu, out of politesse, then bring over the smaller special pre-fixe lunch menu a moment or so later. Or they’re just trying to see you sweat ; )

    Kathy: Most of these restaurants would treat a single diner just as well, if not better, than a larger group, as they are well-trained and well-schooled on proper etiquette. Of course, everyone’s experience varies, but it should not be a problem. Alex Lobrano, in his fantastic book, Hungry for Paris, has advice for single diners and says that one should order an apéritif, which signals to the staff that you’re a serious diner.

    Jenny: Yes…and I’d have to say, at that restaurant (which shall remain nameless), it wasn’t quite worth it.

    • Priscilla

    Your photos are divine. My husband travels to Paris quite often and soon I’ll be able to accompany him! Can’t wait to try Le Grand Vefour and/or your other recommendations. Thanks so much for your wonderful insights.

    • Accidental Parisian

    Lovely photos. Like most things in France, it’s all about the “rapport qualite-prix”. You can get very good value for money dining in Paris, but you can’t often get good quality cheap. There are a lot of places serving really good food for 30-35 euro for three courses – and for both the quality and quantity of the food, combined with the overall experience, this is often very good value. But there are relatively few places serving good meals for 15 euro and people eating in the cheaper restaurants aimed at tourists are often ripped off.

    (I’m always harping on about this, but I find the same is true of other consumables – I’ve been trying to buy shoes in Paris and the ones at 70 euro are really poor quality, but if I go up to 115 euro I can get something very nice. But, hello! Where is Marshall’s when you need it, yo?)

    If you want to eat well on a budget, it is not about having lots of meals in cheap restaurants, but altenating – a picnic from a market followed by a good dinner out, a nice restaurant for a big lunch followed by a creperie for dinner or a snack from a boulangerie.

    • La Mom

    This is making me hungry – must book a table for lunch at Taillevent!

    Back when La Mom was La Single Girl, a family friend took me out for dinner at La Tour d’Argent. Naturally I didn’t get the menu with prices and I shudder to think at what that meal must have cost.

    One of the most memorable experiences was checking out the wine list. It was as big and thick as the Book of Kells!

    La Mom
    An American Mom in Paris

    • Karin (an alien parisienne)

    “As long as it makes you happy and tastes good, that’s what is important.”

    Here, here. What I love about this post is that it acknowledges the balance of getting one thing for another — you bring up such a good point here:

    “Of course, not everyone can or wants to spend that kind of money on a meal. It’s not Paris on $10 a Day. But for less than a hundred dollars—around what you’re pay for a visit to Disneyland Paris, you can have a sumptuous Parisian dining experience that will last for a full afternoon.”

    It is all about priorities, isn’t it. I really like the balance with which you approached this post — not dissing either the gourmet aspect of fine dining nor the budget aspect of travel. This post is so pragmatic, and makes me love you all the more. :) Good job. :D

    • john

    The pictures are terrific, and point to what really is the beauty of your site David. How best to experience dining in Paris, at home or out: celery root in your own kitchen with as complex a mayo as you like; wondering down Rue Montorgueil with all it offers, sweet/salty (or in hunks); and the luxe of a meal, fixed price or regular, at a famous restaurant. This array of choice is the wonder of Paris, makes living there a joy. You capture it all and makes wondering down, what for me is a Rue Nostalgie, so great.
    Good to hear Cascade is more than a view from the terrace…during the 80’s it wasn’t much, only a place to pause walking away from Bagatelle….

    • Jake Dear

    Bonjour David,

    Nice post. We usually avoid the starred restaurants, but we recently had the “simple”(!) lunch menu at one of the places you list, Ledoyen. (88 Euros per person, pas mal.) It was a magical and memorable experience.

    PS: We’ve enjoyed your “The Sweet Life in Paris,” and are now working our way through your book “The Perfect Scoop.”


    • kenny

    Food looks devine but is it worth the price? yes it probably is! Love to visit Paris one day just for the food. Great blog.

    • clbtx

    Jenny ~ I’ve been working in Paris for the past 5 months (consulting project for my company – I know, don’t hate!) , and you can get some very tasty and economical meals. If you go to a patisserie for breakfast, you can get a pastry for about 2-3 euros. Many places have lunch menus between 10-20 euros where you get 2 courses and a drink. And for dinner, there are plenty of nice places with prix fixe menus in the 25-40 euro range, sans wine. It’s not cheap, as nothing is cheap in Paris, but you can certainly eat well for a reasonable price. Hope you have a great trip to Paris this summer!

    • Karen@Mignardise

    Thank you for using the word “mignardise” in a sentence!

    • David

    clbtx: Yes, you can actually eat very reasonably in Paris. But more and more, you need to know where to go. The regular cafés and ordinary restaurants aren’t always reliably good anymore. But there’s plenty of places with €30 pre-fixe menus, and carafes of wine, that are quite good.

    Jake Dear: So glad you liked the book! : )
    I’ve always wanted to eat at Ledoyen and I guess I should just reserve and go. I hear it’s wonderful, from you and others..

    • Heidi

    David – I heard you on Martha Stewart XM radio yesterday – it was great to hear your voice! And I sat in the parking lot until you finished the piece. Sadly, I missed the recipe for pots de creme, but was happy to find it in one of the links you sent in your newsletter.

    And you saying “I’m just going to cut off a big lob of this butter” with the accompanying video – omg the BEST food porn! I think I watched that shot like 3 times. That butter looks amazing.

    • Picnics and Peonies

    I’ve never commented before on your amazing blog, but as I am coming back to Paris this summer with my boyfriend, this post caught my eye and I had to say something!
    We often choose to spend our money on food instead of other things, so I can relate to what you’re saying about high-priced meals. That being said, we may indulge in one extravagant meal over the 4 days we’re in Paris, and the rest of the time, seek out more reasonably-priced but hopefully still delicious meals. I’ve bookmarked all of your posts about Paris restaurants, but was wondering if you could recommend a specific source or book (Clotilde’s maybe) that has restaurants by arrondissement? (We’re staying in Montmartre).
    Thank you ever so much; your blog always delights and puts a smile on my face :)

    • Nari

    David, what a fun article!! I am drooling as I feast my eyes on your awesome photos. I’ve been to Paris few times but never got to indulge like this, so I can’t wait to win that lotto and go to Paris. :-)

    Also, have you read a very recent article on NY Times titled, “Where Paris Chefs, Not Prices, Rise.” (

    As always, it’s very difficult for me to contain my jealousy toward you. :-) Have a good weekend!

    • Jenny

    @clbtx: thanks so much! I’m planning my budget now and this is good info. Lucky you to be in Paris on assignment. I’m sure you’re having a blast and I look forward to enjoying myself in Paris too. Cheers!
    @ David, I count on your book, your blog and a few other blogs on Paris on finding great eats in Paris. Merci!

    • Le Capitaine

    We have at times gone to the corner grocer for a baguette, bottle of wine, some cheese, saucisson, and bar of chocolate for dessert, and then we ate in the park, having a wonderful time at 20 euros for two, to offset our meal the next day at one of our preferred restaurants. When we averaged it out we didn’t feel so bad about the expenses.

    The last time we were in France we ate at a 3 star in Lyon. The meal lasted about 5 hours and was the best meal I have ever experienced in a restaurant. Then again, the cost was around 300 euro’s a head. Still… an experience and memories that last a lifetime.

    Le Capitaine

    • Jane

    I had a fabulous solo lunch at Taillevent last year, and didn’t feel awkward at all. The service was charming and, quite frankly, perfect. The waiters and the Maitre d’Hotel made me feel like a queen and am looking forward to another solo lunch in October.

    • Charlene

    Hi David!! Thanks for info about dining in Paris on a modest budget! The macaroni farcis sounds heavenly……
    Here is a link you may like, a unique chocolate experience (too bad I am not in Seattle recently):
    “–Calling all sensory-loving cinephiles: bring your nose, your taste buds, and your sense of adventure to this one-of-a-kind screening of the 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory—now in Smell-O-Vision! Experience the world of Willy Wonka as you’ve never smelled it before, with goodie bags full of fragrant and tasty treats, and interactive moments…”

    Produced in conjunction with The Smellovision Project.

    • Na

    Bravo David, so impressed with your knowledge. I have both of your books, The Sweet Life in Paris and The Perfect Scoop. They made me laugh because I saw myself in your books when I used to live in Paris. Based on my personal opinion, two things one must do when in Paris: having a real expensive french meal, at least once to experience the high-end service and compare with the “famous customer- service” around town.

    Next is getting female lingerie. They are so beautiful and Victoria Secret is far behind ( I am so sorry but it is true). Women, it is a must. If lucky, you can get 50percent off on solde season. Men, don’t forget to get your lady’s size before going to Paris. Make a stop at any Orcanta and bring home par exemple, a set of Lejaby. You will see the best smile ever from her (exagerate a bit).
    Bonne continuation et encore, merci. Na

    • alvarosa

    Just one word on Pho: In Europe, it is hard to get better Vietnamese food than in Paris. For people from the states, it might not be too exciting, but if you are coming from central/north/eastern Europe, the Asian food in Paris is more than worth trying!

    (If you are in Paris for more than two days – otherwise I am with you, one should stick with the french specialties. But hasn’t Asian and north African food by the time become very typically french, like Indian food is adopted by the British kitchen?)

    I once had a prix-fix lunch at Lasserre, which has “only” 2 Michelin-stars, but seriously, I don’t think it makes that big a difference. If you reserve online you get a free (half) bottle of champagne. They have a roof that can be opened, and everything you expect – from excellent and charming service to bread and butter, amuse gueules and mingardise with the coffee.

    • David

    alvarosa: Yes, the difference between 2- and 3-stars is often minimal and those restaurants offer similar menus. La Grande Cascade and Taillevent, mentioned in the post, are two-starred establishments.

    When American friends come to visit, who live in other parts of France, I generally do suggest going to a Japanese or Asian restaurant, since they crave those foods and they can’t find them easily (or close to authentic versions) like one can in Paris. There are some good, and no-so-good, Asian restaurants here but Chinatown (the 13th) and the rue St. Anne, have some pretty great places…and cheap, too!

    Na: Aside from the “customer service issue”, as it’s becoming more and more referred to, there’s some great stuff here. Sometimes, though, it take a bit of moxie (and patience!) to get it…

    Picnics and Peonies: I did recommended two good Dining Guides to Paris that I think are spot-on with suggestions. The TimeOut Paris Dining Guide is pretty good, although it hasn’t been updated recently.

    • Linda Hendricks

    Ahhh … it sounds sooo good…. I dream of going to Paris someday… and I will to be sure….. I so enjoy reading your posts… I like the conversational style… lucky dinner companion… it always sounds like fun… you are just too funny! Thanks for a totally entertaining post.

    • Nadege

    Got “Ready for Dessert” at Borders today.

    • Samantha

    Loved this article! For our honeymoon in Paris my husband and I splurged on the 100E lunch at Guy Savoy. We should have blocked that out as entire day in our itinerary, as we were there for over three hours and were in a food coma for many more. The food was outstanding, although at some point the number of dishes that kept coming out verged on obscene – when the dessert cart was rolled out (after multiple desserts served already) it broke my heart to turn it down, but there just was no possibility! It made me wish I was a cow with a second stomach :)

    A lot can be said for paying for the surroundings – while Guy Savoy was our food splurge, we also splurged on drinks at the Ritz one night – one round in the garden verandah, and one in Hemingway’s Bar. While the $50 per drink price tag often seems whimsical to me now, those few hours will always be cherished in my memory, and the evening was indeed priceless.

    • Na

    I totally agree with you. Thank you for your quick reply. Encore une fois, bonne continuation.

    • AMR

    I live in (super nice) Ottawa, Canada and we’re very lucky to have Gatineau, Québec just across a bridge from us…for many reasons but – a standout one – that dangerously pointy French bread. A serious weapon. I love it!
    Thank you David for your superb posts.

    • Another Foodie

    Incredibly informative and entertaining. Plus amazing pictures! I do plan to fly to Paris just to eat sometime this year…

    • Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite

    Great post David – printing out for next time I am in Paris!

    • Steve

    I went to a Michelin starred restaurant for the first time last week while in Paris and was thoroughly impressed.

    I went to 2 starred Michel Rostang’s for lunch which was a 76Euro meal which came to 137 total with wine.

    While Rostang’s didn’t produce the ultra fancy looking modern take on french cuisine that some of the places are doing it did do wonderful thing with the classics and indeed did give the kind of size food that leave you stuck in your seat!

    My pike souffle main course could have fed 2 easily if not 3 but with the lovely accompanying Lobster sauace I worked hard to ensure I finished it!

    I thought that that was big then the equally big melt in the middle chocolate pudding turned up. I was dissapointed to see a slight bit of burning on the outside but when I cut into it the chocolate oozed everywhere!

    The coffee treats were also exceptional!

    What I think impressed as much as the food was the service. I was by myself there and the youngest person in the small restaurant but I wasn’t looked down upon at all and the head waiter ensure he chatted to me plenty to make me feel at home and ran through the menu with me as well.

    • Kate @ Savour Fare

    One of my most memorable meals ever was a private dinner at Laperouse I had when I was 17. Of course, neither I nor my parents were paying for it. Fine dining at a Parisian 2 or 3 star is something that should be experienced at least once.

    That being said, I do think that eating Pho is something worthwhile to do in Paris. Less so in Rome, but because of the colonial history, Paris’s Vietnamese restaurants tend to be great. Now, every night of a Parisian vacation? Not so much.

    • CleaWalford

    Can’t wait to be in Paris again and try some of your restaurants. Had to stop looking at your amazing photos or will faint.

    • Lentil Breakdown

    Interesting. I just got back from NYC and was going to write a post in a similar vein about how one validates spending that kind of money on a meal and what makes it worth it. I ate at Batali’s Babbo and didn’t think it quite lived up to the hype…until the chocolate hazelnut cake with hazelnut gelato came. I took a good photo of it and found the recipe online when I got back. So maybe it was worth it. But I don’t enjoy that type of dining where they hover over you hand and foot. I much prefer a more casual experience.


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