The Beginner’s Guide To Dining in Paris

Paris is a perfect destination to experience many things like art, culture, and of course, food! The Paris dining scene is impressive as it boasts the finest chefs, restaurants, and cuisines. From croissants to cheese and traditional French cuisine, there is always something amazing to eat in Paris. 

Meanwhile, Paris is not only known for its art of cooking but also for the art of dining. If you are planning a vacation to Paris, then it’s best to learn some essential tips and rules to enjoy your dining experience. 

Here are some tips and things you should know about dining in the city of light: 

1.   Know The Types of Restaurants in Paris

You’ll encounter different food establishments in Paris, and they  often fall into one of these four categories; 

  • Cafe

The Cafe is for casual eating like coffee, salad, and croissants. If you want just coffee, it’s best to get it at a cafe instead of going to a restaurant or Bistrots. 

  • Bistrots

Bistroits used to be a local cafeteria for Parisians, and now it’s a restaurant where you can get hearty meals in a relaxed environment. 

  • Brasserie

Brasserie focuses on food like oysters, steaks, fish, and other grilled food. It’s more elaborate than a cafe and bistro. 

  • Restaurant 

Restaurant is from the french word, restaurer and it’s s the most elaborate and modern food establishments of all the four categories. They have the finest meals, menus, and chefs, and as expected, it has a higher price. Most restaurants offer a 3-course meal with one to three options for starter (l’entrée), the main dish (le plat,) and dessert (le dessert). 

Planning Your Trip.

2. Find The Best Food District 

You are likely to find great food no matter where you go in Paris, but some districts are well known for food more than other areas. Also, there are many restaurants and establishments you can choose from, and some are known for specific food types. For example, there are restaurants best for cheese and bread, some for ice cream and dessert, and some for eating on a budget. Before making travel plans, you might want to learn about different restaurants and areas to help you tailor your travel itineraries. 

3. Call in Advance 

The best way to eat at a Paris restaurant is by booking in advance. If you plan to travel to Paris, it’s best to call the restaurant at least two weeks before your visit. This is especially important if you intend to dine at a top establishment or a Michelin-starred restaurant. 

For casual establishments, you can call on the same day, but the general tip is to call in at least some days before. Especially is you are traveling during high season. Once you have a seat at the restaurant, you can get comfortable and take time to eat your meal. Paris takes pride in its dining, and waiters rarely ask customers to leave the table for another guest. 

4. Arrive on Time

Arrive at the restaurant on time, so you don’t miss your reservation, especially in restaurants that are hard to get in. If you think you may be running late, call the restaurant so they can hold your table for you. 

Also, you must be careful about your booking time as many restaurants keep their hours. Before booking a reservation or going to a restaurant, ensure you go at the correct time. Generally, lunch operates around 12-2 pm, so don’t expect to get breakfast or dinner around this time. Dinner time is a little bit more flexible but usually starts around 8 pm but again, don’t expect to eat dinner at 6 pm. If you want to eat earlier than this, it’s better to go to a brasserie as they offer nonstop dining service from lunch till nighttime.

The Entrance.

5. Be Polite

In France, restaurants are not really considered a public place but an extension of your host’s home. So you are expected to say hello (bonjour) or good evening (bonsoir) when you enter a restaurant. Also, learn courteous French words like thank you (merci) and enjoy your meal/ready to eat (bon appetit). Finally, speak in soft tones when dining out in Paris. 

6. Look For Table Settings

There are different table areas in many restaurants in Paris, so make sure you sit at the right table. For example, restaurants often set aside tables for dining and tables for drinking. Also, you may find smoking areas and non-smoking areas in a restaurant. If you sit at a table meant for drinking and you order a meal, you may need to move to another spot. 

The Meal. 

7. You Can Ask For Tap Water

In Paris, you can ask for tap water at no cost, even if you have mineral water served. Also, as a golden tip, you shouldn’t ask for soda with your meal. French people love wine, and it’s a good idea to order wine along with your meal! 

8. No Menu Substitutions 

Substituting one thing for another on the menu isn’t recommended when dining in Paris, and it is best not to ask. They believe that the chef knows best, and asking for changes on the menu as you deem fit is considered impolite. 

In case of specific dietary restrictions, you may need to speak to the restaurants beforehand. Also, you can take your time to research dining choices and choose something that can accommodate your needs.

9. Take Your Time

Paris restaurants are about making dining an intimate experience, so meals tend to be a lengthy affair, and you’re not expected to leave quickly. In Paris, dining is a whole experience and you shouldn’t rush through your meal even though food is often served in small portions. Also, to truly appreciate French cuisines, it’s recommended to eat in the correct order and with a knife and fork.  

The Waiters. 

10. Waiters Are Not Trained To Stay Around You

Paris waiters aren’t trained to seat you, so you have to choose a seat, and the server will find you. Also, don’t expect the waitress to keep checking up on you unless you call them. If you have a problem translating food on the menu, don’t hesitate to call the servers.  

Waiters don’t clear up plates until every party at the table is done eating. When you are done eating, it’s recommended to place your knife and fork across your place as an indication to the servers. Also, when ready to make payment, you need to ask for the bill directly. 

11. Tipping is Okay But Not a Must

Most servers get livable wages, and tips are pre-calculated into the bill, so there is no need to leave a tip. However, if you experience fine dining and feel the need to tip, it’s fine, and the servers will appreciate it. A tip of 5-10% of the food cost in cash is okay, but nobody will come after you if you don’t leave a tip. 

12. Finally, Keep Your Eyes On Your Things

Pickpockets are in every part of the world, and that doesn’t exclude Paris. If you are eating outside, keep your eyes on your things to avoid being a victim of theft.

There is no better way to enjoy your vacation and learn about a new culture than through its food. Now that you have all the basic Paris dining tips, don’t forget to try out different food options in this exceptional city known for its great cuisine. Also, as a general international travel tip, try to brush up on essential French words as you may find that not everyone speaks English. 

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