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Eating alone, solo dining in Paris


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I've written before--though mostly in the UK Forum--about my upcoming trip to Europe. Now it looks as though, in addition to my one night on my own in London, I will have one night on my own in Paris: January 3.

Now, I am seeking your suggestions about where I should eat that night. I am willing to spend a bit of money, provided that there is a decent wine list and no English menu thrust upon me. (My French can be passable, and I am occasionally mistaken as some sort of European... Which I think is just because I can sort of speak French, and generally the French seem to assume that Americans wouldn't be bothered to try...) My friends in Paris are sort of useless for suggestions--this summer I ended up at Le Totem on someone's recommendation for a solo meal. Ugh.

Please help!

-Emily

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Emily in London

http://www.august18th2007.com

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A bistro is definately okay.

The long and the short of it is that I am willing to spend a bit of money, but not Arpege at dinner prices, provided I am treated nicely and there is a decent wine list. I would prefer to not do "ethnic" unless ethnic is French or Spanish (two cuisines not readily available here in Hawaii). I think that I want to sit at a table and not a bar because I am shy, and bars can be a bit overwhelming. I want my experience to be pleasant, and I want to feel as though I have treated myself, because this night comes in the midst of lots of family holiday craziness and will be a small moment of sanity on my way to my sister's house in Strasbourg where I will probably have to babysit four French kids who don't speak English.

I like traveling around Paris, and I don't yet have a hotel, so where it is doesn't matter... Except that it should be easy to get too, because if I am wandering dark alleys on my own at night, I will not be a happy camper, no matter how good the restaurant is.

-Emily

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Emily in London

http://www.august18th2007.com

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Robuchon's "Atelier" would seem a sensible choice for this sort of thing. Perhaps someone who has been there can confirm or deny.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Right. That's why it's seemingly ideal for a solo diner, because it's somewhat like a sushi bar which is the prototypical excellent solo-dining experience. I took note of LBH's desire not to sit at a bar, but I assumed LBH was envisioning a different kind of bar from what Atelier is presenting.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Yah, no way Robuchon. Besides the bar seating, as my friend/roomie Grace describes it "It's like a bar scene - but no cleavage."

Emily you've got a couple things going on. Your night's a Saturday night - a lot of gastronomic restaurants will be closed - L'Arpege and Ducasse included. But it's the holiday period which means those places will be easier to book because the regular clientele will be out of town - mountains, country house, etc. But that also means a lot of cafes/bistros/etc. will be busier.

I don't think you'll have to worry too much about the Hawaiian/Parisian redundancy! And if you're worried about wandering around, take a taxi back to your hotel - really.

If you're willing to spend a bit of money, then why not a three-star? If you go to the Michelin site they tell you the hours/days closed. With your babysitting chores on the horizon, pourquoi pas?

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Right. That's why it's seemingly ideal for a solo diner, because it's somewhat like a sushi bar which is the prototypical excellent solo-dining experience. I took note of LBH's desire not to sit at a bar, but I assumed LBH was envisioning a different kind of bar from what Atelier is presenting.

I will think about L'Atelier, though if I remember, they don't take reservations?

Anything else? Maybe the better way to ask would have been, what are your dream solo dining experiences in Paris?

-Emily

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Emily in London

http://www.august18th2007.com

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Of the places I ate in Paris during my September trip, the one that I think would be best for solo dining is Les Olivades in the 7th. It specializes in Provencal style food and offers a calm, warm ambiance. If you're looking for a 'high-energy' place though, then this probably isn't it. You can see a brief review of Les Olivades here. I checked, and they do serve dinner on Saturday evenings.

Edited by tighe (log)

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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LBH: I am virtually always in Paris on business dining alone. For wonderful friendly service and deluxe dining on a Saturday night I would go to Guy Savoy. Otherwise for high end bistros with good but formal service, I like in the order given

Relais Plaza (in the Plaza-Athenee)

Benoit

Garnier (across from Gare St. Lazare)

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  • 1 year later...

On a lark I decided to check e-g for Paris info and am stunned at how much info there is here. Many thanks for all the postings, especially the review digest. Wow!

I am in Cannes right now, taking the TGV Thursday (1.27) for my annual Paris visit. If anyone who sees this has any food related tips for this specific period they would be welcome. Feel free top PM any art/music/culture tips, too, by the way.

One question - can anyone suggest good solo dining spots? I tend to favor the classic brasseries like Lipp/Flo/Balcazar because I find them to be good for lone food-ranger adventures, but if anyone has a suggestion for places the next level or so up that might be good for a solo (I know from experience that early in the week is better for solos at high-end places but it is what it is) that would be great.

By the way, here's a Cannes tip - very lovely trad meal last nite at a place called Mirabelle, up on the Sucoret (sp?) the famous winding uphill street with all the restaurants near the castle. Sauteed Foi Gras, braised lamb shank with white beans - that sort of thing - but very nicely done, especially for tourist-y Cannes.

always looking forward to...the next meal

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Up price from the brasseries there's l'Atelier de Joël Robuchon with it's counter seating perfectly suited to solo dining. I have mixed feelilngs about Pinxo and Chiberta, but I believe they both offer counter dining. For brasseries, I'm fond of Vaudeville, for it's style although the food may be no better or worse than the rest of the Flo Group.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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especially the review digest. Wow!

can anyone suggest good solo dining spots?

Thanks for the Digest thanks.

From a determined solo diner, let me warn you against shooting too low. Don't just go to brasseries; for instance the next 10 days I'll be eating by myself every day but two. And I'm hitting all the places that have been recently well-reviewed in Zurban + Figaro. An example, this AM's Figaroscope lauded Dominique Bouchet & Les Dom Juan and I'll hit them. I used to call up sheepishly to say I was dining seul or lie and say I was two but then (like F Simon) say my friend missed his/her train, but no longer, this isn't NY where they're wasting a cover on a single, they're delighted to have your business; indeed yesterday I got comped an apero and I was alone, and all the couples and 4's didn't.

There's so much out there. Enjoy it all! But thenextmeal, it's cold, chillingly cold, not Cannes.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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I have been to Chez l'Ami Louis alone several times for lunch. I actually find the food more enjoyable for lunch than dinner because it allows time for the relatively heavy and prodigious amount of food to settle.

Saturday lunch is the only time I've been able to walk into l'ami Louis without a reservation and been able to find space available. If you haven't been there before, beware that its probably the most expensive bistro in the world and that the portions are huge. The quality, although relatively simple, of what they serve is often the best of its kind anywhere. The roast chicken, frites, garlic potato cake and either the escargots or scallops as an appetizer constitutes about three days worth of food.

Porkpa

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It is fortunate that you have this problem in France. Eating alone in New York, for example, would be daunting. It is just not done. A solo visit to a good restaurant in NY would bring stares and a general feeling of discomfort. In France, however, it is pro forma...

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We were in L'ardoise a few weeks ago.

It was delicious!

Anyway, there were a few diners solo there for lunch.

Oh, also there were a few solo diners at Juveniles a few weeks ago too!

Wine bar with some good basic plates of food!

Both are sort of around Opera, 2nd arr., I think?

Philly Francophiles

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It is fortunate that you have this problem in France..... In France, however, it is pro forma...

Both Pudlowski and Simon indicated in their books they sometimes eat solo, so I figure maybe I'll be mistaken for a critic - ha!

Thanks all for the tips. All duly noted for cross checking with guides, maps etc.

Point taken ré Parisian vs NYC norms. NYC is indeed my reference point. Not that I let it stop me a few weeks ago when I went directly from the airport to AUREOLE for the (recomended) after 2:00 prix fixe lunch. A nice black suit and black dress shirt can effecrtively deflect the disapproving looks, by the way!

always looking forward to...the next meal

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I eat solo often and in all kind of restaurants from 3 stars to ordinary bistrots.

I find that i get a better treatment generally.I am usually given a table that overlooks la salle,as if on purpose, to enjoy the goings on,( while seeping wine) .Also dishes follow each other without any delay,better than when i am with company. The best is the interaction with ones neighbors.Everyone is friendly,open, interested and usualy interesting.Often i have a wonderful time and end up with a list of everyone's favorite restaurant.

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  • 3 years later...

I was reminded of this topic when I was eating solo at the Petit Panisse today and they had one table that could only be occupied by a solo diner, off in a corner but plenty of elbow room. People have commented that esp in the US restaurateurs are reluctant to give up a cover to a solo diner but I'm reminded of all the places which have tables just like this one - Biche au Bois and Chez Catherine's former location on the Rue de Provence spring to mind. We shouldn't anticipate resistance when calling for single reservations: they may have just the right spot for us.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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I usually travel alone. I was in Paris for a month mid Sept-mid Oct. I dined alone much of the time. I have never had a problem with seating.

A friend will be joing me on a short 12 day trip in Dec. We have many reservations.

I have traveled all over France, alone and never had a proble.

Joan

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Oh, I love eating alone in France - they're usually especially nice to lone diners. A few weeks ago I had a meal in the Jules Verne (2nd level of the Eiffel Tower), and got a marvellous table right by the window. Similarly got one of the best tables in a bouchon in Lyon; was brought an extra amuse in a restaurant in Montmartre; etc, etc.

Can't think of any bad experiences at all - none of the weird attitude one sometimes gets in London...

Caroline

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