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Left Bank Restaurants

Many people going to Paris for the first time will be staying in the Latin Quarter or in that general vicinity, so we'll start with restaurants close to the river and then branch out, moving toward Odéon and Saint-Germain-des-Prés and then soutward.

         View all Left Bank Restaurants in a larger map with their addresses and phone numbers.

The Latin Quarter (5th arrondissement)

BalzarSomeplace Tom likes to go to a lot because it's always good, usually friendly, and feels just a little bit homey is Balzar, 49, rue des Ecoles (01 43 54 13 67, photo at right). This is one of those "last of the neighborhood bistros" that newspapers like the New York Times like to write about, and we seem, oddly enough, to be finding more and more of them. You'd think that this apparently dying breed would have fewer survivors, but there you have it. Balzar is very, very good, indeed. The service is usually attentive and sometimes wry (but on my last few visits it's been a little on the cool and detached side for some reason) and the owner tries to be cordial and will greet you, especially if you return. The food is precise and tasty, and you BalzarMenumight even see a celebrity or two here if you're lucky. You'll do better here if you have a reservation. If you're alone, they might treat you a bit strangely; they should work on this. Expect to pay about 55-65€.

In the same general vicinity is the somewhat famous, and perhaps a little precious Petit Prince at 12, rue Lanneau in the 5th, Metro Maubert Mutualité (01 43 54 77 26). This is especially good food for the price, with an utterly charming ambiance and in an especially inviting neighborhood, and the restaurant also happens to have a sizeable gay clientele. You're up the slope from the boulevard Saint Germain, the area where you have lots of little twisty streets. You'll like this—really. Tom says to check it out.

If the Petit Prince can't or won't take you, go right across the tiny little pedestrian street (we're still on the rue Lanneau, now) to number 11. There you'll find Le Coupe Chou, which you'll really want to know about. Call them at 01 46 33 68 69 to reserve. This is a totally Le Coupe Choucharming place, with very friendly and helpful staff who will try to accommodate your every wish. Even if they have to move you, they'll do so in a way that is so charming you'll feel you're getting an even better table. If it's nice out, you really should dine al fresco on the tiny little pedestrian street (rue Lanneau), and they have beautiful lighting to make the experience all the more charming. They have a couple different, very reasonably priced menus (prix fixe), and you can also order à la carte. The pâté de campagne is especially good. You'll likely find your way out of here for about 35 euros. By the way, the "history" part of their web site is incredibly interesting.

For a surprisingly inexpensive and downright really good meal, try La Brouette, at 41 rue Descartes (01 43 25 41 10; metro Cardinal-Lemoine), just behind the Place Contrescarpe at the top of the rue Mouffetarde. I say surprising because it doesn't quite look like it'd be all that good, but there you have it. Here you'll find three different menus, the most expensive at 26 euros, and the traditional French fare is served up exactly as it should be. The middle-priced menu (20 euros) seems to offer the best value for the money. A couple doors down is another place where Hemingway lived, and next door is where the poets Rimbaud and Verlaine shacked up. Rimbaud wrote all of his poetry before he was 20. What were you doing?

Chez ReneStill in the Latin Quarter, but in the lovely, quieter section to the east, is the classy, comfortable, and charming Chez René (14, Boulevard Saint Germain, 5th [01 43 54 30 23; metro Maubert-Mutualité or Cardinal Lemoine]). Tom really loves this place. It has been around for over 50 years, and it's easy to see why: the classic fare is carefully prepared and even more carefully served; it's relatively reasonably priced (probably between 40 and 50 euros for three courses plus beverages, including apéritif, but you can probably lighten that up somewhat); and the ambiance is muted and seductive. The waiters are friendly in that restrained way that I love about good French restaurants. You'll hear people speaking English in muted tones here: they're not tourists, so try to figure out their story. René really likes you to reserve. Some of the staff will get a bit uppity if you haven't, and they'll act a bit put out. Try to ignore they attitude.

Mille FeuillesJust around the corner from Chez René is a tiny place called Le Petit Pontoise. It's at 9, rue de Pontoise, also in the 5th (01 43 29 25 20). The Petit Pontoise bills itself as "cuisine Rotisserie d'Argent Menufrançaise traditionnelle," and that seems true, but they do put a modern twist on some things. To the left is the really excellent Mille-feuille de chèvre et betteraves, which is a starter of layered beats, goat cheese, and other lovely things. The menu is inventive, with a surprisingly wide range of starters, meats, fish, poultry, and, um, dessert. The staff are extremely friendly, they will try (and generally succeed) to speak English, and if it's nice out you can sit outside on the quiet little street. If you're choosing between here and Chez René, this one's your bet.

And in the same neighborhood you'll like La Rôtisserie d'Argent, a terrific find situated at 19, Quai de la Tournelle (, metro Pont Marie, Cardinal Lemoine, or Maubert-Mutualité). For those of you who have always wanted to try the Tour d'Argent but don't want to drop so many euros, this may be your next best bet—it's part of the same maison, as we say (get it? Rôtisserie d'Argent?). An extremely welcoming staff, pleasant and highly professional, will greet you in a crisp and simultaneously homey dining room. The menu (slate pictured at right) is quite traditional, exquisitely prepared, and tasty as heck. The wine list is unusually good as well.

Here's a place you really need to go to: Kitchen Ter(re), at 26 boulevard Saint-Germain (metro Maubert-Mutualité). There are a couple of important things to know here: 1) there are three "kitchen" restaurants all run by the same chef, with the other two on the rue des Grands Augustins in the 6th. The three restaurants, taken together, present a series of puns in their names that is too complicated to go into here, but Kitchen Ter(re) is the third of the "Kitchen" franchise (hence the "ter," which means, roughly, "third" in French) and the parentheses barely disguise the fact that this restaurant ("terre") serves local ingredients. You will find a few conflicting reviews on this place, but the few negative reviews seem to really resent the fact that this unbelievably good restaurant is run by people who are virtually children (alright, they're in their 20's). They do an amazing job. Fantastically prepared food, served exactly right, by people who know what they're doing and who aren't afraid to be just a tad irreverent. It's a great experience. Go here once and they'll remember you and your preferences. This is one of Tom's top choices.

You all know that Tom rarely provides a negative review. If he comes across something he doesn't like, he just doesn't pass it along. But sometimes he wants to do people a service. There's a restaurant in this general area called Bonvivant at 7, rue des Ecoles. Tom was there a little while back with an American friend—and he noticed that there was a good number of Americans in the restaurant, which suggested that it might be in some of the guidebooks, which might account for what happened next. My friend and I were speaking English, of course, and our waiter came up and in rapid-fire French he insulted us and then proceeded to speak English to us. I responded to his insult in French and he looked a little sheepish—but he didn't apologize—and said he would come back to take our order. The rest of the meal he was pretty lame, and continued to be sort of a downer, if at least not outright insulting. I'm mystified that someone would assume that because you're speaking English you don't speak French. Stupid assumption. Caveat emptor.

You Don't Know What You Want, Part I

The duckOr, maybe you do, but some restaurants don't really care. The trend has been growng over the past several years in some of the really good, small restaurants, to not let the patrons select what they would like to eat. At Les Papilles (30 rue Gay Lussac, metro Luxembourg). The chef will come to your table and tell you what your four-course meal will consist of (and your unbelievably good meal will be at the unbelievably low price of roughly 40 euros), and then he'll look over the wall of wine and choose your meal's libation (wine is not included in the price of the meal). Les Papilles is also a little grocery store, as well as a wine shop. This place is a real find and I heartily recommend it. This place is increasingly popular, both for its food and for its completely charming atmosphere. It's also right nearby the Luxembourg Gardens, so you can go and walk off all that you ate (likely not: it will be closed by the time you get out of dinner.

Also on the left bank, and also not giving you the chance to say what you want, is L'épi Dupin (11 rue Dupin, in the 6th; metro Sèvres-Babylone or Rennes). There's actually a menu here you can order from, but Tom strongly recommends you get the chef's menu (menu dégustation), which is about 55 euros. They will take extremely good care of you here with wry and friendly service, and if you don't know which wine to order with your food they'll kid you a little and then they'll make sure you get an exquisite pairing. The cuisine is modern French, with a preference for local foods; the decor is modern, minimalist, and compelling, and the experience is truly wonderful.

There are a couple more restaurants where the choice is not years. See "Right Bank Restaurants" for more information.


A true find is the Restaurant Perraudin, at 157 rue Saint Jacques (01 46 33 15 75; metro Cluny–La Sorbonne), at the Perraudin Interiortop of the hill where the wide and busy boulevard turns into a narrow, homier neighborhood street. This was once the haunt of Roland Barthes and his coterie, and they serve traditional French fare, including a dynamite bœuf bourguignon and an unbelievable gigot d'agneau, at unrealistically low prices. There are two "menus," one at 18 euros and the other at 35 euros, and each is a great deal, offering copious quantities of truly delicious cuisine. The profiterolles are among the best you'll find out there, and the staff are friendly, courteous, and helpful. One of the best-selling—and hence stupid—guide books declares that Perraudin is stodgy and tired, but that guide book has itself been around so long that, well, you get the picture. Go to Perraudin and ignore everyone's advice but mine (this applies, by the way, in all situations). If you Au Port Salutcan't make it into Perraudin, try the Au Port du Salut, just two doors down at 163bis (01 46 33 63 21). The food is just as good, the atmosphere very nice and friendly, and if anything it's just a tad cheaper. The souris d'agneau is top-notch, as is the steak tartare. Add a couple terrific starters, and you have a very nice meal (and the Café Panisproprietor might even offer you a complimentary after-dinner drink). The food and the service are great, the atmosphere is friendly and congenial, and there you have a recipe for a terrific experience. Go here (and also check out the remarkable history this establishment shares).

You're going to be around the Notre Dame area a lot, both because it's right in the middle of the city and because it's an area worth exploring. One place that's smack-dab in the middle of things but nevertheless manages to retain its quality is Café Panis, at 21, Quai Montebello, right on the river with a perfect view of Notre Dame ( I don't know how many people must come in here every day, but somehow the staff manage to treat you as if they're actually glad you're there. The Grenier Notre Damemenu is broad, with good hot main courses, salads, sandwiches, and deserts. If you want vegetarian food, there are more and more options in Paris. A recent favorite is Le Grenier de Notre Dame, almost right across the river from the cathedral at 18 rue de la Bûcherie (01 43 28 98 29, metro Cluny-La Sorbonne, Saint-Michel, or Maubert-Mutualité). Fairly extensive menu of creatively served vegetarian and macrobiotic combos that are filling and satisfying here, at prices that should be in the 25 euros per person range. This is one of those places where even if you think you have to have meat for every meal, you'll still be satisfied.

Further south in the 5th

Marty, 20, Avenue des Gobelins (01 43 31 39 51). Just as with Balzar, the guidebooks will tell you that this is one of the few remaining "neighborhood" bistros where you'll find locals enjoying excellent food. Well, the food is OK—not great, but just OK—but Martythat isn't the reason to come Marty. The real reason is the drama you're likely to find there, whether with the staff or the other customers. Rub the maître d' or the bartender the wrong way and they'll likely start slamming glassware around and muttering under their breath about you; the waiters are just as likely to be either harried or overly apologetic. Other customers talk loudly about their quotidian problems, and sometimes argue among themselves or with the staff. Extremely entertaining. I had dinner at Marty with Judith and Terry one night, and while we had a marvelous time (it was us, after all, and we'd be good anywhere), it was in spite of, and not because of Marty. Judith and Terry had the tuna, which they said was way overdone; my food was just OK. The service, however, was little short of dreadful. Think of all the snotty things you've ever heard about French waiters, and there you have it. But it's one thing to be sickening when you actually know how to do correct service. These people seemed not to, and they did many things simply wrong (such as removing food from the left, of all things), so their Pot de Ferbitchiness wasn't even deserved. I'd have to say that you should think twice before you go to Marty. If anyone has a different opinion, I'd love to hear it. Please leave it here.

You'll find other interesting places to cadge a meal on the Rue Mouffetard. There are many good, interesting, and inexpensive restaurants on this street and on the little side streets leading around here. If you decide to dine here, first have a drink at one of the cafés on the Place Contrescarpe at the top of the hill (metro Monge or Cardinal Lemoine). This is a very lively area, especially for the twenty-something set. The bars and restaurants on the Place Contrescarpe and the Rue Descartes are very active, and as the night progresses things get more active. After your drink, stroll down the rue Mouffetard and look for something nice, making sure that you glance down the Rue Saint Médard and especially the Rue du Pot de Fer for more dining options.

Chez Lena et MimileIn the vicinity of the Rue Mouffetard—just one street over, in fact—is an interesting and fun little place. If it's a warm summer evening head on over to Chez Léna et Mimile, a truly charming bistrot in the quiet part of the Latin Quarter (32 rue Tournefort, 5th arrondissement, phone 01 47 07 72 47, metro Censier-Daubenton or Monge). Lena and Mimile have what might be the absolute best terrasse in the city for outdoor dining, and it's well worth waiting for. Because the restaurant is located at the bottom of a hill, the terrasse affords a terrific view of a quiet and charming neighborhood. The food is very good, nicely prepared, and the staff helpful and friendly. This place has a certain off-the-beaten path feel to it, not necessarily because of the people who go there, but because its aesthetic and sensibility are refined and carefully designed. You get the sense here that these folks have thought a great deal about their food, service, and surroundings.

The Latin Quarter's Pedestrian District

Let's get this out of the way: you'll find a large number of restaurants in the tiny pedestrian streets bordered by the Seine to the north, the boulevard Saint GermSaint Severinain to the south, the boulevard Saint Michel to the west, and the rue Saint-Jacques to the east. You'll know this area immediately, because as you get off the metro at Saint Michel, or as you head away from Notre Dame, you'll run into throngs of people walking around in what can only be described as a quaint little area that looks a bit like how Walt Disney might have depicted Paris—complete with itinerant accordion players. The streets to look for here are the rue Xavier Privas, the rue de la Huchette, and the rue de la Harpe, among others. Rue de la HarpeIt's very charming: these streets are some of the oldest in Paris, and they wind through a neighborhood teaming with restaurants, bars, and tourist shops. You ought to wonder, though, why if the restaurants are any good almost all of them have guys standing out front trying to get you to enter. Now let me be completely up front about this: I have eaten at a number of these places, and while I've never yet been bowled over by the cuisine, on occasion I've had to admit that a couple of these places aren't half bad—but I do remember, for example, that the last time I had couscous at "Au Bon Couscous" it wasn't very bon. (When I lived in this neighborhood on one of the tiny pedestrian streets the only restaurants here I frequented were the take-away sandwich shops: they do really nice lamb and beef here.) You're quite likely going to want to go to one of these places just because they look somehow really good or charming or authentic. Well, go ahead if you must. In the summer, especially August, there will be a zillion people walking around here, especially from about 9:00 at night until about 1:00 in the morning. You can eat outside, but unless it's really hot I wouldn't recommend it, simply because of the jostling from the crowds and the musicians who will set up and play in front of you (always, always "Those Were the Rue Saint SeverinDays My Friend") and ask for money. (I took the picture above of the rue de la Harpe looking up toward the boulevard Saint Germain, and I had to lean pretty far out my living room window, so you'd better darned well appreciate it.) The rue de la Parcheminerie and the rue Xavier Privas have what seem to me to be the most interesting dark little cave-like restaurants. Also, just across the rue St. Jacques there's another little neighborhood worth checking out. It won't be anywhere near as crowded, and the streets aren't closed to cars. Look at the rue Galande, rue Dante, and the little streets that run from the boulevard St. Germain toward the Seine. Some cool places and old nightclubs can be found here (including the famous "Caveau des Oubliettes" [and if you don't know what that is, check it out at 52, rue Galande, not quite in this neighborhood, but 100 steps away]).


Odéon and Saint-Germain-des-Prés (6th arrondissement)

Polidor, also on Monsieur le Prince (no. 41, in the 6th, Metro Odéon), is terrific. It's extremely popular and crowded. Somewhat hectic. Amazing food. This is one of those places to go and then to tell everyone back home you went there. It's a sure-fire hit. Continuing up the slope just a short hop to number 38 rue Monsieur le Prince, you'll find Au Père Louis, which bills itself as a Bar à vins. That's certainly true, but the other Au Père Louisthing that's true is that the food is pretty great here as well. This is very much a neighborhood restaurant, and it serves traditional French fare such as snails, onion soup, and duck's liver pâté. The extremely knowledgeable servers will help you select a good wine to go with what you've ordered, and the ambiance of the place is incredibly charming. Inexpensive, this place is also remarkably cozy in the winter.

One of the smallest restaurants you'll see is the Petit Vatel at 5 rue Lobineau in the 6th (01 43 54 28 49; metro Odéon or Mabillon). This terrific little place serves a kind of French terroir menu with a bit of a Spanish influence. You can see on their menu how this works. There are only about 7 tables in the entire establishment, and the whole enterprise appears to be operated entirely by the gentleman who will greet you warmly up front, take your order, and deliver your food. Every once in a while he disappears into the kitchen, so it's hard to tell if he's actually doing the cooking, too (but I doubt it). For as small as it is, this place has the feel of a fully-functioning restaurant (which of course it is); what I think I mean is that there's nothing Mom and Pop about it. And you don't even feel crowded (unless you go to the restroom, where there's a fair amount of wriggling involved; you'll wish you had a facility the size of an airplane restroom). All in all a very convivial place that takes its food and its customers very seriously.

Another really good bistro is Vagenende, at 142 blvd Saint Germain. This is a turn of the twentieth century bistro, and it's full of interesting art deco décor and people who look as though they somehow still live in the early years of the previous century. Reasonably priced (28–38 euros, roughly), it's got good food with pretty good service. (Pronounce the name of this place in German and you'll get the name.)

Tired of French food? Then go to a different country. No, really, head over to the Casa Bini, at 36 rue Grégoire de Tours in the Saint-Germain district (01 46 34 05 60, metro Odéon or Mabillon). This excellent Italian restaurant is not located in the more tourist-plagued, plastic-and-neon laden block of Grégoire de Tours located just off the rue St. André des Arts, but in the quiet district up the slope toward the top of the Steak at Closeriestreet. Although they specialize in various forms of carpaccio here, you'll also find very extremely good pastas and meat dishes. Although not cheap, it's worth the 50 or so euros you'll spend on two or three courses with wine. If you're looking for a change of pace, Tom heartily recommends this place.

Now if you trust that snobby British guide, which I do not, you might like Brasserie Fernand, at 13 rue Guisarde in the 6th (, metro Mabillon), but Tom didn't think it was all that hot. It's perfectly fine, actually, and it has that charm of the really crowded place where they cram you in with other people and you get to talk to them and they're all very nice and all, but the food is good, but not good enough for the price. Two of us came away from there 98 euros lighter, and while we enjoyed our meals, we felt that a reasonable price for what we had would have been more in the neighborhood of 65 euros. Just so's you know.

Tired of French food? Then go to a different country. (No, really)

OK, here's a place I've always wanted to go to and haven't yet made it, so you go and tell me how it is: it's called Allard, and it's at 41, rue Saint-André-des-Arts (, Metro Saint Michel or Odéon. It's right in the middle of the incredibly hopping Saint-André-des-Arts scene, which is mostly young and, well, party oriented, but Allard looks strangely rustic, and the menus they've posted in the window in the past look extremely interesting. So, someone go there, and then tell me how it was. (Some folks have written in saying they really like Allard, although one person mentioned it was Notre Dame at Sunsetsomewhat expensive. Let's hear from others!) Sandy gives us the definitive word on Allard: "Allard has a wonderful atmosphere and friendly waiters, but get the main room, not the small room in the back— it's claustrophobic. The food is incredible and huge helpings! The only thing we've eaten there is the roast chicken with mushrooms and potatoes, as it's just wonderful! I think that our meal, with a bottle of wine and dessert, came to 125 Euros... nice for a special occasion." Jock writes: "Allard is a really wonderful restaurant. We were there a few months ago. It is a little cramped but good food and very nice mix of locals and others - not just Americans. We sat next to some businessmen from Sweden and a large group of Parisians celebrating a birthday. It was a very nice experience."

Hemingway SteakLa Closerie des Lilas. 171, boulevard du Montparnasse, in the 6th arrondissement (01 40 51 34 50). Hemingway used to hang out here, and if you go into the bar you can see his name in the wood on the bar near the left side. The restaurant is somewhat upscale and at first it might look somewhat uppity, but it's not really. The food is extremely good and the service is impeccable. This is one of those standard, great restaurants. Their dishes are extraordinarily beautiful, and the whole atmosphere, with trellises, nice lighting, indoor/outdoor space, makes this a good spot for a special occasion. You'll probably want to figure between 100 and 130 euros per person. (At left, by the way, is our waiter preparing the Hemingway steak, which is flamed with bourbon and comes in a pretty great sauce.) You can also choose the brasserie, as opposed to the restaurant, and come away probably only about 60 or so euros lighter, but the brasserie doesn't take reservations. The bar isn't too expensive, and you can drink there without eating, which might be fun. There'll probably be some snobby young British character tending bar. I don't know why this is.

If you're in the same neighborhood and don't want to spend as much as you might in the Closerie, consider A Bout de Souffle. Situated at 17 bis rue Campagne Première (14th, metro Raspail or Port Royal; 01 43 20 97 81). Inventive, nicely presented food, with a 3-course menu at about 34 euros (you can do two courses for a little cheaper). All of the ingredients, including meat, are from France or the EU; the young staff (including the chef) are all extremely helpful, professional, and knowledgeable. Service is relaxed and careful. Come here especially for the great taste/price ratio. Very good wine list as well, and extremely reasonable prices.


Atlas CouscousCouscous

You must do this at least once. If you don't know what couscous is, just go order some and find out—you will not be disappointed. Basically, it's a North African stew, and it's served over that grain (couscous) that they were promoting in the U.S. a little while back (and check out a reader's correction here). Couscous here, however, is not simply the grain: it's the exquisitely prepared stew, consisting of stewed vegetables and your choice (or not) of meats in a savory sauce served over the grain.There are a lot of couscous restaurants in the pedestrian quarter just off of St. Michel between St. Germain and the Seine (rue Xavier Privas, rue de la Huchette, etc.)—you'll know the area when you see it. Most of these are just serviceable, but some of the best, IMHO, are Chez Jaafar, 22, rue du Sommerard (5th, metro Cluny La Sorbonne, no phone available); Le Méchoui du Prince, (5th, 34–36 rue Monsieur du Prince, metro Cluny–La Sorbonne, Odéon, or Luxembourg); Chez Omar (47, rue de Bretagne, 3rd, metro Filles du Calvaire; 01 42 72 36 26). My favorite, however, is L'Atlas, at 12 boulevard Saint-Germain (metro Maubert-Mutualité). Very friendly service and excellent, excellent couscous.


Quai d'Orsay, Invalides (7th arrondissement)

La Frégate is rapidly becoming one of my favorite places

If you're out museuming (that's a verb; shut up), you might try La Frégate, a nautically themed brasserie-restaurant that's right next to the Musée d'Orsay and more or less just across from the Louvre. It's situated at 1, rue du Bac in the 7th, right where the Quai Anatole France meets the Quai Voltaire (01 42 61 23 77, metro rue du Bac). This place is slightly upscale but not fussy, and while it's no bargain, it's not horribly expensive, either—think 25 euros for a really, really good lunch. It has truly impeccable service, and the waiters attending to you will be charming, very professional, and even slightly friendly. In this carefully preserved turn-Brasserie Le Bourbonof-the-century (that's turn of the 20th century) locale you can still find writers and even some artists from the nearby Ecole des Beaux Arts. This is becoming one of my favorite places.

If you're looking for a big, solid, upscale restaurant serving traditional French food in opulent but not over the top surroundings, then you should go to the Brasserie Le Bourbon (1, place du Palais-Bourbon, 7th arrondissement [01 45 51 58 27, metro Assemblée Nationale]). The menu is moderate but well chosen and the wine list is carefully designed to accompany it. Here you'll find things such as "faux filet de race" (which is a cut like sirloin; the "race" part is sort of heritage beef—get it?). The entrées are very nice; the deserts are better. You're more than likely to see politicians and journalists here, since you're just a stone's throw from the Assemblée Nationale. Listen up, and maybe you'll hear some good political gossip.

Fontaine de MarsNot far from the Eiffel Tower is La Fontaine de Mars, where you should certainly go if you like southwest (France) cuisine (129 rue Saint Dominique, 7th arrondissement [01 47 05 46 44]). I was first taken there by some lovely friends who live in the neighborhood, and can't get enough of it. Reserve a table and then appreciate the warm greeting upon your arrival. This place has been around for over 100 years, which should tell you something already. The recipes and the food come from the southwest—you'll find magret de canard, foie gras, and other specialties of the region, carefully prepared and beautifully served. Very nice daily specials complement the imaginative menu. This is an extaordinarily pleasant place to take a meal.

Montparnasse, Alésia (14th arrondissement, mostly)

The Boulevard du Montparnasse, a broad thoroughfare bordered by numerous restaurants, bars, cafés, and movie theaters, feels a little like a neighborhood in a big American city. The only skyscraper in Paris (56 stories) is situated just off the boulevard, right about in the middle of the boulevard's span, and you won't have any problem if you want to find it—nothing in the city is anywhere near so tall. You can go to the top of the skyscraper and get a view of Paris, but I'm not sure it's really worth it: the building is so tall, and all of the other buildings are so much smaller that everything is flattened and out of scale. Nevertheless, some people like to go to the top, their ears popping all the way up, to have a gander.

Montparnasse, by the way, is named after Mount Parnassus, the mountain in Greece where the muses were said to live. You'll find your choice of muse in this neighborhood, provided it's food- or beverage-related. This area has been a haunting groud for students, writers, and philosophers, for centuries, and until recently some of Paris's most famous philosophers could still be seen at its tables.

You'll find great seafood in this neighborhood

You'll find great sea food in this neighborhood. Start at La Coupole, once the haunt of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and the existentialist set (102 boulevard du La CoupoleMontparnasse [01 43 20 14 20]). It's got a brilliant art deco interior, wry and attentive waiters in smart black and white attire, a traditional menu that will certainly please, and, strangely, the staff all gather around the table and sing "joyeux anniversaire" (happy birthday) to those celebrating another year. This is a place to come for oysters and to bask in the history of nearly 80 years of operation, where folks such as Patti Smith and François Mittérand have dined.

Perhaps slightly more expensive, equally stylish and art deco-y, and just as eager to serve you top-notch seafood is Le Dôme (108 Boulevard du Montparnasse [01 43 35 25 81]). The sole might be their signature dish, and the view from the terrasse is pretty excellent.

Right nearby, at 99 Boulevard du Montparnasse, is one of Tom's favoites: Le Select (01 45 48 38 24). Le Select was a favorite of the artists and philosophers of post-war (WWI) Paris, including folks like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Picasso. The food is fine, the service is OK, but the atmosphere is really nice. This is a place to come if you're not looking for a gourmet expeirence, but just want to hang out and enjoy the scene and the history.

Finally, to round out this selection of Montparnasse area restaurants we have La Rotonde (105 Boulevard du Montparnasse [01 43 26 48 26]). La Rotonde has been around for a tad over a hundred years, and it has had its share of artists and such coming through. A little more oriented toward the meat-eaters among you, LaZeyer Rotonde has a 39 euro prix fixe menu that's a pretty good deal. Very pretty surroundings and excellent people-watching here.

Pretty much right in the heart of Alésia is the bright and bustling Zeyer, at 62, rue d'Alésia (01 45 40 43 88; metro Alésia). First opened in 1913, this is a place to come to for fish, seafood, oysters, and rich and tasty meats. The décor here has been modernized, but it's still a very traditional brasserie, and the staff and the waiters are friendly, smart, and quick. If you want to go to a for a meal with a different feel than you'll get at many more centralized locations—meaning this place feels real and neighborhoody—then check it out.

Quatorze JuilletAbsolutely not to be missed is Le Quatorze Juillet, at 99 rue Didot (14th [01 40 44 91 19] metro Plaisance or Alésia). Go to this roughly 20-table restaurant and expect to be the only non-locals here, and expect as well to be warmly greeted and served attentively and promptly. The food is more or less modernized traditional French, and it is done insanely well. In fact, the price to quality ratio is among the best in the city in Tom's humble but, alas! correct opinion (at a recent dinner, 2 of us had 3 courses each and shared a bottle of wine for 42 euros each). I think it's safe to say the menu leans toward meat and fish, but you'll find plenty here if those aren't your thing. Tom's favorite menu item is the millefeuille d'avocat au crabe et curry, which is simply crab and avocado, brilliantly spiced, wedged inside layers of flaky pastry. Mmmmm. Go here. Really.

There's this thing in this neighborhood that's kind of hard to describe called L'Entrepôt (which means depot or warehouse). Situated at 7 rue Francis de Pressensé (metro Pernety or Plaisance), it's a combination of cinema, restaurant, theater, and concert space (and those various agencies have separate contact information). But here we're concerned about the food. What's especially interesting about Fulgurances (which means abundance, and is the name of the restaurant here) is that they incubate up-and-coming chefs here, each of whom spends several months in residence cultivating their menus and trying out things to perfection. Tom has only been here a few times, but has never been disappointed. What they seem to have in common is new angles on traditional food—think very new—or combinations no one has thought of before. The place also has a very appealing dining area.

Aux artistesAux artistes. 63 rue Falguière (01 43 22 05 39). Metro Pasteur or Falguìère, but Pasteur is closer (16 euros—think about that: 3 courses for 16 euros). I've saved the best for last, because this is my favorite restaurant in the world, and it's impossible to explain why. The food is very good—not great, but very good; the ambiance is not enchanting, but it's certainly charming. There's just something, well, I don't know what about this place, and since it's been around since the 1950s, they must be doing something right. Go here, but don't tell anyone about it because we don't want it to be overrun, but I promise you will adore this place. Everyone I've ever taken here has added it to their personal list of favorites. You have to write down your own order on the little slip of paper that will be sitting on your table, and make sure to write down what you want to drink as well. Note that wine is not included here, but get the Réserve—it costs about 2 euros more than the red junk they serve ordinarily, but it's worth it. The "menu" is on the right-hand page of the folder-type thing they give you, and there are about a million choices. Do not oder à la carte. Get the Boeuf Bourguignon if you're not redmeated out. The chicken dishes (poulet) are all good, too. People say the steak tartar is remarkable, but I can't deal with that. I hear the brains aren't bad, and make sure to look at the ceiling. This place has recently found its way into the guide books, which is disappointing, and there will probably be a lot of British and maybe some American tourists there (although recently that hasn't been the case, but the little hand-written sign pointing out the location of the light switch for the restroom still says "Lumière/light"). In general, you want to go late Régaladehere; it'll be jammed until about 10:00 and sometimes even later, especially in the summer. This is a very good place to have a late dinner. All in all, it may well be the best restaurant in the world for food quality, price, and ambiance. The only thing it doesn't have going for it is location, since there isn't really that much else around it (although the neighborhood has been coming up lately). Really: just go here, and then tell me how much you loved it.

Readers Chime In

Peter reviews Tom's reviews of restaurants: "Let me give you feedback on my experiences at four restaurants that are in your guide: Pre Verre: becoming a bit avant garde in its cooking (e.g. black rice ice cream) with varying success. Service a bit sloppy. Perraudin: The food is still very traditional i.e. few veg, meat covered in thick sauce. Au Port Salut: interesting food and good service. A bit more expensive than Perraudin now but my favourite of the places we visited. La Brouette: agree with comments in your guide—inexpensive with straitforward food. P.S. despite some differences I trust your guide.

An anonymous reader tells us we have to check out La Coupole, which is also listed on the "Hanging Out" page (102, bd du Montparnasse,, about 40 euros), and I couldn't agree more. It's one of Montparnasse's old stand-bys, and many a famous writer called the large and open restaurant a second home.

Terry recommends A La Petite Chaise at 36, rue de Grenelle in the seventh arrondissement (01 42 22 13 35 metro rue du Bac or Saint Sulpice). They went early and "there were no patrons at that time. The servers were almost overjoyed to help us. By the time we finished, the place did start to fill up." The restaurant was two blocks from Terry's hotel.

Galen says that one should go to Perraudin (see above) for the Au Gratin alone, and adds that when they went there the owner was so nice he even offered them a complimentary Kir at the bar because they had to wait a little while ("an unexpected delight," writes Galen).

An anonymous reader recommends Chez L'Ami Jean, at 27 Rue Malar in the 7th (metro Tour-Maubourg: 01 47 05 86 89). He/she writes: "This is a very small and crowded Basque bistro with mostly French people seated. There was one other American couple there the night we went. Great ambiance, friendly waiters, large portions of food—altogether a wonderful experience. Not cheap, but worth it."

James from Orlando points out Tom's error on couscous: "when talking about a restaurant named La Couscoussière, you refer to couscous as a grain. It is only a grain in that it is made from a grain, but it really is just very tiny beads of pasta. Couscous is typically made from semolina wheat flour that is moistened and shaped; there also is an Israeli version (p'titim or in the U.S., simply "Israeli style couscous") that is larger (more like Italian orzo)." (return)

OK. I've told you my favorite places, and other readers have given theirs; now it's your turn to add something to the guide. Do you have a favorite place that you always go to? Whether it's a 4-star extravaganza or that little hole in the wall that serves your basic meat and potatoes kind of meal, Tom's Guide wants to know about it. Click here to suggest a restaurant of your own.

Right Bank Restaurants

Right Bank Restaurants


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