Tourist traps in Paris: how to recognize true Parisian restaurants

Paris is one of the first tourist destinations in the world. Coming to the City of Light is, for many people, an important experience, something carefully planned and dreamed of for months. As a Parisian, I feel bad as I walk through the touristic parts of the city and see tourists falling for some of the “tourist traps”. They often go into restaurants I know to be mediocre at best, even though the touting man at the entrance will claim otherwise. Read on to walk this town like a Parisian local. Learn how to recognize true Parisian restaurants!

It’s not that I’ve tried those restaurants before myself, but I can tell that what they serve is some replica of French food. It looks like it, it smells like it but it’s nowhere close to it! Now, let me give you some tricks I use as I look for a new restaurant in the city.

A few details that will definitely help you determine if you’re in a true Parisian restaurants

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I give myself one rule as I tour around Paris looking for good food. There are a few exceptions but you won’t find a good place within 200 meters of a great landmark. Now the second step is to look at the menu displayed outside: Is there a translation in English? If there is, it’s a tourist trap, keep walking! Right now, you’re probably thinking, “but I don’t speak a word of French”. Don’t worry, most of the waiters will be able to translate the menu and explain the food they serve. I get a peek at the inside: are there guide books, maps, cameras on the tables? If there are none, it’s a good sign.

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One last quick glance at the sidewalk: are there plenty of cigarette butts? You know in France it’s not yet totally uncool to smoke, so cigarette butts are a good sign as well. If there are plenty of cigarrette butts on the sidewalk, it means the locals go there. And you already know the locals know the best places. Now, the waiter: what does he look like? Is he disguised as a Parisian waiter should look like according to the old cliché?

The menu says a lot about the restaurant

Now that you’re in, another problem has to be solved: What should I get? First you should know that the number of dishes on the menu is most of the time a giveaway. The shorter the menu is, the better it is. With long lists of fishes, meat and salads, it is very likely that the food is kept in the freezer!

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Personally, I always choose the “plat du jour“, which is the special of the day. It means that the chef himself went to the open market that very morning and picked what was best that day to design his menu. To me, that’s the best way to get the nicest and the freshest products.

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One last tip, you had a great meal and a good wine? Then, you might be wondering what a good tip is. Well, the good news are that it is included in the price. “Service compris” should be somewhere on your receipt and, if it’s not, it’s still included anyway, so leave a few coins if you liked the service, but don’t feel obligated to tip 15% of the total.

This is it, my best tips on how to recognize true Parisian restaurants and avoid tourist traps in Paris. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and that it has been useful to you! Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need further information. And, also, feel free to share your own tips and experiences! If you want to know where to find true Parisian restaurants, join our tours. Your local guide will help you choose good restaurants in the neighborhoods you’ll be visiting. See you soon in Paris!

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