On Your Own … Make Solo Dining Anything Less than Lonely

Written by admin on January 13, 2006 – 4:14 pm -

As president of Bonjour Paris I field a lot of questions. The majority are France-related but are applicable no matter where you are traveling.  This is especially true when it comes to meals. Even people on a diet must eat! I’ve listed some favorites in Paris but the same types of restaurants exist everywhere.

There are two types of single travelers.  Some are delighted to call it a day, whether it’s business or pleasure travel, and seek solace and sustenance by calling room service and vegging out.  They may have done too much shopping and/or sightseeing or had too many meetings and are peopled out. Their rooms are havens and their destinations of choice.  They want to be ready for what the next day brings. They’re delighted to have the opportunity to read, watch television and/or prepare for the following day’s meetings. Some people have eaten large lunches and prefer a light snack (or nothing) before they hit the sack.

There’s the second type of person traveling alone who isn’t the solitary type and wants to eat out. Their idea of eating is not McDonalds. In Paris, as is the case in most cities in the U.S. and the EU, there are places where you can go and have wonderful meals and not feel alone.  Some single women travelers are more restaurant-challenged, not wanting to appear on the prowl.

The reality in Paris is that unless a woman is on the hunt, she’ll rarely, if ever, be bothered… unless she’s wearing come hither clothes. There’s a recent trend and it’s becoming global. Bars in some chic Paris restaurants have place settings during meal times.  Why not squeeze in a few extra covers?  It’s essential you reserve at some; however, it’s more than likely the restaurant manager will be able to squeeze in a solo as contrasted with a couple.

Wine Bars:
Wine bars generally serve food at the bar. Sometimes the food isn’t a five course dinner but often it is. People should always take something to read. But wine lovers share an affinity and frequently end up discussing the merits of different appellations. Some wine bars that score high on the lists:

47 rue de Richelieu
01-42-97-46-49Closed Sundays and Monday lunch.
The owner is Scottish Tim Johnson and the bar attracts a lot of Anglophones.

Jacques Melac
42 rue Leon Frot
Closed Sundays
This wine bar is an institution and the owner is a character.
The plats du jour are hearty but most people stick with the wooded boards loaded with charcuterie.

Willie’s Wine Bar
13, rue des Petits-Champs

Oeniphiles hang here to sample good to great wines. British owner Mark Williamson servers up more than presentable bistro fare.  Another favorite among the Anglophone group: Cuban-American Juan Sanchez opened a wine store and soon after, followed with a restaurant called Fish.  Don’t get the wrong idea that only fish is served – rather, its connotation is “drink like a fish.”  The wine selection is extensive and the food is actually good. Regulars from the neighborhood stop by for a glass of wine and/or something to eat. The bar scene attracts all ages and it’s hard not to end up speaking with a neighbor.

69, rue de Seine
Open for lunch and dinner everyday but Monday.   It’s the hangout for Anglophone expats and the food is much improved, thanks to a new chef. The wines have always been first rate.

Sushi – Sushi! And more Oriental
Part of the fun of sushi restaurants that serve brochettes is sitting at the bar watching the chefs perform their culinary show. Again, singles don’t feel lonely even when they’re alone. If you want to strike up a conversation with your neighbor, you know what to talk about.  If you don’t feel like talking, tant pis. That’s up to the diner to decide.

3, rue Andre-Mazut
Closed Sunday lunch and all day Monday. This Japanese restaurant is very upscale and the prices reflect it. As is the case with Japanese food in Paris, it’s expensive compared to the US. If you’re having Japanese food withdrawal, financially you’ll make out better if you go for lunch where there are moderately priced formules.

41 Monsieur-le-Prince 75006, 01-34-29-00-54
Open every day and moderately priced.No matter where you look in Paris, there appear to be Japanese restaurants popping up. The adage that you can tell how good a restaurant is by the number of Orientals sitting at the counter may not be a bad one. When Japanese tourists come to Paris, they eat as if there’s no tomorrow.  Americans may find Japanese food expensive in the City of Light.But the Japanese pig out since it’s so much less expensive here than it is in Japan. Plus, they can order salmon which isn’t available at home.

Noodle Shops
If you’re on a budget or simply love Oriental noodles, you will think you’ve died and  gone to heaven if you walk down the Rue St. Anne in the first arrondissement.There are noodle shops everywhere. If you can’t read the menu, all you need to do is sit at the counter and point. Do bring your own reading material unless you can read ideograms.

French Diner with a Flair!
Leave it to Christian Constant to decide he wanted to open place with good food and no pretensions. Don’t be surprised if you see the master cusinier holding forth, meeting and greeting. Some people in the 7eme swear the affable (not to mention, mega-talented) chef is running for mayor. There’s counter service and you can eat lunch and dinner there for a fraction of the cost of his flagship restaurant, Le Violen d’Ingres,

Haute Cuisine
Alain Ducasse was among the first to introduce an eating bar in one of his restaurants, Spoon.  Just because you’re on a bar stool, don’t expect the tab to be cheap.

14, rue de Marignan
Open Monday- Friday Lunch & dinners. www.spoon.tm.fr
Even though it’s only a small bar at the restaurant’s entrance, reservations are needed. You might luck out but why take the chance?    This is the closest rendition of French cuisine a la tapas style. There are 40 seats around a multi-sectioned bar where it’s nearly impossible for four people to hold a cogent conversation. Diners watch the chefs perform and go “oh la la” at all of the vertical food presentations. Reservations are accepted exclusively at the beginning of the lunch and dinner service. If you don’t want to eat at 11:30 or at 6:30, be prepared to stand in line. It’s definitely a plus to be single here.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
5, rue de Montalembert
Open daily.
Guy Savoy (actually his incredibly handsome son) has taken over the helm of this chicer than chic restaurant where the food is some of the most innovative in Paris. It also has a bar where to eat. Both the food and the people watching are out of this world.

3, rue Arsene Houssaye
Closed Saturday lunch and Sundays. http://www.lechiberta.com/en/chiberta/chiberta.html

There are so many “single friendly” places in Paris that I wouldn’t hesitate to set out on my own and frequently do. Even starred restaurants don’t mind when a person is sitting alone. If you’re a woman, so much the better; most waiters show a bit more interest and are often likely to bring you a kir and make sure you’re comfortable. It’s advisable that you leave a supplementary tip because normally the waiter would have been serving two people.

There are plenty of Irish bars in Paris when you can grab a beer and a burger. Or, you can sit in a “palace” hotel bar or lounge and enjoy dinner alone. Most Europeans don’t think it’s bizarre if you’re traveling alone and not staying in a super business-style hotel. Take a book or a magazine as your companion.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve ended up in pleasant conversation with people from around the world. If you’re in the mood to talk, more than likely, your eating “companions” will be as well. If the truth be known, there are times when it’s a pleasure to eat “alone.” Most especially, if you’re curious by nature and like to know what other people are thinking!

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