Eating Out in Paris . . . With Kids
Fri 11 Jun 2010
Kids being kids at Mama Shelter.
Parisians rarely dine out with their children. Doing so is not practical when restaurants open at eight o’clock in the evening and the kids should be in bed by nine. It is expensive, and it is reserved as a very special treat. But children are welcome at many local restaurants, and if the three-hour meals with hefty bills are a bit much for your family, there are plenty of gourmet alternatives that allow foodie parents to enjoy their visit while keeping junior happy.
With children I prefer cafés or bistros to traditional restaurants. The food at these establishments is generally excellent. Many three-star chefs have opened a neo-bistro, or three, because even adults prefer a lighter, more relaxed atmosphere these days.
There are plenty of chains that target local families and are great for your family, too. For a truly child-friendly, educational and scenic meal, take the kids to a morning market, where they can load up on picnic supplies for a gourmet feast to be enjoyed at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, on the Pont des Arts or on the western tip of the Ile St.-Louis.
Ready to serve you at le Relais de l'Entrecôte.
On rue St.-Andre-des-Arts, in the 6th Arrondissement, there’s a collection of crêperies that have fun, funky interiors and prepare savory crepes with buckwheat flour. Even the pickiest eaters can find a crepe they love, and the desserts are sure to please. My favorite is Crêperie des Arts, but that is for purely sentimental reasons.
If you’d like to dine and see local kids dining, too, then head out on a Sunday. The local chains are overflowing with families. Hippopotamus and Chez Clément have addresses throughout the city, and some of their establishments even have play areas. Le Relais de l’Entrecôte is a favorite with the more affluent crowd. The restaurant offers only steak frites, and the servers greet diners with the question, How would you like that done? They note the requests on the paper table covers, then promptly return carrying green salads with walnuts. The steak and fries are served in two rounds, and the dessert menu is fantastic. The Méridien Montparnasse hotel is famous for its Baby Brunches, with staff who keep the kids entertained while the parents relax. And the brunch at Mama Shelter includes foosball.
There are also a handful of restaurants that welcome families, and have good food and a stupendous setting. Le Train Bleu is a historic, baroque jewel in the Gare de Lyon, overlooking the train tracks. It serves traditional French food, and the kid’s menu offers smaller portions of the adult meals. Le Ciel de Paris is on the 56th floor of the Montparnasse Tower, allowing for a panoramic view while you dine. Le Café de l’Homme, at Trocadéro, looks onto the Eiffel Tower. Although it’s called a café, this is a restaurant with food as trendy as the decor and the patrons, making it a great option for teens.
Pig knuckle at Chez Clément.
The ne plus ultra of family dining, however, would have to be the offer made by Guy Savoy. He invites teens aged 15 to 17 to dine for free at his three-star Michelin restaurant if accompanied by two adults. This is not just a meal but an artistic performance. I only recommend this for teens who are gourmets themselves. Prices are not listed on the website, but dinner can run into the range of 300 euros per person. There is a 100-euro lunch menu, but even this can be a four-hour gill-stuffing adventure. If that sounds like more than your teen can handle, he offers the same deal for 12- to 15-year-olds at his three Paris neo-bistros: les Bouquinistes, Atelier Maître Albert and le Chiberta.
Which brings us to French food and the picky-eaters club. Somewhere French food became known as fussy and saucy and complicated. For the most part, this is not true. Most restaurants offer some variation of steak or chicken with fries. Even the posh ones. Croque monsieur is on nearly every café menu, and it is just a fancy term for a grilled cheese sandwich with ham.
If you want to branch out and have your offspring try something uniquely French, there is duck confit. I have never met a French kid who does not love this dish of meltingly tender duck leg, served with fries or potatoes cooked crisp with garlic and duck fat. Bon appétit!
Crêperie des Arts
27, rue St.-Andre-des-Arts, in the 6th.
01 43 26 15 68.