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  • Writer's pictureParisian Niche

Travel Etiquette - Ordering a Meal in Paris...


P'Nicher, à table! We have already covered placing your coffee order in Paris - now, it's time to eat! Now, where to begin to place your order?


We'll, let's first take a P'Niche peek at how the restaurant came to be synonymous with France, its roots grown in Paris...

Many believe that the first French restaurants started opening up in Paris after the French Revolution, when the skilled chefs to the newly guillotined aristocrats needed work and money of their own.

Another theory hypothesizes that the word restaurant comes from the French verb restaurer, “to restore oneself.” This makes sense as the first true restaurants had been operating well before the French Revolution (1789). These vital food spots offered up one principle dish: bouillon. By definition, this type of slow-simmered bone broth, or consommé, is a bouillon restaurant or “restorative broth.”


Once these bouillon restaurants became popular, naturally, their menus expanded to include more food and beverage selections.

By the 1790s, these restorative locations had begun to develop into the haute cuisine dreams we recognize today.

As we have previously hinted to, there were definitely eateries functioning well before the French Resolution.


Let's fall back in time to 1584, when La Tour d'Argent opened. This gem was visited by King Henry IV, the Duke of Richelieu, the Czar of the Russian Empire Alexander II, and the King of Prussia William I.

In fact, the fork that we know today as a main eating utensil, was introduced at these tables. No wonder Disney made La Tour d'Argent their inspiration for the film Ratatouille! You can still enjoy a meal here today (with reservations, of course).


Now, I hear some P'Nichers saying "But, P'Niche, Le Procope was the first one open in Paris, n'est-ce pas?"

Well, yes - and no.

Le Procope was the first café opened in Paris, and quite notably, the longest continuously run establishment of its kind.

A stroll through the many rooms of Le Procope offer you a true history of the city and country. You can see Napoleon's hat, letters from Marie Antoinette, the desk of Voltaire, not to mention where Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson rubbed shoulders with other revolutionaries.

It truly is a world unto itself and worth of a visit. But what (and how) to order a meal here (and other French eateries?)


First, you will want to check if the restaurant you wish to visit requires reservations. Many require them, some "suggest" reservations, and others are ready to welcome you at the door.

A bit of research up front will save some stress later. We'll address those travel / reservation phrases in a future post, so we hope you will subscribe to join us again at the Parisian Niche table.


Now that you have arrived at your location of choice, you will of course greet the host with a charming bonjour or bonsoir (good evening).

Once seated (and do ask before just sitting), you will be offered a bread basket. However, unlike the States, bread is meant to be enjoyed with your meal, not beforehand. You will note that there is no bread plate.

The custom here is to just place your bread on the table top. And make sure your bread is not placed bottom side up - that's bad luck in France!


Your server will then be around to take your drinks order.

You do not need to purchase bottled water, which can be quite expensive. You can simply ask for a "une carafe d'eau" (oon caraffe doh) which is a free glass bottle of tap water.

Sparkling water, on the other hand, does need to be ordered by the bottle, at a cost that will be added to your final bill.

While of course, wine is the main choice for meals, it is meant to be consumed in moderation and with respect. Most places will also offer a comprehensive cocktail menu as well, for your pleasure.

You should not expect several visits from your waiter - they leave you to enjoy your meal without disruptions. This is the common way in Paris, France, and Europe.


We will definitely cover various plates in another post. In the meantime, if in need of help, Google translate can help. There is also the Google Translator App, where you hover your camera over the foreign words, and a translation will appear on your screen, instantly, for ease.

To order, you'd say "Je voudrais" (zhuh voo-dray) and the menu item/s you prefer, followed naturally by "s'il vous plaît"(please) and "merci" (thank you).


If you do need something during the meal, just catch your waiter's eye as you would in the States, with a gentle signal that they come over.

Please do not snap, loudly call, whistle, etc. The correct way to address a waiter is "Monsieur" (muh-syuh) or "Madame." They will gladly assist with your request.


By far, Parisians do not like to be rushed through their meals. This time is meant to be savored (pun intended) and enjoyed thoroughly.

Many meals will come in multiple courses (and often offered to on the menu as a "prix fixe," a certain set price for pre-selected items and courses.)

It's pretty standard to have a coffee after a meal. To be clear, this means after dessert. This is not mandatory though - just a "pick me up" post deliciousness.

Assuming you have finished, again, do not expect a French waiter to come and approach you with the check. You'll simply signal and say "L'addition s'il vous plaît" and it will be brought to you.

As to tips, it's normally included in your total, as "service compris." However, a few extra euros tip is a lovely gesture.

If still uncertain, we have some "tips on tipping" here, for your reference and ease...

P'Niche gets often asked if they will "stick out" if they eat by switching their knife and fork hands while eating.

Not at all. But if you do wish to eat in the "continental style," you will simply cut the food (one piece at a time, not your entire plate) with the knife in your right hand and the fork in the left, as you would at home.

However, rather than switching hands, you will simply (gently) bring the food to your mouth without putting your cutlery down. You can use your knife to push food to the back of the fork tines for ease.

Not in the mood to try? Pas de problème! One P'Niche note, as we often leave one hand in our laps while eating, it is considered rude to do so in France. Keep both wrists on the edge of the tabletop.

When I am lucky enough to eat out in Paris, I love to dine at:

Bistro des Victoires

6, rue la Vrillière, 75001

Métro: Bourse (Line 3)

P'Niche Rec: Tarte M. Séguin, Profiteroles

Le Récamier

4, rue Juliette Récamier, 75007

Métro - Svres-Babylone (Lines 10,12)

P'Niche Rec: Soufflé Henry IV Soufflé

Domaine d'Olléc

20, rue Rousselet, 75007

Métro: Vaneau (Line 10)

P'Niche Rec: Cassoulet

La Coupole

102, bd du Montparnasse, 75014

Métro: Vavin (Line 4)

P'Niche Rec: Sole Meunière

Au Pied de Cochon

6 Rue Coquillière, 75001

Métro: Les Halles (Line 4)

P'Niche Rec: Pied de cochon farci façon Périgourdine

Joséphine Chez Dumonet

117, rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006

Métro: Duroc (Lines 10, 13)

P'Niche Rec: Boeuf Bourguignon

Popine Pizza Sacré Coeur

10, rue Dancourt, 75018

Métro: Anvers (Line 2)

P'Niche Rec: All the Pizzas. All of them! With an Aperol Spritz to pair...

Bon Appétit!

What do you think P'Nichers - is your favorite restaurant on this list? Which one are you most looking forward to trying and what will you order? We look forward to hearing in the comments below et à bientôt!



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