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August 17, 2009 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Where can we make out with French boys, what foodie things can I not miss in Paris, and what is the Kampa Park of Brussels?

In two weeks, I will be in Paris for the first time, with
my family. Then Bruges, Brussels and Amsterdam. I will be on vacation with my parents and my sister. We love seafood and wine and meat and salty snacks and cocktail hour. And cheese. I am obsessed with France/ French cuisine/Food and cooking in general. I spent all winter baking macarons in my tiny Chicago apartment. I have Pierre Herme and Laduree already mapped out for macaron gluttony, and Stohler's for éclairs. My parents are graciously picking up the tab, so being thrifty isn't necessary. We're not looking to have dinner at any Michelin star restaurants- but what foods/restaurants/bakeries/shops should we not miss?

We'll probably have a nightcap after dinner with my parents, but my sister and I would like to go out a few nights. We're both in our mid-20s, both single. She's more mainstream sports bar/ beer/ frat boys, and I'm more offbeat hipster bar/ gin martinis/ hipsters. We will both begrudgingly put up with the other's choice for at least a night. We're staying in the city centers at all locations, and are transit-savvy. Any suggestions?

When we were in Prague, my mother, sister and I had dinner at Kampa Park. We ate outside on the patio right on the river, overlooking the Charles bridge. The food was exquisite, we watched the sunset, and when it got a little chilly, the waiter draped us with
warm blankets. Blankets! It was perfect. It'll be just the ladies for two nights in Brussels, and we'd like to repeat the experience- breathtaking views, superb service, and delicious food. Where should we go?
posted by IWoudDie4U to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (15 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Standard recommendations, but you can't go wrong with Androuet for your cheese and Berthillon for your ice cream.
posted by escabeche at 3:07 PM on August 17, 2009

The 4ème, 11ème and 12ème arrondissements meet at the Place de La Bastille. Just a few blocks up from one of the spokes is the Rue de Lappe. There's a whole row of cool bars there that should have something for each of you. Have fun!
posted by dacoit at 3:10 PM on August 17, 2009

Haven't been there in years, but Pop In on Rue Amelot is reasonably close to Place de la Bastille and would probably be up your alley.
posted by dhammond at 3:17 PM on August 17, 2009

Does the two weeks include Saturday Sept. 5? If so, you should go to Bootie. This one's at La mecanique ondulatoire, which is here. You'll definitely run into some French hipsters.

Alternatively, go drink at the bar at the Palais de Tokyo, which is a contemporary art museum (if you can't read French well enough to figure out where it is from the website, here you go). You can see some cool art and then rub elbows with a more or less stylish hipster set.
posted by oinopaponton at 3:30 PM on August 17, 2009

If all else fails, just walk around, taking in the sights, and grab a loaf of fresh bread to eat with delicious cheeses.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:46 PM on August 17, 2009

Try Fauchon, Place de la Madeleine.

Chartier is a fantastic, dirt cheap dining experience.

My enduring recommendation is Les Refufe des Fondues, because it's social and a lot of fun, unlike a lot of places in Paris.

Be sure to browse the Paris tag.
posted by fire&wings at 4:54 PM on August 17, 2009

Best answer: Bastille is a bit touristy now (especially rue de Lappe), so you sister might like the crowd there more than you. Try the bars on Oberkampf (especially café Charbon at Oberkampf and rue St. Maur) or Ave Maria at rue Jacquard @ Oberkampf. Also, try l'Orange Mécanique, l'Alimentation Générale, or Ogive on rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, which is one block over from Oberkampf. There are a few hipster-y bars to be found around the gay neighborhood in the Marais (look up rue de Ste. Croix de la Bretonnerie and/or rue des Rosiers). Don't bother with the latin quarter for nightlife (although it's quaint and worth a visit at some point).

For food, Berthillon on l'Ile St.-Louis is top for ice cream. À l'Étoile d'Or / Denise Acabo on rue Lafontaine near métro Blanche (line #2) is the best place in town for the finest chocolates, candies, and marshmallows in all of France (including Bernachon's chocolate, which you can't get outside of Lyon), but if you're coming to town very soon, she might not be re-opened from her summer holidays.

Get falafels at l'As du Falafel on a Sunday afternoon after wandering through the Jewish neighborhood on rue des Rosiers. Eat a medium-priced tasting menu at le Dôme du Marais in the Marais, and be sure to get their chartreuse soufflé. Get hand-made marshmallows from Boulangerie Malineau on rue Vielle du Temple two blocks north of rue de Rivoli if you can.

The 'classic' macaron flavors (e.g., vanilla, coffee, chocolate) are better at Ladurée, but the 'unusual' flavors (e.g., olive oil, passionfruit-dark chocolate, lychee-rose, pistachio-lime) are better at Pierre Hermé.

Go to Au Tour de Montlhéry / Chez Denise on rue des Prouvaires, just on the other side of the park des Halles from St. Eustache church. The place is open until 5am and fills up quick. Order theh mutton and white bean ragout, or the tripes in calvados sauce, or the veal kidneys. Their specialty is organ meats, steaks, and massive portions. I've only once made it to dessert there.

Sorry, I have to leave Paris in two weeks after living here for a long while and I'm a bit distraught. You don't have to do all of this in one visit.
posted by LMGM at 5:07 PM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

For a somewhat unusual meal by Paris standards, try the amazing Breton cuisine at Chez Michel. And if you're wandering around the Marais at lunchtime, the falafel at Chez Hanna is not to be missed.

And let me know if you need some French recommendations here in Chicago. :)
posted by j-dawg at 7:01 PM on August 17, 2009

I lived near Bastille for several months, but we almost never went out there, usually either near République & Oberkampf or around the St. Michelle. I think the République & Oberkampf area have basically supplanted Bastille as the cool place. St. Michelle has some cafes with lovely views, but not Bastille. I did like a little place called Café de la Plage kinda near Bastille, very friendly. I highly recommend visiting a restaurant named Chez Gladines near Place de Italie.

Imho, Paris' best bars are outdoor places along the Seine where people gather to drink, talk, and dance, like Pont des Arts. You can bring & drink some 30-40 euro bottle which you'd never even find in a bar, or might cost over 100 euros if you did. Try yourself a Vin de Paille or Sauternes.

Of course, the down side is you're out when your bottle is empty, plus you need to carry glasses, bouchon, etc., well just get cheap wine glasses for 1 euro each and leave them if your going clubbing after. You might also get yelled at by the occasional gang looking losers from the suburbs, but just ignore them and talk to the nice guys.

I think the best park for women might be the park on the left bank between the Sully and Austerlitz, you can surely get spun around by some real dancing experts there, once you run out of booz.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:00 AM on August 18, 2009

Best answer: I live in Brussels, but don't know of anyplace that really sounds like Kampa Park (not to say that such a place doesn't exist), but here are a few thoughts.

La Maison du Cygne is often mentioned as one of the best. It's right in the Grand Place -- a spot we usually avoid, especially this time of year, since it's packed with tourists -- but it's nonetheless a popular choice. 3 Couleurs, way out in Tervuren, is another that makes a lot of lists as being one of the best. Belga Queen is always mentioned in this category too. I haven't been to any of these myself, so I can't offer a first-hand report.

Aux Armes de Bruxelles is a classic spot, well regarded for traditional Belgian fare. Good food, maybe a bit lower key than the restaurants above. Stay away from the other restaurants in the so-called Gauntlet around Rue des Bouchers, though. They're packed, obnoxious, and way overpriced.

I actually think the best food in Brussels is usually found in the smaller neighborhood places than the big famous restaurants in the center. For mussels Jacques in St-Catherine is awesome. There's a host of truly great little restaurants around Châtelain if you want to explore away from the center. The best place for beer is Moeder Lambic in St. Gilles. And do yourself a favor and get some frites at Frit Flagey in Place Flagey. They're the best in Brussels (and possibly anywhere in the world) and you can eat them while you walk along the Etangs d'Ixelles to the Abbaye de la Cambre.
posted by dseaton at 2:50 AM on August 18, 2009

[note: Je suis parisien]

As for night-outs...

For first-timers, your best bet might be to wander around in the "nightlife" neighbourhoods, such as Bastille and Le Marais. In that matter, LMGM's first paragraph is great, although I'm not too sure they are so touristy as to be uninteresting. Such, a lot of people go there at night, and it can feel overwhelming, but there are small bars here and there that can still feel homely. I myself am fond of Le Marais (we have our habits at The Auld Alliance pub, Paris' only Scottish pub I believe), but there are many other places where you could enjoy the night:
- the streets in-between Les Halles and the Pompidou Center are also full of diverse bars - but since Les Halles is a big transportation hub, its surroundings gets filled quite, and sometimes not with the best of crowds.
- the Saint-Michel hood is a classic, where a lot of people meet. There are A LOT of pubs over there, in the surrounding streets.
- Oberkampf and République's streets are filled with nice places that should both of your bills

Heavily seconing jeffburdges' suggestion of just taking a blanket, a bottle, snacks, and go on the Pont des Arts - although it can get packed on sunny days and weekends. In the same vein, the whole of Canal Saint Martin is invaded by parisians hispters at night, for a picnic or more. And if you don't mind the crowd, you could do this on the steps of the Sacré-Coeur.

- the Batofar is a lightship anchored on the Seine. Very electro, sometimes with indie/electro concert.
- I used to like La Loco in my youth, 'cos they had 3 big rooms/style: dance, rock, groove. Now apparently it's dance, hip-hop and 80's revival, which might also float your boat.
- the Paris Social Club, rue Montmartre, is a great little place for indie/electro nights, with often concerts
- the Gibus is I believe still relevant as a rock club, but also leans towards electro
- the Barrio Latino is a bar/restaurant that also has floors dedicated to dancing. Beautiful place.
- La Flèche d’Or, more of a (free) concert spot, but also a bar. I think it's reopened recently.
- Le Piano Vache, Le Pop-in (as said by dhammond), Le Point FMR (Ephémère), Glaz'art...

So many more...
posted by XiBe at 4:36 AM on August 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

Canal Saint Martin is a great place to meet people. Bring a bottle and hang out by the canal. I don't think it's too hipstered out, but then I live in Brooklyn.
posted by pollex at 5:37 AM on August 18, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you so much for the lovely list of places- I'll be mapping them all out and visiting as many as I can- the five people who read my blog will be much obliged. LMGM gets best answer for including not just one, but two places to get marshmallows. And dseaton for wonderful Brussels restaurant suggestions.
posted by IWoudDie4U at 11:31 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks, IWD4U! By the way, you can check out my blog (self-link) and click on the "Fooding" label to see an endless list of reviews / stories of me eating in various restaurants in Paris or shopping for fancy food or what have you.

p.s. one other completely necessary thing to do is to buy a poulet rôti (rotisserie chicken) from a reputable boucher/volailler, take it to a park or your hotel, and tear it to shreds with your hands and sop up the chicken fat with fresh bread. If you're alone and you don't want a whole chicken, most places will sell half-chickens and quarters.
posted by LMGM at 3:14 PM on August 18, 2009

Response by poster: Back for my trip, and I must say, it was quite successful- as an addition to those who may use this in the future:

Paris: I made out with a French boy in a creperie on Rue de Oberkampf, I spent way too much money at Fauchon, I ate macarons every day (best macaron was the olive oil at Pierre Herme, but other than that I prefered Laduree or the chain Paul). I had marshmallows at Boulangerie Malineau, and a lovely dinner at le Dôme du Marais. I obsessively google-mapped all the places I wanted to go, if anyone wants a link to it, let me know. Additions: A friend suggested Le Lutin dans le Jardin in the Latin Quarter, and the duck there is the best duck I have ever had. Best. Duck. Ever. Also, the best meal of the trip was at L'Encrier (55, Rue Traversière) where I had fried rabbit kidneys, and beef cheeks- the owner didn't speak much English but was delightfully jolly.

Brussels: We did also have dinner in Brussels at La Maison du Cygne, which was almost empty but the service was perfect and the food was delicious.

Bruges: We went hot air ballooning over the city on a whim- I highly recommend hot air ballooning over Bruges.

Pictures and more, if anyone's interested, on my blog (self-link). Thanks again!!
posted by IWoudDie4U at 7:46 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

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