There are plenty of “Best of” lists for Paris, from web sites to guide books and your aunt who visits every fall. Here are a few favorites of my own, sorely missed as I roam the European countryside…
Joe Allen Restaurant is by far the one restaurant in Paris that Mr. Hall and I have visited more than any other (maybe because it was right down the road). The name doesn’t sound French because it’s not. Joe Allen’s is a very American restaurant, and not just a French one dressed in American clothes. The décor, the food, the ambience, and the bar are all 100% authentic American. It’s a nice, quiet place to come for a candlelit dinner with a date, Sunday Brunch on their small secluded terrace, or Thanksgiving Dinner with all of the right fixings. This is definitely one restaurant where “American” doesn’t equal “Cheap and Disgusting Food”. We rarely have to reserve, but if you’re coming with more than two people or during busy dinner times (7:30-9:30pm), it’s best to call ahead. The service is always friendly and professional, and the staff and menus are bilingual. A two-course menu is usually 112ff, not including drinks. I highly recommend the Louisiana Fried Chicken and the Spinach Salad. Joe Allen Restaurant, 30, rue Pierre Lescot, 1re arr., Metro Etienne Marcel (look for the awning and tall hedges on your left when exiting the metro)or Metro Les Halles; tel: (33)1-42-36-70-13.
Le Palet is a typical French restaurant just across from the Palais Royal Gardens. We ate here with our good friends Franck and Emmanuelle on our last night in Paris. At first glance it appears to be just a small and nondescript bistro, but the place to sit is downstairs, where a series of small rooms are decorated to look like a luxury train, complete with curtained windows and antique wooden walls. Make sure you call and reserve for this, because even on a Monday night we had difficulty getting the four of us in. The food is well-prepared and there’s plenty of it, which makes up for the slightly miffed attitude of our servers (they are French, after all). The three course menu at 110ff is one of the best deals in Paris, and even though it’s in the heart of a heavily touristed area, the restaurant was filled with locals—always a good sign. Le Palet, 8 rue Beaujolais, 1re arr., Metro Bourse or Palais Royale; tel: (33)1-42-60-99-59.
There are plenty of places in Paris to get pampered, and the French women who consider weekly trips to the salon a necessity keep the prices down to Earth. One of my favorite, revealed to me by my over-pampered pal Claire, is hidden away on a tiny street near the Marche Montorguiel. La Reine de Sabah is an Indian salon–tiny, colorfully tiled, and smelling of steamy eucalyptus and amber oils. It’s best to make a reservation, but stop by first to get a brochure describing all of the services and prices. Some of the pamperings include Oriental epilation, facials, body treatments, manicures and pedicures, lymphatic drainage, and henna tattooing. They also have a shop down the road selling oils, Indian jewellery and clothes. La Reine de Sabah, 69 rue Greneta, 2nd arr., Metro Etienne Marcel or Sentier; tel: (33)1-40-41-06-64.
No list would be complete without a great shoe boutique. There are plenty of places to buy great shoes around Les Halles and Etienne Marcel, from Kabuki and Freelance to Shoe Biz and Palace des Chaussures. But my favorite is an unknown brand called Jean Gaborit, a French company who make their own shoes right here in France, at reasonable prices. They specialise in boots, with every style you could possibly want, from little booties to thigh highs. They also sell regular heels and sandals. The best thing about this boutique is that they will make any model they have to measure, for only 200ff above the regular price—an absolute steal in Paris! I had a pair of lovely knee-high black leather boots (a Parisian must-have) boots made to fit my non-existent calves for just 1900ff. There were some cute little slip-on open-toe heels, with three heel heights to choose from, in their summer collection. Jean Gaborit, rue Rambuteau (far west side, just next to St. Eustache Church), Metro Les Halles (exit Rue Rambuteau and it will be just on your left).
Within walking distance to all of these places is the Hotel de Roubaix. It’s not the most posh hotel in Paris, and it’s not the cheapest, but it’s a nice place to stay for a reasonable price in the center of Paris. When Mr. Hall and I were married, we had most of our guests at this hotel, as it was easy to find, next to the church, and very typically “French”. It probably saw its heyday back in the early 1900’s, but its antique furniture and rosy colors are still comforting, while the new bathrooms are very clean and well lit. It’s located within walking distance to the Pompidou Center, Les Halles, and Notre Dame. Doubles during the high tourist season go for 280-350ff per night, while a room for four is about 500ff. This includes breakfast, an exception in Paris, and there is an elevator for those sick of hauling their luggage up the stairs of Paris. Make sure to book well in advance, since the large hotel is popular with French convention groups. The best time to visit is in August, when Paris is very quiet and rates go down. The owner is a grumbly man who will pretend he doesn’t understand you, so you may want to fax your reservation and confirm it before arriving. Make sure to let them know if you prefer a shower or a bathtub. Hotel de Roubaix, 6, rue Greneta, 3rd. arr., Metro Arts-et-Metiers, Reamur-Sabastopol, or Chatelet-Les Halles; tel: (33)1-42-72-89-91, fax: (33)1-42-72-58-79.
Next Month: Some of my favorite websites for Paris art, online shopping, and local events in English.
This article is one of the 78 original “Secrets of Paris” articles published between September 1999 and July 2004. After disappearing into the internet graveyard for almost 15 years, I’ve republished them in autumn 2019 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Secrets of Paris: “1999-2019: Twenty Years of the Secrets of Paris” Broken and dead links have been updated or deactivated, but otherwise the article remains unchanged.