Dining in France (Part 4)

Tim's Wine Market

This is the fourth (and final) installment of my experiences eating in Paris and Champagne while on a trip in May with my family. Please see the other posts for context on May 27th and July 15th.

Like our lunches dinners also took on different forms depending on location and available time. However, unlike our lunches I did make reservations for two meals at restaurants where I have fond memories of previous meals. My apologies that this post is well beyond my self-imposed 500 word limit.

Bistrot Leo (129 Bd de Sébastopol, 2nd)

For our first dinner in Paris I chose this restaurant due to the proximity to our apartment, 2 blocks, Yelp reviews, and quaint neighborhood feel. Like most local bistros about half the seating is outdoors but due to a threat of rain we chose inside. Luckily our table was right on the edge between so we had the benefit of outside breezes but under cover. (It rained half-way through our meal.) The menu is small but classic; escargot (see above), duck confit, salmon and of course burgers, with a basic but inexpensive wine list and cocktails. Our experience was exactly what I hoped, to feel part of the neighborhood with solid examples of classic dishes. The service was fun, attentive and made us feel like regulars, of which there appeared to be plenty. While not a place to make a special journey to visit it is a solid meal if you are nearby.

Le Marais (47 Rue de Turbigo, 2nd)

After a long day of walking and shopping we were looking for a relaxing local bistro, but by this point my girls were ready for a break from “French food.” This local spot caught my wife’s eye as we walked by and the reviews were good so we gave it a try. The real selling point is that most of the menu is pizza and salads, perfect for what we desired. While they also have a slightly bigger wine list than Bistros Leo it is not extensive but prices were very reasonable too. Our food was quite good, and a lot of it, so much so that we took quite a bit back to our apartment. Service was friendly, if relaxed. Like Bistros Leo it is not a restaurant to seek out but if you are in the area the experience is very pleasant.

Allard (41 Rue Saint-André des Arts, 6th)

I visited Allard with my friends Jason Main (St. Louis Wine Merchant) and Craig Baker during our first trip traveling together in 2018. We had been together for a week visiting Bordeaux and Craig booked this restaurant because it is owned by Alain Ducasse and was close to our hotel. We had a fantastic meal and I have talked about it with my family so I wanted to bring them on our trip together. 

This is a very historic restaurant in Paris, founded in 1932 but before that the location was a wine shop!  In 2013 it was purchased by Alain Ducasse to preserve it, and today it is considered one of the “if you know” places particularly on the Left Bank. The wine list is not large but very well selected, although there are no really old wines on the list. However, there are many hard-to-find wines and some items we simply do not see here in the states. Their sommelier was very knowledgable and friendly, so take advantage of his service!

We started with a bottle of Pierre Peters Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru as we took in the menu. The Carte de Jour is filled with many classic bistro dishes that are staple items from the Allard’s ownership almost 100 years ago. For dinner we drank a 2016 Chateau Classe-Speen, a favorite of my friend Craig’s and a small way to honor his memory. I had the frogs legs for an appetizer and sweetbreads with morels for my entree. We also sampled their house pate and escargot, with my daughters enjoying the beef tenderloin and my wife a fish dish. Service was on point, the food was well executed and the entire evening was memorable. I strongly recommend reservations and be prepared this is a relatively expensive meal, especially if you dive into the wine list.

Willi’s Wine Bar (13 Rue des Petits Champs, 2nd)

I have visited Willi’s twice in my previous trips to Paris and their iconic posters decorate my office at home. Since 1980 this is an address to find interesting and up-and-coming wines, but according to several reviews online the food recently has taken a turn for the better. My original plan was to start with appetizers and wine at Willi’s then walk to another nearby restaurant in the Les Halles area, but looking at their plates on Instagram inspired me to make a dinner reservation.

Since my last visit they have expanded, now occupying 3 small storefronts. (The first time I visited they were just a bar with limited dining.) We were seated in the main dining room surrounded by many other tables of Americans, including two tables of wine professionals. (Yes, much to the dismay of my daughters I “worked the room” and met everyone.) The wine list is interesting, although I will brag a bit and say that we carry almost all the wines they serve. Their food menu is also diverse, with classic bistro dishes including several that are tweaked in an international way. We started with their cheese service (see above) and a bottle of white, then I had Guinea fowl and split a bottle of Le Chuise Rosso di Montalcino (By this point I was in the mood for something Italian). Overall the service was attentive and very friendly, as well as quite knowledgable about their wine list. I was not convinced this is a great meal by Paris standards but it is definitely worth stopping in for a glass, or two, before heading to nearby Pied de Cochon. 

La Pomme d’Or  (12 Rue Eugène Mercier, 51200 Épernay)

After traveling to our rental in the Marne Valley of Champagne it was quite late and we needed a few supplies as well as food. We had 20 minutes to reach the only open grocery store in the area so we high tailed it into town just in time. With a few basic groceries in hand we turned our attention to dinner, on a holiday weekend night just before 10 pm. Lucky for us this bar/restaurant serves late and has pretty good Yelp reviews.

The first thing that we quickly realized about leaving Paris is English speaking servers are no longer a given. With many hand jesters and pointing we put together an order of burgers, fries and salads. No comment on the wine list, after hours in the car I was not in the drinking mood, and I do not believe I was missing any rare or great finds. However, the food was quite good and the service was very attentive. So if you are in Epernay and it is late, stop by, you will not be disappointed.

Chamas Tacos Reims (6 Av. Jean Jaurès, 51100 Reims)

During our lovely appointment at Sabine-Godme I discovered that their son had started to produce a series of single vineyard still wines from their Grand Cru holdings. Unfortunately they had no bottles to sell but pointed me to a “restaurant” where they sold much of the production. The “restaurant” Les Caves du Forum would close in less than half an hour so we bid the family goodbye and raced down the mountain into Reims. After frantically parking and racing to find the establishment we were surprised to discover that Les Caves du Forum is actually a wine store, not a restaurant. By the picture you can tell this is a place I could get lost in for hours, full of amazing, older, hard-to-find wines. If I had the inclination I could have shipped home a couple of cases of rarities from this amazing cellar, but alas, I bought only one bottle of Godme Chardonnay and bid them adieu at closing. Then we began the search for food, on a Friday night of a holiday weekend.  After a week of French, and French-Italian food my girls were craving something “like tacos.” To our surprise we found Chamas Tacos, with good reviews and only a few blocks way. After a harrowing stroll around an incredibly large and busy roundabout we reached Chamas to discover it is a counter service, chain restaurant. I am not going to lie, we were not very excited, but starving and quite far from the few other options available, so we decided to order. 

The only reason to eat here is purely for the experience of ordering “tacos” in France. There are serval meat options and sauces, I chose pork harissa, gruyere cheese and french fries IN THE TACO and my girls ordered much of the same. When the food arrived what we received were really burritos, stuffed with the ingredients of choice. Mine was beyond rich, and while full flavored, not the meal I expected. Tijuana Flats this is not, but a funny experience.

Our final meal was at our hotel, the Citizen M, near the Charles de Gaul airport in Paris. Traffic around the airport is notoriously bad and I learned from my friend Craig to stay the night before our early morning departing flight at one of the hotels on the tramline of the airport. Citizen M is a very modern place and comfortable and affordable. Most of the ground floor is restaurant/bar with many satisfying options. Don’t go looking for haut cuisine, but the pizza was not the worst I have ever had and there are plenty of cocktail and beer options.  The advantage is the 5 minute tram ride to the international terminal of Charles de Gaul, an indescribable value in the early am.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip and encourage you to email me with any questions about traveling in France (or many other wine places) at [email protected]