December 27, 2011
Fresh off the plane and bleary-eyed with two kids in tow, we set out for our first family meal in Paris. Surely in this city of more than 8,000 restaurants, finding a suitable spot would be simple enough, non?
After passing snug bistros and lively brasseries, we spotted a red neon sign that seemed to scream, “Kids Welcome Here!” We made a beeline for Hippopotamus, the kid-friendly chain with outposts all over the city. Without dwelling on the gastronomic disappointment (and pricey menu) of that evening, we learned some early lessons about eating out with kids in Paris. Number one? Don’t eat at Hippopotamus.
Ready for a fancy French meal (Juliet)
In the months since, we’ve tried many restaurants with our children (ages four and six). Here are some tips and sure-fire hits when you venture out to eat en famille.
Not where but when: Successful family dining is about knowing when to go. Many wonderful restaurants will welcome kids if you go at off-peak times. Sunday déjeuner is a big one for family meals in Paris. Friday and Saturday nights? Not so much. For mid-week lunches, go earlier or later than the business crowd and you’ll likely be met with a smile. Bustling brasseries and service continu restos will suit you better than dinner at 9:00 at the cozy corner bistro.
Picnic-ing and playing on the Champs de Mars (Markus Bollingmo)
Know your kids. Know the French: French children are trained to sit quietly and eat like little adults. French parents are strict and never more so than around the table. Crying, screaming and crawling under the table are not tolerated and will prompt vocal disapproval and the not-so-subtle “oh la la.” Adjust your restaurant choices accordingly to avoid a miserable meal for all.
Picky preschooler or gamin gourmand? What foods kids enjoy varies widely. After being weaned off hot dogs and mac n’ cheese, mine now love escargot and Epoisses. Many restaurants offer a Menu Enfant including a plat, boisson and dessert for under 10 euros. And even if they don’t, most will do a simple steak haché (bunless burger), pasta with marinara or omelet for your little one.
With these tips in mind, here are some of our family favorites. Bon appetit!
Le Comptoir du Relais: After our early mishap at Hippopatamus, we decided that eating out with the kids wasn’t worth it unless we could eat in real Paris restaurants. A favorite (en famille or à deux) is Le Comptoir, headed by bistro maestro Yves Camdeborde. The food is delicious, the atmosphere lively. They don’t take reservations (hence the queue out front) but take the family around 6:00pm and you’ll have no problem nabbing a table. The servers are kid-friendly and their croque-monsieur with vache qui rit is a no-brainer for the tots.
Le Relais de l’Entrecote: The formula at this Paris classic is simple: juicy steak grilled to order with their signature sauce, a salade verte and mound of crispy frites. That’s it. That’s all they serve. And when it’s this good, who needs anything else?
The steak frites at Relais de L’Entrecote (Marko)
Café de Flore / Brasserie Lipp: Head to Flore for a surprisingly warm welcome for all. It’s loud and the waiters are friendly, a strong combination for happy eating with kids. They’ll do omelets, pasta or an ever-reliable croque-monsieur to please any pint-sized palate while you take in the beau monde. Feeling a bit braver? Try Brasserie Lipp across the boulevard. This art deco gem offers service continu so come early to beat the Parisian dinner crowd who flocks here for their classic Alsatian dishes like choucroute.
Les 400 Coups: When you’re looking for a place that truly caters to the under four-foot set, Les 400 Coups, near the park Les Buttes-Chaumont, has something for everyone. It offers a seasonal menu with veggie options plus play spaces for kids. It even has scheduled story times and special kids’ ateliers.
Pique-nique, Crepes & Berthillon: You’ll never go wrong with an outdoor picnic or warm crepes made to order. My family has picnicked all over the city from the banks of the Seine to Pere la Chaise cemetery. Grab gourmet provisions at the Grande Epicerie de Paris or simple sandwiches from any boulangerie. For dessert, no child (or parent) can resist Paris’ beloved Berthillon ice cream on the ever-charming Ile St. Louis.
What’s better than a hot crepe on a cold day? (Henrik Berger Jørgensen)
- More kid-friendly restaurants over on Babyccino
- What to do with kids while you’re here that everyone will enjoy
- Jenny at Dinner A Love Story shares her list of where to eat and what to do
- Hilarious stories of living in Paris with kids over at La Mom
Written by Paige Bradley Frost
Paige Bradley Frost, a Los Angeles native, moved back to Paris with her young family in 2011 after first living and getting married there in 2000. A lover of French style and cuisine, she spends her days scouting and writing about the city's gems when not chasing after her two young children. Her articles about parenting, culture and lifestyle have appeared on NYTimes.com, the Huffington Post and various other publications. She blogs about her Paris experiences at http://parisdejavu.blogspot.com.
Website: Paris Deja Vu