Dining out with kids in Paris - Ann Mah | Ann Mah

« | Home | »

Dining out with kids in Paris

By Ann | June 24, 2014

Dining out in Paris with kids

Paris restaurants don’t have a reputation for being very kid friendly, so before my most recent trip—my first with baby in tow—I wondered whether I’d be able to eat out with my nine-month-old daughter. Our first lunch at a neighborhood café was not encouraging. We were seated at a corner table with the baby parked in her stroller directly beneath the door of a refrigerator. Every few minutes, a waiter opened the fridge to grab one of the carafes of water cooling within. The glass bottle passed right over the baby’s tender head while the head waiter barked: “Fais TRES attention au bébé!” (Be VERY careful of the baby!) The waiter would shoot me a look that screamed “You are in the way!” and the fridge door would slam shut. When the baby began squawking, we bolted our food and beat a hasty retreat.

After this experience, it seemed likely that we wouldn’t eat out in Paris as a family for the next seventeen years. But after I canvassed a couple of Paris parent friends, we tried again, and again, several times—and found each meal easier than the last. I’ve combined their suggestions with my tips for dining out with a baby in Paris. I’d love to hear your recommendations, too—please leave them in the comments!

baby in paris café

Choose wisely—I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Parisians are very child friendly. But not in restaurants. It’s important to pick the kind of place where kids are welcome (I offer a few addresses below). Casual spots like cafés, bistros, or non-French places like pizza or Chinese food are good choices. Only you know your kid’s limits, but personally I would avoid everything else with a baby. “I see the most kids in Asian restaurants, not traditional French restaurants,” says my friend Erin, mother of Felix, 4, and Lucie, 2. Another alternative: “Crêperies are definitely known as family friendly places.”

Eat early—French people are creatures of habit—they like to eat at the same times—that is, one o’clock for lunch; eight o’clock for dinner. If you show up at a restaurant early, you’ll catch the staff before the rush, and there will be few other customers to disturb with baby squawking. “The very best thing is to go immediately at 12pm or 7pm,” says Erin. “Make sure you’re the first people served so the kids aren’t waiting forever.”

But not too early—Paris restaurants keep rigid hours; most aren’t open before 12pm or 7pm. If you’d like to eat outside those hours, look for a place that offers “service continu”—continuous dining service—usually a café. Fair warning: the best food in Paris is not usually found in places with service continu.

baby with baguette

Don’t expect kid accoutrements—High chair? Crayons? Kid’s menu? Fuhgeddaboudit. “I’ve never been to a restaurant that has a high chair available or that could easily accommodate our own portable high chair,” says Claire, mother of Theo, 21 months. Restaurants for families do exist, “but they’re chain restaurants,” says Erin. I brought most of the baby’s food from home, and gave her a chunk of baguette from the bread basket to keep her busy.

Case the joint in advance—Don’t just show up with the stroller, expecting to be seated. Scope out the restaurant in advance to see what kind of space they have. Pop in and ask if they’d mind accommodating kids and/or a stroller. “If they’re reluctant to welcome kids, it’s almost always a space issue,” says Erin. Paris real estate is expensive; most restaurants are tiny. “My father-in-law is in a wheelchair and when restaurants see us coming with him and the stroller, they’re like, ‘Forget it!'” says Claire.

Find an outdoor café— “I usually try for a restaurant with ample outdoor seating and  sit at the end where I can pull up the stroller,” says Claire. Pedestrian streets like rue Montorgueil or rue Cler offer a large choice of cafés with wide terrasses—though they also attract heavy smokers. We had lunch in one café on rue Cler, which offered ideal seating—lots of room for the stroller, we were outside so didn’t have to worry about baby yelps—but the food left much to be desired.

Goûter is good—I’ve noticed children are more welcome at goûter, or tea time, the four o’clock hour when French people like to eat sweets. I’ve even spotted kids in chic salons de thé like Jacques Genin or Angelina. Otherwise, picnics are an obvious choice for families of young children—plus you have an excuse to buy lots of different types of cheese!

Bottom line—After several lunches with the baby (we never tried dinner since she goes to bed too early), and talking to several friends, my conclusion is that dining out in Paris with young children is not common. But it is acceptable, if you choose the right kind of place and right time, and if you’re considerate of the staff and other customers. In other words, maybe it’s not so different from anywhere else?

Paris restaurant with baby

les deux abeilles with baby

Where to eat with kids in Paris

Les Deux Abeilles
189 rue de l’Université, 7e
tel: 01 45 55 64 04
At first glance, this cozy tea salon does not seem kid-friendly—space is tight, voices are low, and there are crisp, white tablecloths. But they offer continuous service from 9am-7pm, which means you could eat super early without worrying about being a nuisance. I love their savory tarts, hearty salads, and gorgeous cakes.

Café Suédois à l’Institut Suédois
11 rue Payenne, 3e
tel: 01 44 78 80 20
This is a charming little lunch/tea counter at the Institut Suédois with housemade soups, bread, cakes, and even elderflower cordial. Best of all, there’s lots of seating in the spacious courtyard. There’s no table service here—just order at the counter and ferry the food yourself. They were kind when we rearranged the chairs to make room for the strollers (and we also spent several minutes replacing everything when we left).

West Country Girl
6 Passage Saint-Ambroise, 11e
tel: 01 47 00 72 54
Even though I said crêperies were family friendly, I would avoid one of my favorites, Breizh Café, because of the aforementioned space issues. West Country Girl is a good alternative, with excellent galettes in a less touristy (and populated) part of Paris. Admittedly, I have not been here with a stroller. But I have eaten an early, mid-week lunch here and the dining room was practically empty.

Pizza Chic
w 13 rue de Mézières, 6e
tel: 01 45 48 30 38
I love their pizza. But this restaurant is as chic as its name indicates. I have, however, seen older kids (aged seven and up) dining here—early. There are also a few sidewalk tables, which could be possible for an early meal with a stroller. However, wild horses couldn’t drag me to bring the baby to eat at this restaurant during regular service, either indoors or out.

Happy Families
5 rue du Cloître Saint-Merri, 4e
tel: 01 40 29 89 99
This center near Beaubourg offers everything from a kid-friendly café (with high chairs and simple meals), dance and music classes (for kids), meditation sessions (for parents :), as well as a beauty salon, massages—and babysitting. I haven’t been here yet, but it sounds great for a rainy day.

Do you have any tips to add or addresses to share? I’d be grateful for your advice!

Topics: Dining Out and About, Kids in Paris, Paris | 21 Comments »

21 Responses to “Dining out with kids in Paris”

  1. Vance Anderson-Inks Says:
    June 24th, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Hi Ann, Interesting article. Way past that stage but will pass it on. I am assuming this is your little daughter? She is precious. She’ll be winning the waiters over soon enough, no matter where you are. Vance.

  2. Lindsey Says:
    June 24th, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    HolyBelly is super kid-friendly!! But again, go early to beat the crowds and get the more spacious spots. Great list, Ann!

  3. Anne Says:
    June 24th, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    She’s cute as a bug.

  4. CK Says:
    June 25th, 2014 at 2:37 am

    Le Mistral at 401, rue des Pyrénées is a neighborhood place that’s good for kids — but no high chairs or other accoutrements … Good proximity to Buttes Chaumont!

  5. Susan Blumberg-Kason Says:
    June 25th, 2014 at 2:37 am

    Your daughter is cuter than can be! What a fabulous post. I’m a huge fan of taking my kids out for lunch. It’s a great learning experience for them.

  6. Richard Martin Says:
    June 25th, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    My wife and I have taken our very young daughter to Breizh several times while visiting. They were fairly accommodating I’d have to say, letting us leave our folded stroller in the entry.
    I agree with your assessment to go early and I’d say many places will at least tolerate you if you’re polite and if you take the child outside if he/she is causing a disruption. In that respect I haven’t found Paris to be much different from Brooklyn.

  7. Lynde Says:
    June 25th, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    I cannot comment on where to eat in Paris with children, but I do want to share that your baby is so cute.

    When I was in Paris last October I did see children with their parents at local, informal restaurants. I was not impressed with the food but the restaurants were accommodating of families.

  8. Connie at J'adore les Macarons Says:
    June 25th, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    We lived for 6 months in Paris during 2013 with our 4.5 year old daughter and we were basically treated like “second rate citizens” ’cause we had a child who was dining with us.

    The best place where we were treated very well was at Frenchie for dinner. Gregory Marchand, the chef even came out to talk to us. Excellent food and service.

    The worst place was Le Pantruche…near the Pigalle metro. We made a reservation for 7 pm, the entire place was empty except for us and they seated us next to the toilet. They said the rest of the seats were reserved. AWFUL service and the food was only so-so.

    We had the best luck for decent service at Japanese and Korean restaurants where they treated kids like adults.

  9. Jennifer Says:
    June 26th, 2014 at 3:26 am

    When our guy was little (5 months) we found eating out in Paris -and elsewhere- greatly facilitated by a baby wrap. We didn’t bring our stroller with us and could pack everything we needed in a backpack. The kid would fall asleep and we could eat in peace. We tend to do self-catering in France because, as you say, Ann, it’s a fabulous excuse to buy lots of different cheeses! Also makes for much easier toddler dinners and the occasional lunch out. By dinner, we’re mostly too tired to make it very far.
    When he was about 16 months, we made use of a My Little Seat, this cloth contraption that essentially creates a harness for most regular chairs. Full disclosure: he did manage to push himself over backwards in it and we got to experience the French medical system (excellent, btw), but other than that one experience, it was quite useful.
    We skipped last year, when he was two, because two year olds, but will be back this year at 3, with plans to eat early and a collapsible stroller in tow. Overall, we’ve had only positive experiences…that I can remember! :-)

  10. Ann Says:
    June 26th, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Vance — Thank you! Yes, this post features one very cute model :)

    Lindsey — Wonderful tip. Can’t wait to visit Holybelly!

    Anne — Merci!

    CK — Yes, the Buttes Chaumont is perfect for little legs to burn off energy after sitting during a meal!

  11. Ann Says:
    June 26th, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Susan — Thank you! I agree, eating out is part of the socialization process. Though sometimes it’s pretty stressful!

    Richard — Thanks for your tips! I’m happy to hear Breizh can accommodate kids who are able to sit in a chair. At nine months, my daughter is too little (and too squirmy to be happy in our laps) so a high chair or stroller is necessary.

    Lynde — Thanks! I think sacrificing quality for convenience happens a lot when dining out with kids.

    Connie — Thanks for sharing your experiences! I’d never be brave enough to take our daughter to Frenchie, but it’s lovely to know they were so kind.

    Jennifer — Great advice, thank you! I have a friend who used a similar cloth harness for her 2-year-old at a Chinese restaurant. It worked great! I’ll have to get one for the future.

  12. Ashley Says:
    June 27th, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Oh Ann she’s beautiful, it’s always an interesting aspect to bring kids along. My husband and I ate out a lot when we were first married, but as we had children it became less and definitely different places. They are still young but we try them out in fancy restaurants from time to time. Sometimes it’s successful and sometimes it’s not. I am grateful that here in the US they are more open to children, but it’s still a process. Happy eating! <3

  13. Jackie Clark Mancuso Says:
    June 28th, 2014 at 7:39 am

    Ann,
    grace à toi au passage is our new fav! want to thank you by suggesting Retro Bottega on Faidherbe if you dont know it already. 4 tables. puglia. kids i dont know, but GO. Jackie

  14. Alison Chino Says:
    June 28th, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    I just got back from Paris with two (older) kids and they were WONDERFUL to us (even honored picky requests of one child) at Paris Beaubourg, Marais District across from Grand Pompidou.

    We also found picnics to be the way to go most of the time in Paris, especially in summer!

    Thanks for all the helpful info. I’m recording for next time. :)

  15. Daisy Says:
    June 29th, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Great Great post which I’ll be hyperlinking to all the time (as I’m asked about this often). Another place if you’re off the tourist beaten track is “Les 400 Coups” (12 Rue de la Villette, in the 19th). They have a large play space upstairs with little guy kitchen stuff and crayons and a mat for babies to crawl about on all in view of your table (though I’ve only had quiche or a salad for lunch). For older ones – older still than Storsh, let alone L – they also have kiddie cooking classes that you can leave your kids at while you read the paper at the café.

  16. Daisy Says:
    June 29th, 2014 at 8:58 am

    and by the way – she’s ADORABLE

  17. katy Says:
    June 30th, 2014 at 2:58 am

    Ahh, she is adorable! That is all. :)

  18. Sally Brown Says:
    June 30th, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Loved this post, but I wouldn’t send an enemy to Pizza Chic, which for me typifies everything that’s gone wrong with Italian food in Paris. Over-priced, ordinary, and poorly sourced. Don’t like to be a neigh-sayer, but there you are.

  19. Ann Says:
    June 30th, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    Ashley — Thanks! I think the trick of eating out with kids is trying it again and again — even if the last experience was not so great. We try to take baby Lucy to the diner on Sunday mornings for breakfast. But early, before most people arrive — luckily it’s open 24 hours ;)

    Jackie — I love Au Passage, so glad you enjoyed it! Retro Bottega sounds fab; thanks for the tip!

    Alison — Thanks for sharing — I’m thrilled to learn about another spot in Beaubourg!

    Daisy — Merci! Les 400 Coups sounds terrific and unusual!

    Katy — Thank you! We think she’s pretty cute… but we are terribly biased :)

    Sally — Thanks for sharing! I used to go to Pizza Chic once a week as it was right around the corner from my old flat. Sorry to hear of your bad experiences — I still love it, but am always interested in opinions of others! :)

  20. Adeline Says:
    July 5th, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Great article and great photos! Enjoyed?

  21. Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.) Says:
    July 18th, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Well now, I don’t have any need to find anything that is kid-friendly but this is a great resource. Also: L is adorable and also: love that Sophie la Girafe makes an appearance!

« | Home | »