Based on two meals, the day this was written and the day before, in very different places (Le BAT on the Grands Boulevards sited amongst the Hard Rocks and McDo’s and the Cercle Rouge in the 17th isolated among boring residential buildings and utilitarian shops) I have hit upon a strategy for those Americans who long to find places their fellow New York Times’ readers have not, where English is not spoken (especially loudly and nasally), has good food and where they will walk out texting their 1,000 best “friends” that they found a place no one else knows about. What is it?:
1. Don’t just go back to the places you liked/loved last time, 10 or the Gods forbid, 50 years ago. I know, I know, “a bird in the hand is worth two you’ve never tried,” and I respect folks who use this method; it’s just that when I started considering Paris my home (much to one daughter’s amusement), I felt liberated, unshackled and free to try new, untried places.
2. Eat at lunch when the French not the Anglos eat.
3. Go outside the inner snail circle of Arrondissements 1-8.
So, “how John, how do you find these places?” I’m asked. You listen to the tom-toms – X is rumored to be moving to Y Street to open a place. You read the blogs – in French (come on, you took it 40 years ago, some words are obvious) and English, written by people who aren’t New York Times/Travel & Leisure/Food & Wine reporters or stringers.
You become a flaneur and listen to others who are flaneurs – “Hey, I saw this new place over near the VVV, check it out.” You enter places with fresh paint, look at the menu (posted by law) and setup, ask for a card and check it out with other nosy food-types. And, going against the grain of many folks, you eat with a diverse group of food-nuts, who let slip “secret information” known only to them (yah, sure.)
I guarantee this formula works, but only if you’re willing to take risks, encounter some odd lemons and be there when the wait-folks are having bad days or their first days.