How to Take a High-Low Approach to Eating


And just like that, travel is back.

It seems like half the people in my social feeds are at points around the world at any given time, and I’ve just returned from a few weeks in Paris. While this trip was for a writing workshop (which was pushed back a few years from the original 2020 plans), the real reason I’m still here is to eat. If, like 33 million others, you’re heading to Paris this year, I’d like to share a few favorites with a different twist – the top-down approach.

Paris may be home to some of the world’s finest gourmet restaurants and temples to haute cuisine, but it’s also a place where you can find all kinds of delicious food and drink without having to empty the piggy bank (especially now with the dollar to a record high against the euro; they are almost tied!). And trying a high-spending, budget-friendly version of a dining experience is a fun way to explore any city’s food scene. The same rules may also apply to Louisville. Consider this a template for how to splurge and save on a day of meals at home.

So here are three high-low options for foodies in the City of Lights this summer.

Brunch: Bottomless Champagne at the Plaza or All You Can Eat Buffet in Belleville

Pro tip for champagne brunch at the Plaza Athénée in Paris: they will refill your champagne if you ask.

The art of brunch has spread widely in Paris, so you’ll find Parisians lining up for this American tradition. Choose your own adventure: Go glamorous with champagne brunch at The Plaza, or tuck into a spread at a cultural hub on the outskirts of town.

If you collect Michelin stars and/or if you want to treat yourself, reserve Sunday brunch at the sumptuous Jean Imbert at the Plaza Athénée. It’s a high price at 140 euros, but it’s a fraction of the cost of dining out. And here’s the real kicker: they don’t say it on the menu, but the glass of champagne included with brunch (especially Moet the day my friends and I were there) can be refilled if you ask. Turns out, it can be filled many times over as you enjoy lobster with truffled eggs, baskets of pastries, zesty cheese plates and some of the most vibrant fruit yours truly has ever enjoyed.

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You’ll feel like the glitter (or maybe Marie Antoinette, reincarnated) sipping bubbles under the massive crystal chandeliers. Plan for it to be most of the afternoon – service is leisurely.

La Bellevilloise in the Belleville district of Paris offers a lively Sunday brunch with jazz music.

As an alternative to the gilt-encrusted Plaza, head north to the village of Belleville, a 35-minute bike ride and a world apart. Perched on a hill overlooking the city, this diverse neighborhood is always within reach of the non-trust fund set, and the cafe at La Bellevilloise art and cultural center draws lines for its hearty Sunday buffet. Only 32 euros allows you to eat as much as you want and live jazz in a sunny and funky space. Yes, cheese and bread alone would be perfect, but save room for the chocolate mousse!

Lunch: Pizza on the canal or high-end French cuisine on the Siene River

Did you know that the French are among the biggest pizza consumers in the world? Thanks to their fondness for this comforting dish, you can legitimately get good pizzas in Paris. Namely, Bricktop Pizza, an unassuming little spot on Canal Saint Martin in the trendy 10th arrondissement, serves Neapolitan-style pies with toppings like stracciatella (the creamy heart of the burrata), truffled ricotta, and prosciutto di Parma 18 months. Grab a table outside to watch life go by along the leafy canal, and even with a glass of wine you’re out for less than 20 euros.

Bricktop Pizza in the Canal Saint Martin district of Paris, is popular for its wood-fired pies with decadent toppings.

For a more chic meal on the water, book lunch on the terrace of the Rôtisserie d’Argent. This sister bistro/restaurant of the mythical Tour D’Argent offers a terrace along a bridge straight out of a Parisian film set. It’s famous for its pressed duck, but the menu reads like an introduction to classic French cuisine; think snail, beef tartare, potatoes with duck fat, floating island, a dessert consisting of a meringue floating on a custard. Red-and-white checkered tablecloths, postcard views of the Seine and its islands, and servers that seem to come from the central cast contribute to a quintessential Parisian experience.

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Drinks: views of the Parisian rooftops or bargains in the alleys

When it comes to pinch-me-I’m-in-Paris moments, it’s hard to beat a rooftop bar. Stunning views of the city await you at the Hanging Garden and 7th-floor terrace bar of the Hotel Raphael in the 16th chi-chi borough. You’ll pay a pretty penny for the fancy cocktails, but with the Eiffel Tower seemingly close enough to reach out and touch, it’s worth the 30 euro splurge. Try the Litz, a perfect and delicate summer creation with rosé Lillet, bergamot liqueur, sparkling water and rosé champagne and a snack to share like the truffled Croque Monsieur. Above all, take your time and enjoy this view.

Courier food columnist Dana McMahan and her friends Justin Reid and Jonathan Klunk have kicked off a chic bar crawl in Paris at the rooftop bar of the Raphael Hotel.

For a cooler vibe, friendly bartenders and drinks about a tenth the price, head down the cobbled lane of rue Quincampoix in the 3rd, near the Pompidou modern art museum, for the friendly L’Art of the Bistro. Pull up a wooden chair right outside the wide-open window and order a board of mixed cheeses and hams to go with the inexpensive wine, and settle in for an evening imagining this is your own neighborhood bar.

Have a good trip!

Tell it to Dana! Send your restaurant “dish” to Dana McMahan at [email protected] and follow @bourbonbarbarella on Instagram.

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