2007-2008 Pudlo Paris by Gilles Pudlowski, English translation: Simon Beaver, The Little Bookroom publisher, New York, Restaurant Guide in English 417 pages, $19.95
I’ve just had a chance to peruse the new Pudlo Paris restaurant guide in English. Gilles Pudlowski’s guide to Paris restaurants has been an essential for Paris-based foodies for many years. Mark, a Paris-based American expat, turned me onto the French-version of Pudlo’s way back when. It’s nice to see that finally an English version is available.
The 2007-2008 guide published by The Little Bookroom in NY, www.littlebookroom.com rates just shy of 1000 restaurants as well as bars, pubs, wine bars, tea salons, cafes and specialty gourmet shops. If it’s food, Pudlowski has it covered.
Simple versus Luxurious
As I’ve mentioned in past posts, when you’re asking for advice on finding a good restaurant that’s not too expensive, be sure to ask for a restaurant that’s ‘bon, mais simple’. ‘Simple’ in French can often be simply perfect and not so hard on the pocketbook.
That’s probably why one of the categories for the restaurants which are separated according to arrondissement is ‘simple’. After ‘simple’ comes ‘comfortable’, ‘very comfortable’, ‘luxurious’ and ‘very luxurious’.
Pudlowski also uses icons to denote restaurant attributes. For example a broken plate icon means that you go there at your own risk. So why does he bother listing a restaurant if it’s earned a broken plate in his guidebook? Probably because the restaurant is so well known or well-located that the unwary visitor may stumble in the front door without being properly forewarned. The ‘broken plate’ category happens to be one of my favorites because I’ve been to some of these ‘broken plate’ restaurants such as ‘Le Procope’. And I can sadly confirm that our experience at this landmark restaurant didn’t encourage us to return for a second visit.
You’ll also notice an icon of an arch which denotes the restaurant’s historical significance. Once again, Le Procope earns an arch as being purportedly one of the oldest eateries in town with guests ranging from Voltaire to Ben Franklin… the interior is cozy and oozes with history. .. so I hope they figure out a way to glue their broken plate back together again!
Using the Pudlo restaurant guide
Obviously, the easiest way to use this guide is to learn your arrondissements (Paris is divided into neighborhoods called arrondissements – there are twenty in Paris – usually listed with Roman numerals on street signs).
When you book a hotel in Paris, be sure to know the arrondissement of your hotel (and the closest Metro stop). Then check the guidebook to see what restaurants are listed in your arrondissement. If you plan on visiting museums during the day, throw the guidebook in your daypack and keep track of your arrondissement by looking at the street signs which post the arrondissement number underneath the street name.
You’ll also want to invest in a Plan de Paris if you haven’t already. The little red or black book which lists all the streets of Paris and separates Paris into enlarged maps according to arrondissement is ESSENTIAL if you plan on spending much time in Paris. Not only that, if you pull out your Plan de Paris, you can study it intensely and not look like a tourist looking at a map. You’re doing what Parisians do when they go to a neighborhood other than their own. Most Parisians usually have a Plan in their cars.
Now here are a few ‘negatives’ about Pudlo’s for English-speaking users. You want to look up a restaurant you remember from your trip to Paris ten years ago? You remember it was called ‘Moulin’ for windmill – and not much else. Here’s where you need to brush up on your ‘le’ and ‘la’ articles because many of the restaurants are indexed under ‘le’ and ‘la’ or ‘l’’ . For example the Montmartre windmill restaurant you may be trying to recall is “Le Moulin de la Galette’. You also have restaurants indexed under ‘a’ or ‘au’. For example, we went to a restaurant many years ago called ‘A La Fontaine Gaillon’. It was very romantic in the summertime when we ate outside right next to the trickling Gaillon Fontaine. Of course, I remembered the name of the fountain, but it’s only on looking at the index beginning with the ‘a’s that I stumbled upon A La Fontaine Gaillon. That’s why using this guidebook according to arrondissements is probably the easiest way. (You’ll note that in Paris telephone books, the yellow pages are very often divided by arrondissements for various services and restaurants).
You might have some favorite spots that haven’t made it into Pudlo YET, like your favorite burger joint: Ours is PDG Cafe which has moved from its Right Bank, Champs Elysees neighborhood (20 Rue de Pontheiu) to the left Bank, Rue du Dragon Another spot we stumbled into on the Right Bank,(the PDG Cafe, 20, rue de Ponthieu, 8eme)
This happens to be a great place if you simply have to have a hamburger (and yet would like to be in very French company!). I noticed that the Figaro has posted a review of PDG this week!) It’s pricey but the burgers are the ‘real McCoy’. Given the fact that there are hundreds upon hundreds of restaurants, you can’t expect that Pudlo will hit them all – that would be unfair, but certainly you will find more than the fair share of good, dependable and delightful choices.
I was also surprised at the description of Rue de la Gaite which Parislogue readers will know is ‘near and dear to my heart’. Describing the restaurant ‘Aux Iles Marquises’ Pudlowski writes: “In this typical Montparnasse street blighted by emporia of a dubious nature, we are surprised to find a restaurant of this quality.” This appears to contradict his opening remarks about Montparnasse in the 14th arrondissement heading where he states: “we do not look down on Montparnasse, but from its peaceful vantage point, we admire Paris as a village once again.” (My gut reaction was that a Parisian wouldn’t have even noticed the sex emporium on Gaite – the sex shops have all but evaporated in the last five years with just a whiff of lust in the air – do we really want a totally sanitized Bobino after all? I wondered if, perhaps, M. Pudlowski had written this particular review himself, word-for-word?) Eager to know! Especially the word ‘blighted’.
Maybe I’m just too thin-skinned when it comes to Montparnasse, but I do agree with Pudlowski 100 percent when he says that ‘high chic is not the local style’. Here, he’s spot on. Unlike the Right Bank, there are few restaurants in this neighborhood where you would be expected to dress in designer togs. There’s none of the ‘seeing and being seen’ (associated with St. Germain-des-Pres for example)– – and for us locals, that’s the way we like it.
Okay, now that I’ve cleared the air over the very minor negatives, let me return to the positives. Pudlowski covers not only restaurants, wine bars and cafes, but also tea salons, specialty gourmet shops and bakeries in the neighborhood.
The beginning of the guidebook is devoted to giving you a quick who’s who on the hottest French chefs, which restaurants are rising stars, and which ones are declining. This is a city where it’s hard to keep track of who’s moving, who’s opening a new place and who’s closing. (For example, I think that Natacha in the 14th has just closed – a real pity – just as we were starting to get over there now and then.)
Because the restaurant scene changes so quickly in Paris, don’t hold it against a guidebook if, on occasion, a restaurant may have closed in the interim. However, Most good restaurants are in for the long haul and develop a solid following for years. A number of the restaurants in our neighborhood have been listed in Pudlos for several years and have retained their good rating (such as Aux Iles Marquises).
If you only have two or three days in Paris, make sure that you plan to have at least one good meal (and you don’t necessarily have to break the bank). The Pudlo guide uses the Euro icon and a black pot icon to indicate the restaurants that offer under 30 Euro meals (the Euro icon) or promise a good value for quality ratio (the black pot icon).
Hotel concierges are very often eager to help you with arranging dinner reservations. Don’t hesitate to ask their advice. Just ask for ‘good and simple’ and you shouldn’t be disappointed.