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Tips for eating out in France

Posted by jdeuling on July 25, 2017
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mediterranean meal

Where can you eat?

Le restaurant – Here you go for a full French evening meal. Restaurants that prepare their meals with local products can be recognized by the symbol below. Often there is a text like plat fait maison, fait maison or just maison.

logo de la mention fait maison

Le Bistro(t) – These smaller and simple restaurants serve good food for less money than a real restaurant.

La brasserie – Literally translated ‘brewery’. Simple dining area where you can drink something and order something from the map. No extensive menu. Open all day until late into the evening.

Le café – For a drink and a snack.

La crêperie – For crepes and waffles (Galettes). A crepe is a thin pancake and also a lot smaller. Often filled with sweet ingredients and then folded served as dessert.

Le bar – Here you can go if you only want something to drink

Le bar à vin – Specializing in wine. In some wine bars you can enjoy extensive food or snacks.

What time can you eat?

For restaurants, the following opening hours are used in the countryside:

Lunch: Start between 12:00 and 12:30. After 13:30 you can often not order a meal. It’s best to get there by 13:00.

Dinner: Starts around 19:30. Most people arrive around 20:00. After 21:00 you are too late and you cann’t order anymore.

In cities one often opens a little longer. Most restaurants are closed one day a week.

Restaurant etiquette

If you just want to drink something, do not sit at a table with tablecloths. These tables are reserved for guests who want to eat something.

Ask in a restaurant for the card (la carte, s’il vous plait) and not the menu. Menu is the day menu.

Close the menu if you have made a choice. Otherwise, the waiter will not pick up the order.

Order a carafe, a ‘pichet’ of wine in the restaurant. Ask for a quarter, half or whole ‘pichet’. In the south of France, one usually drinks red wine or rosé in a restaurant.

If you order water then you get a bottle of water. Can be expensive. However, it is very normal to order tap water only. Then ask for a carafe d’eau.

If you want ice cubes in your drink, you should ask for avec des glaçons. Rosé, on the other hand, is often served with ice cubes. Especially in the warm south.

The combination of bread and butter is only available in France at breakfast. In a restaurant you serve bread without butter. You just place it next to the plate on the tablecloth.

If the waiter asks if you still want wine or bread, do not reply with merci. Merci in this context means “No, thank you.”

Afterwards, lay the knife and fork on the board side by side. This indicates that you are done and that the waiter can clean up.

Dessert and coffee are two different courses in a French restaurant. Except for Cafe Gourmand, this is coffee with 3 mini deserts.

In French restaurants you can enjoy your meal in peace. The staff will not bother you with the bill.. Do not wait, but ask yourself: l’addition, s’il vous plait.

You do not have to pay a fee in France. It is already included in the price (service compris). If you want to give something extra then leave some coin money (2 or 3% of the bill). If you do not give a tip, nobody will look surprised.

A handy word list:

J’ai faim – I’m hungry
J’ai soif – I’m thirsty
You voudrais du vin – I would like wine
Bon appétit – Enjoy your meal
l’addition sil vous plait – the bill please

More information:

Eating in France, restaurants, and the French way of food
Dining Guide and Etiquette
What to Eat in France

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