Paris dining options

I would not go across town to eat there, but if you are in the neighborhood a good light dinner can be had in Paris at Plein Soleil (90 ave. Parmentier, Paris 11e, France).

Located just above the entrance to the Parmentier Métro station, it offers an area non-fumeur — not as good as a salle non-fumeur but better than the choking fog that envelops most Paris restaurants.

On our visit in February ’07 my wife had a tartiflette, which proved to be our old friend scalloped potatoes (appropriate since Parmentier was the father of the potato). She said it was so good, it made her want to bite the plate. I had a salade chevre chaud in which the little goat cheese rounds were parboiled somehow so they had twisty crusts on them. After wine, créme brûlée and espresso, we were out the door for €40.20 (about $54).

• As you hasten through the Gare du Lyon on the way to or from your train, spare a gustatory thought for the station buffet, Le Train Bleu (phone 01 43 49 09 06 or e-mail

Opened in 1901, its vast space boasts the most elaborate Art Nouveau decorations, including murals and ceiling paintings and gargoyles projecting from every surface. You expect Louis Napoleon to show up and start pouring your wine.

The food and service were superb. As we were there for a blowout meal, we went through €200 ($270) for two, but by careful attention to the à la carte menu and wine list you should be able to get out for much less. There are a lot of specialties; if you have been thinking about trying steak tartare, this is your chance.

Many of the customers were wheeling luggage in, suggesting that they were dining before or after a TGV trip to the south — a good idea since TGVs are not noted for their onboard cuisine.

Give it a shot. If you can’t stop to eat, at least have a drink in the bar and soak up the atmosphere of the place. Reservations are advisable at peak hours; otherwise, they’re not necessary. This place is huge.


San Francisco, CA