Eating in or near Museums

Eating in or near Museums
A recent meal at Transзrsal, which is located in the brand new MAC-VAL Museum (Musee d’art contemporain du Val-de-Marne), reminded me that people are always asking where to eat near museums when they plan to visit Paris.  What they often wind up doing is going to the museum cantine or café or the closest café or brasserie outside and then complaining to me that they could have done better.  Indeed, they could have.  How?  By cross-referencing a restaurant guide with a map.  But let me try to make it easier. Let’s start with the most popular museum in Paris, the Louvre.  While the Café Marly makes a mean brownie, one can do better nearby.  A great quick oyster feed can be had at the l’Ecume St-Honore on the Rue de Marche St Honore, across the street is the pork-dispensing Au Petit Theatre and in the Marche St Honore square itself – Le Point Bar, a first rate place run by Alice Bardet of the famous Tours family.  Even closer is a new place, A Casa Luna (aka Casaluna) serving wonderful Pyrenees-focused food. The second biggest museum draw in the city is the Orsay Museum and again, while there is a nice place inside, more adventuresome food can be found not far away.  An absolute gem of a place is literally just around the corner and is now open to the public – in the historic building with rooms and a restaurant (Restaurant le Club: Maison des Polytechniciens) for alumni of the “X” grand ecole (sort of the Harvard Business School and Kennedy School of Government rolled up into one.)  Just down the rue de Verneuil is a new, innovative bargain – Cinq Mars, and a bit farther east is Pierre Gagnaire’s renovated seafood-serving, upscale but not ruinously expensive, Gaya. The third most popular place and the art center where a lot of Americans routinely visit: the Beaubourg/Centre Pompidou/Museum of Modern Art complex which also houses a rated resto – the Georges, as in Georges Pompidou, former Prime Minister, after whom the building is named.  Me, I’d head way away, to say Mon Viel Ami on the Ile St-Louis because the pickings in the Beaubourg area are pretty slim. Four – If you’re headed for the Grand Palais or Petit Palais, you’re really even more put out. Oh, Lasserre is across the street, but that’s a three hour experience and as many hundred euros and after that, how much picture-viewing can you do?  If you’re still committed to walking, I guess I’d head for Flora Mikula’s eponymous place on the Avenue George V or Maxan on the Rue Miromes nil, even farther away. And let’s not leave out the Picasso Museum, number six on the attendance list and another favorite of Americans.  Here, as with the Carnavalet and Jewish Museums, one is deep in the Marais and I think I’d recommend breaking out a few blocks east and going to the Café des Musees or a bit farther to places like the Repaire de Cartouche. While there are a ton of places in and around the Palais de Tokyo, Palais Galleria and Guimet Museum, two places in particular appeal to me.  The first, (but a caution: only go in the summer when it’s spread out on the surface between the buildings of the Palais de Tokyo), is Tokyo Eat.  The setting, view and acceptable food turn dreary in winter, when one is forced inside to a setting quite like one’s high school cafeteria.  There is another bistro, undiscovered by tourists, as yet, just down the steps to the west of the Palais de Tokyo, though, that is quite good.  It’s called les Marches de Palais and one must book ahead (I routinely book even though some places never fill, just to get a good table and be recognized as a courteous citizen rather than a last minute drop-in.). The Park Monceau area (where the Jacquemart-Andre, Nissim de Caimondo & Cernuchi Museums are located) poses problems too.  Depending on which one you’re at, I’d trek to Dominique Bouchet on the weirdly-shaped street – rue Thielhard – or way up to Ripaille near the Metro station Rome, although persons more committed than I, swear by lunch at the Jacquemart-Andre itself. As photography-buffs know, in addition to the new Cartier Bresson house/museum, there are three first-class photo museums in Paris, the Centre National de la Photographie, the Maison Europeen de la Photographie and the Jeu de Paume – Patrimoine Photographique (two sites, the original Hotel de Sully and the Concorde location); for the former I think I’d head over northeast to  L’Huitrier on Rue Saussier-Leroy; for the two near St-Paul, I guess I’d chose the Dome de Marais on the rue des Francs-Bourgeois. Near the Maillol Museum, one again has loads of choices but I think I’d pump for Le Timbre or schlep up to the Maison du Jardin (which is most convenient if you’re going to the Luxembourg Museum or when visiting the photos strung along the fence of the Luxembourg Garden).  Or if you’re at the Rodin, I’d definitely go to Tante Marguerite on the rue de Bourgogne. For an exhibition at the old (downtown) Bibliotheque Francaise, the truffle place – Un jour a Peyrassol – is special, but at the Francois Mitterrand site, one is definitely challenged.  This is one place where I’d flee via the sleek #14 automated metro and get back to town fast. On the left bank sit the Museum of Money and Ecole des Beaux Arts, where one of the most edgy and terrific places in Paris – William Ledeuil’s (of Bookinistes fame) Ze Kitchen Galerie – is located. Ever go to the Japanese Cultural Center at the feet of the Eiffel Tower? –  If not, do!  It’s got a great little tea area and only a bit away is another great place to eat – Au Bon Acceuil. And…
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