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Best Places to Eat on a budget in Paris, France. Cheap but good.

Updated on January 26, 2011

Inside an Epicerie-many choices at a budget level

10 Ways To East Well for Less on a Paris Vacation

Save your money for a few really good meals in Paris because you are at a disadvantage in the exchange rate between dollars and euros-and it's probably going to get worse.

Here are some tips on keeping the food budget down.

  1. Look for Asian restaurants: thai, chinese, vietnamese. I eat that food all the time in San Francisco and I love it. I have eaten it a lot in Paris in little hole-in-the-wall restaurants and never ever got sick.
  2. Buy sandwiches in most grocery stores (called epiceries) or often from brasseries (sign out front says brasserie) or bars or food shops that often have a counter opening on the street to cater to frantic Parisians rushing someplace and to tourists.
  3. A really good deal, usually not too expensive is restaurants in department stores. There there for the customers who know they're getting just basic food.
  4. Around the Bastille there are a lot of tourist cafes and restaurants, such as the Hippopotamus (did I spell that right?) chain. Many have basic food that will make you're feeling like you're back in America, in case you want to just chill out from experiencing new things.
  5. Obviously in monster shopping centers like the Les Halles (a real crowd scene of mostly adolescents (the french word is "ados") and young adults, there are a LOT of fast food shops. Usually the prices are displayed and you can just point to what you want or try telling them in English. Service people in the tourist areas usually are good at basic English.
  6. The really fun thing to do is to check out a food shop, especially on the Left Bank (south of the Seine) and buy a long bageutte of bread, cheese and whatever meat or veggies you want for a sandwich and then amble on down to a quai (bank) of the Seine and have yourself a low-cost picnic. If you want to have a huge choice of Asian restaurants take the Metro to the Place d'Italie. If you want to have a wide selection of foods of diverse origin, explore the one-time working-class district, now yuppified district, of Belleville in the north east of Paris. It's probably Paris's most diverse quartier.
  7. Don't feel weird about eating cheaply in Paris, most of the Parisians are far from rich and they eat pretty ordinary food. They do eat a lot more yogurt, cheese and duck than we do and they drink more at ordinary meals but beer as often as wine.
  8. In middle-class homes you'd be surprised how familiar the food would be to you. Often it's lamb chops, or pizza and in warm weather barbecues in the yard or on the terrace are very common. And don't worry about eating correctly (how many ways are there to eat a sandwich?). The natives can tell from a mile away that you are a foreigner-by your clothes, the way you stand and walk, the way you move your face, the way your hair is cut and combed. Don't worry about being different; as in most big cities people are much to absorbed in the pressures of their own lives to be much concerned about the tourists.
  9. If you do go to the Montparnasse area of the city (not Monmartre-a totally different kettle of fish), you can treat yourself to Brittany crepes and brittanny hard cider. (In french its Bretagne and the adjective is breton.) Brittany is the farmland of cheese, apples, cider, cattle, milk, etc. Montparnasse became the area where a lot of Bretons settled down. It was because when the Gare Montparnasse (Montparnasse Railroad Station-a huge station and commercial center under the Tour/tower Montparnasse, which is visible for miles) it was the terminus for people coming and going to and from Brittany which lies west of Paris. (By the way Brittany is only about 3-4 hours away by train-an easy trip.) The huge variaty of crepe meals can be had in several authentic breton restaurants on rue Montparnasse (not Boulevard Montparnasse, but intersecting it). If you like crepes, it's the place to go. Not as cheap as a fast food or street counter but not as expensive as many restaurants.
  10. If you're on a tight budget, food doesn't have to be a worry in Paris, and the experimenting can be fun.

More Recommendations for Inexpensive but Good Meals in Paris from the Holiday City Site

Eating in Paris

Paris has a long established reputation for being a haven for food, somewhat different from the way Hong Kong, for example, is famous for its own cuisine.

There is a sense of class and high culture associated with French cuisine that is quite unique. With the help of the Guide Michelin star ratings, it has established itself into a hierarchy of top class, outstanding and very good restaurants.

Popular dining areas and types of restaurants

Which is probably not what the majority of tourists like us are looking for. Many of us will be looking for places to eat with good food at reasonable prices. And maybe the occasional treat to tuck into real French cuisine.

For most of your meals, you are probably looking to dine at cafes and street vendors selling simple foods like sandwiches and crepes to office workers who lunch. These places offer good food at low prices. The area near the Bourse (Stock Exchange) is home to many restaurants that cater to the working crowd. Go before noon or after 2 pm to avoid the working crowd on weekdays.

You can easily travel to various parts of Paris by train, so you need not have to restrict your choice of places to eat to those near your hotel or the museums you plan to visit. Some recommended eating districts:

  • Latin Quarter — a mix of bistros and ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants

  • Montparnasee — home to excellent cafes housed within recently restored old buildings

  • Montmartre — mostly tourist restaurants but also with cozy bistros and some premium restaurants

  • Bellevillw — try North African fare featuring spicy, inexpensive food

Some terms that you may often hear mentioned in relation to dining are explained below:

  • Bistro — a small, usually moderate priced restaurant with a limited menu. The food is often regionally themed

  • Brasserie — using the French word for brewery, these are actually restaurants which serve sauerkraut and sausages, with a very wide selection of food. They have an Alsatian origin.

  • Cafes — open in the day up to early evening, they serve light fare from a short menu.

  • Couscous — north African restaurant, reflecting France’s long ties to this region

  • Prix-Fixe — fixed price menu, usually for lunch, but this option is also available for dinner at some restaurants

  • Plats-du-Jour — daily specials often featuring seasonally available produce

Famous French Foods

French cuisine is usually identified with pastries, snails properly known as escargots, and cheese. Croissants are flaky breads made in crescent shapes, while baguettes are very long bread loaves which can be made into a sandwich or eaten with a little butter. Cheeses, or fromages, are made from cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk, and can usually be eaten with any meal. The soft camembert cheese from Normandy and Brie are available in all restaurants.

For many people, French cuisine means exotic ingredients seldom thought of as such elsewhere. Escargots are usually cooked and then placed back in their shells after garnishing, usually with a garlic sauce. Pate de Foie Gras is made from the livers of geese who are fattened through forced feeding. The Perigord Truffle is a highly prized fungus which used to be found in the wild with the help of pigs.

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    • citygetaway profile image

      citygetaway 

      5 years ago from France

      Great hub! I am always up for the Latin Quarter for the good prices and recommend creperie/bar near the Odéon metro station (delicious buckwheat crepes!)

    • robotmonster profile image

      robotmonster 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Nice article, Harlan! Love going to Paris and enjoy a simple baguette.

    • profile image

      Deborah 

      7 years ago

      what do you mean Jenna? Can you send me your email address and then you can talk from there please?

      Best,

    • profile image

      Jenna 

      7 years ago

      I tried the Restopolitan card on your website which seemed attractive. I was yet unable to reach you after paying. Then it's only 9,90€ to have NOTHING.

      Thanks for your fake ad anyway on such a site....

      Hope you won't get trapped

    • profile image

      Harlan 

      7 years ago

      Thank you alocsin

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 

      7 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Excellent food advice for Paris. Voting this Up, Useful and linking it to my Paris hub.

    • profile image

      Harlan 

      8 years ago

      Hi, Vigo, Vous avez raison. Certaines brasseries ne sont pas interessantes. Mais j'ai trouve il y a toujours la chance de faire une rencontre avec qulqu'un(e) assez amicable. Je pense la vie touristique a son base en la chance.

    • profile image

      vigo 28 

      8 years ago

      Il faut vivre en moeurs et coutume du pays visite certaines brasseries ne meritent pas votre visite

    • profile image

      Harlan Lewin 

      8 years ago

      Hi, Princessa, You know, some really tourist areas like around the Moulin Rouge are very normal just a few blocks away from the show places. I walked a lot around Montmartre and enjoyed sitting in a mini-park with a merry-go-round watching the mothers with their small kids--very homey. And just about anywhere in Paris if you turn a corner away from the expensive blocks, there are bistros and episseries (as you mentioned) for working Parisians.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      8 years ago from France

      Very good advice. I always enjoy eating around the Latin Quarter for quality and good prices. I have also discovered lately an area around the Moulin Rouge, there is a small street, rue Lepic, that has lots of epiceries and very good priced oriental food.

    • Harlan Lewin profile imageAUTHOR

      Harlan Lewin 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks for your comment Living In Paris. I agree about splurging on one nice dinner. I have fantastic memories about those splurges--not only about the food but on being surrounded by a different sort of people in a milieu of great service.

    • Living In Paris profile image

      Living In Paris 

      8 years ago

      Great tips on eating cheap (but still eating WELL) in Paris. The food stalls in the Latin Quarter are my favorite for cheap eats. I think the best advice if you're visiting is to eat most meals on the cheap at the places you mentioned, and then splurge on one nice dinner if you can during your trip. Or, you could dine out for lunch instead of dinner.

    • festersporling1 profile image

      Daniel Christian 

      8 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Smart tips Harlan.

    • Elvia Francis profile image

      Elvia Francis 

      9 years ago from Houston, TX

      Budgeting - something I need to do but am not too well at.

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 

      10 years ago from DC Area

      Yeah, we used to eat on the street a lot when we visited Paris with my wife (then girlfriend) a few years ago. Ah, memories...

    • Amanda Kendle profile image

      Amanda Kendle 

      11 years ago from Perth

      I agree, it's easy to eat cheaply in Paris. I've been there a couple of times and usually lived on baguettes from streetside stands (all kinds of yummy fillings) and then crepes for dessert (always with chocolate/Nutella filling for me!). Cheap, delicious, you get to practise your French to order them and you can sit down in a park and watch Paris go by while you eat. But always avoid buying this stuff right near a tourist attraction - the prices are doubled.

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