When you think of Paris you probably think of fine dining and good wine. Unfortunately, checks can add up if you eat out all the time, sending your vacation budget out the window. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a few ideas for how to satisfy your stomach post-breakfast, without emptying your bank account.
It’s lunchtime, and you’ve been window shopping in the very chic Saint Germain-des-Prés district. But naturally, high-end boutiques mean the area is full of equally high-end restaurants. If you’re looking for a tasty lunch, minus the pretentiousness and price tag of the Boulevard Saint Germain, go for a wander down the lovely Rue de Seine and stop at n°54. Cosi is more than just the cute opera-playing sandwich shop it might appear to be. They sell the most delicious oven-baked focaccia bread that they make in front of you, and have a range of mouth-watering fillings. My favorite, since the days I used to work opposite, is still the Cheesy English (roast beef, cheddar and mayonnaise.) If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss the apple crumble, or the famous lemon tart which is known to be among the best in Paris. For around 10 € you get a sandwich or salad, drink and dessert. Go upstairs, grab a seat by the window, and watch the world pass by below…
Vegetarians have generally had a hard time finding proper sustenance in Paris. In the past, when you asked about vegetarian options in a restaurant, the waiter would pass you a bowl of bread before stalking off, shaking his head in disgust. Thankfully, French gastronomy is starting to appreciate that steak tartare is not to everyone’s taste. Bob’s Kitchen in the 3rd arrondissement belongs to the new breed of veggie-friendly establishments in Paris. They prepare a range of fresh salads, soups and sandwiches (including vegan options) for under 9 €. Favorite dish? The veggie stew is like a big healthy hug from the inside out. Oh, and there’s also Bob’s Juice bar in the 10th between République and Gare de l’Est. Like Meditteranean food? Try a famous falafel on Rue des Rosiers in the Marais district: an entirely vegan, and deliciously inexpensive option.
Pre-dinner Drinks and Nibbles
Dinner is normally eaten at around 8 or 8.30 p.m. in Paris. But if your stomach starts rumbling around six or seven, why not go for an aperitif and tapas to take the edge off your hunger? The Avant Comptoir (near the Odéon metro) is popular among the trendy crowd and has great reviews. Neighboring restaurant Le Comptoir de Relais (same owner) is in all the haute-cuisine guide books, but you’d need to stand outside in the cold in the hope of a cancellation, or reserve several months in advance to get a table. This explains why its little sister is so popular among those who just like a good glass of wine and some truly tasty tapas while catching up with a friend. My tip: go for anything with the word croquette in it. The Iberian ham is also very good. The Avant Comptoir is also perfect for watching the celebrities pulling up next door.
The Dinner Gong
The “Bourse” district in the 1st arrondissement buzzes with businessmen, and as a result the surrounding eateries mostly have menus to match their paychecks. But, tucked modestly away down the Rue de la Vrillière, you’ll find the Bistrot Victoires, known for its authentic cuisine, vintage decor and affordable prices. A main course comes in under the 10 € mark, and if you haven’t yet tried a salade géante (giant salad), this is the place to put aside your preconceptions of boring greens best left as a side dish. Otherwise, the steak frites (steak and fries) might sound banal but it’s a bestseller. They also do brunch on Sundays for 15.50 €: great value by Parisian standards. In the same area is the Bouillon Chartier, a turn-of-the century dining hall that’s famous for its inexpensive and traditional French fare. There are no reservations, so make sure to arrive early to beat the crowds and get a decent table.
If you’ve completely exhausted your food budget by day three, don’t panic. You can eat in Paris for free. The Tribal Café near metro Strasbourg Saint Denis serves large portions of homemade couscous for free every Friday and Saturday evening if you buy a drink, and free moules-frites (mussels and fries in a yummy sauce – very français) on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The crowd mostly consists of students from the neighboring Conservatoire de Musique, and the atmosphere is relaxed and fun, with a Moroccan edge.