This is almost a metaphysical question! A ‘to be or not to be’ question. But more pragmatically it is a question of money. Eating out in Paris might be a challenge if you want to keep the purse things tight when it comes to feeding yourself. However, it would be a shame to be in Paris and eat fast food only. You deserve to indulge in a little extravagance and experience a French meal. This article focuses on where to eat and Paris, and what, for the best dining experience. We provide several suggestions offering a good balance, which will prevent you from going bankrupt by the end of your stay but will also make you a bit more French.
Affordable French Cuisine, Part 1
If you’ve seen the movie “Julie & Julia”, you might remember that a boeuf bourguignon must be cooked in the oven for 2 and a half hours. You should ideally use a cast-iron stewpan from the brand Le Creuset, which costs around €250 and has the capacity to feed 10-12 people! With this in mind, you can understand why eating out in Paris is not the cheapest solution. You may not have Le Cruset pans on hand in the kitchen of your Wimdu apartment and you might not want to spend hours in the kitchen. So let’s start our tips with grocery shopping for quick and easy meals.
Go shopping for your groceries!
Fortunately, there are a number of very good supermarkets available in any arrondissement. Franprix and Monoprix are the ones you will find all over the city – Monop’ is a sister company of Monoprix and is a smaller shop with less variety but more affordable prices. Both store chains offer a huge variety of food and ready meals that you can even warm up in the store. You can also buy items like freshly squeezed orange juice or a roast chicken there. They also offer a great number of international aperitives like hummus, accras, samosa, tzatziki, falafel, blini and taramosalata mousse, etc. Of course, national delicacies can be found such as pâtés like rillette and all types of sausage like saucisson and some cooked meals like couscous coming from North-African ex-French colonies. They are all reasonably priced between €3 to €6.
There is another top store that is an experience in itself: La Grande Epicerie de Paris, a subsidiary of the renowned Bon Marché located on the left side of the Seine. Established in 1852, it was the first department store in the world. The concept of offering French and international craft products of extremely high quality made them famous. They were the first to offer different kinds of tea from all over the world and you still will certainly find your preferred tea there. If you can’t live without your own national dishes, they have an international department. Be adventurous though and try French dishes like Coq au vin (chicken braised with wine), Bouillabaisse (a delicious fish soup) or Confit de canard (duck confit), which will cost from €15 to €20 a jar and should be enough for 2 people if accompanied with rice.
Last but not the least, Picard is a frozen food store of a high standard. They are spread all over Paris and the surrounding area. You can buy a ready meal or frozen ingredients to make your own meal and pretend to be a French chef! Picard provides the recipes! However, you need to understand French and be a relatively good cook to follow them efficiently. Among the daily dishes, you can find hachis Parmentier (a simple dish made with mashed potatoes and minced meat) and St. Jacques shells. They also have a catering option with dishes like crusted salmon, cepe risotto and the long-awaited boeuf bourguignon. The later costs €9 for 420g. However, it is their desserts that are most recommended. Their tarts are as good as if your grandma made them! The famous tarte Tatin (apple pie) is not to be missed and, of course, the macarons.
Bread and wine
All set? Not quite yet. Three elements are missing to create a French meal: bread, wine and of course cheese. For a crispy baguette, any local boulangerie will suffice. But for a tasty bread made of selected products and without chemicals, there is nothing better than the Poilâne recipe. There are five shops in Paris: two in the 6th arrondissement, one in the 15th arrondissement, one in the 3rd arrondissement and the last one in the 19th arrondissement. This legendary sourdough loaf of bread is not cheap (€5 per kg) but worthwhile at it stays fresh for several days. The butter cookies, croissants and chocolate breads are an inevitable sin.
You will find a wide selection of wine at Grande Epicerie de Paris in the 7th arrondissement, especially Bordeaux and Bourgogne wines. Prices start from €8. Legrand is another excellent option in the 1st arrondissement. Here prices range from €10 to €300.
Life without cheese would not be the same! Cheese deserves a whole book but here are our top tips compressed. Two things you need to know about cheese is that it needs to be accompanied by wine and it stinks! However, the stronger the smell, the better the cheese and the flavour of the cheese is not at all similar to its smell. Another legendary house awaits you for cheese: La Maison Androuet. Henri Androuët, started out in 1909 with a shop in rue d’Amsterdam in the 9th arrondissement selling cheese from all over the country. Then in the twenties, the shop became so famous that he opened a tasting cellar. In the thirties his, son expanded the enterprise and it became a restaurant.
Nowadays the restaurant is closed but it has been replaced with seven stores in the 5th, 7th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th arrondissements. Here is a shortlist of cheeses that usually are on a French table:
- Camembert: a cow’s milk cheese with a very strong taste; try his cousin Brie which is softer;
- Emmental: also known as Gruyère, the cheese with holes. Actually, the Swiss claim that this cheese is theirs! This is a good cheese for melting;
- Chèvre: several kinds of this goat cheese exist with white or black crust and are excellent for salads;
- Roquefort: the blue sheep’s milk cheese is also very strong. Melt it with butter for a rich sauce delicious on a hamburger.
However, there are thousands of different cheeses so be brave and try! Costwise be prepared to spend more than €50 if you want to buy several kinds of cheese.
Affordable French Cuisine, Part 2
Let’s start with French fast food for lunch and the chain restaurants Lina’s and Cojean. Lina’s is not that much spread across Paris with only five restaurants, two of them in the 8th arrondissement. Cojean has 25 establishments including some outside the city. Both offer the same kind of food, i.e. creative sandwiches (you can make your own), healthy salads made from fresh products, fruit juice, smoothies, yoghurts (lactose-free option available) and soups with bioproducts. Lunch here will cost you no more than €10. While we are on the topic of quick snacks, there is one that you can’t miss called Croque-Monsieur. This classic is made up of toasted bread, ham and melted cheese. A good place to have one is Le Petit Cler in the 7th arrondissement, not far from the Eiffel Tower. It costs €13 or €15 for a Croque-Madame, which has a fried egg on top.
A bistro by definition is a small Parisian restaurant that offers simple cuisine at reasonable price. However, some young chefs have recently renovated a number of bistros and reinvented the old concept with new dishes. Café Louise in the 6th arrondissement has the cosy old look of a bistro, excellent hamburgers and traditional dishes like Tartare steak (raw beef). A dish costs between €16 and €25. Grand Cœur is in between a bistro and a brasserie (literally a brewery but in the French meaning, an informal restaurant). Its location, rue du Temple in Le Marais, is inside a beautifully paved and classified courtyard. From €21 to €40 for a dish, this is really worth the money, especially with the nice terrace.
Bar à huitres in French, you can find oysters in a brasserie like La Vagenende, a beautifully decorated, Belle Epoque style establishment on Boulevard Saint-Germain in the 6th arrondissement. However, if you want a specialist, go to one of the four Bar à Huîtres located in Montparnasse, Saint-Germain, Place des Vosges and Place des Ternes. As you may know oysters are sold by the six, so half a dozen of oysters from Normandy will cost you from €11 to €29, from Brittany between €20 to €80, a plate of different shells from €29 to €34 and a Plateau from €179 to €999 for two people with lobster, shrimp, crab and oyster (no drinks included).
Typical French Dishes
Rue des Canettes in Saint-Germain has recently changed and is now home to a number of good restaurants. One of them is la Boucherie Roulière. It offers traditional cuisine such as escargots (snails in butter, garlic and parsley), Magrets de Canard (duck breast) and French onion soup. You will pay from €16 to €30 per dish. La Maison du jardin, on rue de Vaugirard in the 6th arrondissement, offers menus at lunch time for €30 (no drinks included) for a 3-course meal. Extra is charged for foie gras. The wine menu is good.
Cinq-Mars, located on rue Verneuil in the 7th arrondissement (where Gainsbourg lived), is a fine restaurant. The names of wines cover one of the walls inside. They serve fish, meat and the well-known Pot-au-feu (French beef stew). They also have two menu options for lunch including a dish and a dessert for €18 and €22.50 per person.
You will notice that most recommended restaurants are in the 6th and 7th arrondissements, which correspond to the left bank of the Seine known as Rive Gauche. So if you really wish to feel like a Parisian, this is where you need to be. Rive Gauche is the spirit of Paris: free, creative and open-minded. Find your Parisian accommodation with Wimdu and join the fun!