Eating affordably in Paris

Hello, I'm heading to Paris in 17 days and would love some help with figuring out how not to break the bank at meal time. My co-worker lived there for six months and mentioned that eating gets pricey. Not worried about breakfast, but any suggestions on places to go with good food at decent prices? My hotel is near the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Decent to me...lunch not exceeding $15 and dinner not exceeding $20. Thank you!

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2279 posts

There's a popular chain of restaurants all over Paris, recognizable by a bright yellow "M". There you can get a "Royale with Cheese", frites and a Coca-Cola all for 6 Euro ($8 US). Seriously though, we found that department store cafeterias offer very good food at a reasonable price. These include Printemps, Galleries Lafayette, and Bazar de l'Hotel de Ville (BHV, their ad posters are plastered all over the Metro stations). And they have some nice views too. Lots of ethnic restaurants (Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, and more) offer good value as well. The RS Paris guide book has lots of listings with the single "$" that will fit your price range. Another idea is to be a temporary Parisian. Hit the nice restaurant for lunch when prices are lower, then a light snack for the evening meal. Google Paris by Mouth, if you are looking to do an occasional splurge. There are a lot of new restaurants and bistros in the 10th arrondissment where young chefs can open a new place without paying the exorbitant rents of the more fashionable districts. You gotta do it. You're in Paris.

Posted by JHK
Palo Alto, California, United States
106 posts

I think that if you want traditional multi-course French meals, you will have a more difficult time staying on budget. However, Paris has many options that are in your budget, if you are willing to try North African or Asian food, crepes, sandwiches, etc. Check out the restaurants listed at http://www.timeout.com/paris/feature/food/pariss-best-cheap-eats. A la Biche Aux Bois, which is traditional French, is listed in the link but it is above your budget but well worth the splurge. Chez Omar offers couscous choices that are in your budget. Also, because you are staying outside of tourist central, you should see neighborhood spots with pricing that meets your budget. Not listed in the link is L'As du Fallafel, which is in the Marais and a good choice. As a general matter, try ordering the fixed price menus (formules) which often give you good value for the money spent.

Posted by JHK
Palo Alto, California, United States
106 posts

I think that if you want traditional multi-course French meals, you will have a more difficult time staying on budget. However, Paris has many options that are in your budget, if you are willing to try North African or Asian food, crepes, sandwiches, etc. Check out the restaurants listed at http://www.timeout.com/paris/feature/food/pariss-best-cheap-eats. A la Biche Aux Bois, which is traditional French, is listed in the link but it is above your budget but well worth the splurge. Chez Omar offers couscous choices that are in your budget. Also, because you are staying outside of tourist central, you should see neighborhood spots with pricing that meets your budget. Not listed in the link is L'As du Fallafel, which is in the Marais and a good choice. As a general matter, try ordering the fixed price menus (formules) which often give you good value for the money spent.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3209 posts

Cafe Med, on Ile St Louis, has good food.. 3 course dinner for under $20. Yaki, a really good Japanese restaurant next to the Luxembourg Gardens, near the RER stop, at 4 rue Gay Lussac. We ate at lots of cafes that were not expensive. Just read the menus posted outside. A favorite meal at a cafe for me is an omelette and a salad.. or, soup and salad. We like sandwiches (baguette with cheese and/or ham) from cafes or bakeries. Crepes - especially savory crepes from a crepe stand can be a very filling meal. Buying cheese from a cheese shop, bread and pastries from a bakery, salami in a meat shop (or all this at an outdoor market) and having a picnic in the numerous parks, or along the river, is very fun and very affordable.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Robert I eat cheaply in Paris and well, but its a give and take thing. For lunch I keep it simple, usually a ham and cheese crepe from a crepe stand, or a
quiche slice, or sandwich purchased from a bakery, or often a nice big salad compossee ( sort of a huge meal salad with assorted vegs, sometimes hard boiled egg, bacon bits, etc ) .. these foods all range from 5 euros to 15 euros.. If I have a few cheap lunches then I can spend a bit more on dinners. Of course a "nicer" meal may cost a bit more,, 20-25 euros ( sorry I don't do dollars) but if I had a 5 euro crepe that day I can afford a nicer dinner.. and best idea if you like a certain nicer restaurant is to look at having your big or main meal at lunch time instead of dinner, food just as good but often cheaper. I get hotel rooms with mini fridges and stock them with yogurts etc. for snacks. I do not order soda at cafes or restaurants, they are expensive, I drink house wine ( 1/4 a pichet is like one big glass) and free tap water, I buy sodas from grocers ( who often have cool ones near front ) for an afternoon drink and sit on bench and enjoy it .. or stock room with them. I usually splurge on a nice meal once a trip, last time I went to Les Bouquinistes.. it was a tad pricey but great,, had a 80 euro three course meal. .I saw on the website they had a special, so if you get some names of nice places to go, check out their websites to see if they have deals. Eating cheaply can be done, just don't sit in a restaurant for every meal.. try picnicing on take out etc.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

I had a small family in mind. I've never travelled with children, so maybe two roast chickens when traveling with teenage boys. I spend about $25 a day on food; i am a light eater. I ran into some kids at a hostel once who bragged about how little they were spending on food. I don't remember the amount, but they spent most of their food money at grocery stores. If you stay where breakfast is included (I recommend the more northern breakfast-eating countries) it is possible to fill up then and eat lightly the rest of the day. The kids know how to make their money stretch this way. If you happen to be more of an adult you may want a little more quality in your dining experience.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Swan i agree about being able to stretch money when young,,,my friend and I used to go to a store, buy a box or two of crackers and some cheese and eat that all day.. we were ( embarrassed now to confess) all about spending our money out drinking and partying in europe ( back in mid 80s. ) We almost never sat down to a restaurant meal in three months, some cafeterias, some cafes, but lots of crackers in the room..

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

I usually eat a main meal in a Chinese deli. The plats du jour cost from about 5-8 euro. Sometimes I pick up a quiche at a bakery for 3-4 euro. Fresh fruit is readily available at produce markets. An ice cream at Amarino will be another 2-3 euro, just to balance out my dietary needs. I usually eat breakfast at my hotel, but a cafe and croissant at a local bar will cost less. I just had an ice cream cone from Amarino; the smallest is 3.50 eu. It is still worth it!

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3409 posts

AS others have suggested, look for ethnic restaurants. Also, have your main meal at midday, when restaurants have their "plats du jour", for fewer euro than on their evening menu. By the way, every restaurant, cafe and bistro will have their menus complete with prices posted on the door or window so you know what you can expect before you enter. No ugly surprises. Having wine and some takeaway food from the closest grocery store in your hotel room in the evening will work for you, too. As for your co-worker telling you that in Paris "eating gets pricey" ... yeah, it does actually, and that goes for no matter where you live or visit.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

You can fill up on bread. A baguette costs only about one euro. A croissant runs about one eu also. Wine purchased in a grocery store can be inexpensive. Skip the bottled waters and drink tap water. If you are in an apartment, buy a roasted chicken; one will feed an entire family for a couple of meals.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Swan,, did you have boys.. ? cause one roast chicken is like a snack once they hit about 14.. lol I don't care how big it is,, a chicken is never going to be a couple of meals to any family with teenagers.. My oldest son just moved back home,, I forgot how much they eat.. geesh.. 3 or 4 eggs at a time( to be fair he works very hard ) .. girls are way easier, daughter eats like a bird compared to her two brothers. Robert really it helps to think in euros..

Posted by Robert
Anchorage, Alaska
3 posts

Thank you all for the suggestions. The only thing I'm not writing down is Sam's McDonalds idea! I'll be sure to visit the websites listed and start thinking about things in Euro instead of US dollars. This has really put my mind at ease! Thanks again for all of the help!

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

Last time we were in Paris, we stayed off the beaten path with friends living there. We couldn't get over how the local citizens very often drop E50 at dinner for regular simple meals. We found Paris to be an expensive dining city. But forget drinking beer, as the local wine is reasonably priced. When traveling, we eat very heavy on continental breakfast, and have been known to come away from breakfast with a croissant with lunch meat and cheese. We also go to the grocery and obtain picnic items for a late lunch.
Then, we'll eat an inexpensive dinner.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1521 posts

Bakeries have nice sandwiches and quiches, etc. I suggest that you pick lunch up early. A sandwich will be fine in your bag for an hour or two. Sometimes when you plan on a cheap meal, you don't find it when you're hungry, and end up spending more money in a close restaurant. If you have a sandwich tucked away you can just find a bench and eat.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

......and have been known to come away from breakfast with a croissant with lunch meat and cheese. Community Guidelines: Do not help people break laws.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

er, not a law is it really,, just a matter of good manners..

Posted by Lisa
White Plains, NY, USA
491 posts

While it has been several years since I was in Paris you should be ok if you stay away from traditional restaurants for dinner. Rather than paying 10 euro extra for breakfast at my hotel I just picked up a croissant at a local boulangerie each morning. There are tiny sandwich shops and even market stalls where you should be able to eat lunch for about 10€. Consider picking up items at a market and having a picnic too. Dinner may be hard so you many have to go with some take away or being very creative $20 is 15€, I did have a nice lunch at a department store and a good fast food Chinese meal in Paris that were quite reasonably priced. Don't order a coke in a restaurant it could cost 7€ or more, stick with a local wine.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1358 posts

Robert, I got by with eating "light" meals. I did have sit-down meals every so often,but it was for something nice or special i wanted to try. Unless youve been there-done-that, you will be on the go alot so that alone will make is difficult to eat alot. I lost 10 pounds on my current trip and i lost 15 pounds on my trip last year and thats with eating 2 or 3 (awsome) crossionts every morning. i would buy some sandwiches and juice and eat on a bench or step and then off to do or see something. Id eat in some of the museum restaurants if it was handy at the time too. when i was walking around id look for places to get quick bites and head on over later that day or the next. eating is all up to you and your stomach. the place i stayed had a bagel sandwich shop next door, so that was a meal for me including the chocolate lava cake - burp. there are so many places to eat,its up to you. happy trails.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

er, not a law is it really,, just a matter of good manners.. er, um, since when is theft just a matter of good manners? and the difference between that and shoplifting is .... ?