Family eating options throughout France

We are traveling through France next summer for three weeks and will rent several gites and can buy and cook meals. There are many times when we will need to eat at restaurants when we are at hotels We would like some suggestions on food and eating in France. When in Paris we seem to have lots of ethnic choices in the Rue Cler area where we are staying which is great. We are not going to be having fancy white linen dinners with the kids, 8, 10, and 12 years, We are not looking for hamburgs and chicken nuggets either but wonder if there are some food ordering suggestions that you can share. We are traveling through out the country by car and this is an area that I need to think about for reasons of eating well and ofcourse cost. Any thoughts?

Posted by Adam
Boston
2633 posts

Map out some cafeterias before you go. The Monoprix department stores have these and there are others. They can be a godsend, and they are fun. This will be something you can look for in cities, probably not on highways. The other obvious food gambit is the picnic, which can be really great as well as easy. Bread, cheese, pate, sausage, carrots, yogurt, fruit... But you must have thought of that.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8758 posts

When we are driving around France we often pop into Flunch for dinner or lunch. They are consistently reliable, great for kids, inexpensive, nutritious, inexpensive, all the veggies are buffet-style, you can look at everything online, they have a decent IOS app, they are often co-located with an Auchun or Carrefour hypermarket often on the outskirts of towns and are pretty tasty, and they are inexpensive,,, and they are kid friendly - even have an ice-cream counter. You could do worse.

Posted by Angela
Sammamish, WA
403 posts

Hippopotamus is another chain found in Paris and throughout France. Kid-friendly, reasonably priced "real food." They have a wide range of options-steak and fries, salads, egg rolls, burgers, etc. Kind of like the French version of Denny's (but better food).

Posted by Philip
London, United Kingdom
1699 posts

You might be interested in the Flam's chain which does flammekueche - the Alsatian version of pizza, which is very thin and crispy with the standard topping being cream cheese, ham and onion, with other options on top. The website is only in French but they list the branches at http://www.flams.fr/restaurants.php

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8758 posts

Yes, another vote for the Hippos... they have a pretty decent website too.

Posted by Emily
Chicago
256 posts

Another vote for the Hippo. I stopped in the one on Rue de Clichy at 2300 on a Friday night and it was jam-packed, so the French love it too. Doner kabab/Middle Eastern snack bars are like the taquerias of Europe. While there are some icky ones, the good ones are more plentiful (in my experience) and if you are near one while you are hungry, it's better to stop in than not. It's hard to find doner kababs of the same quality here.

Posted by Debi
Sherman Oaks, CA, USA
257 posts

Just returned from 2 weeks in Paris. Had an apartment and cooked a bit. Got really tired of eating out 3 meals a day. I find the grocery stores have such interesting things to try. We also love a baguette, a hunk of cheese, some fruit and a great glass of wine or a bottle of water with gas, especially for kids. We ate at Hippo this time and it was not great and rather expensive for a hamburger and fries. I believe it was $48 for 2. There are lots of markets that roast great chicken and potatoes. You can buy a vegetable or salad and you are all set. Love falafel too, great and cheap. Chinese food is also quite good and reasonable. I always find Paris food hit or miss, can be great or really not so good.
We have some favorites, which we go to every time we are in Paris. Cannot ever go wrong with an omelette or onion soup. Happy Travels!!

Posted by Debi
Sherman Oaks, CA, USA
257 posts

Just returned from 2 weeks in Paris. Had an apartment and cooked a bit. Got really tired of eating out 3 meals a day. I find the grocery stores have such interesting things to try. We also love a baguette, a hunk of cheese, some fruit and a great glass of wine or a bottle of water with gas, especially for kids. We ate at Hippo this time and it was not great and rather expensive for a hamburger and fries. I believe it was $48 for 2. There are lots of markets that roast great chicken and potatoes. You can buy a vegetable or salad and you are all set. Love falafel too, great and cheap. Chinese food is also quite good and reasonable. I always find Paris food hit or miss, can be great or really not so good.
We have some favorites, which we go to every time we are in Paris. Cannot ever go wrong with an omelette or onion soup. Happy Travels!!

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I think ethnic food in Paris is a great way to go. There's a sort of "Asiatown" (because the restaurants are a mix of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese) not far from the Lourve with a lot of great budget options. Les Pates Vivantes is a Chinese place that makes their own noodles by hand, very cheap and great for kids, with one location in the aforementioned area and another in the Latin Quarter. The Marais has some great falafel joints. Outside of Paris, unless you're in a very touristy high-end area like parts of the Cote d'Azur, finding traditional restaurants with reasonable prices isn't too diffcult - where the locals eat, basically. Doner Kebap can be hit or miss, but the "secret" to a good one is to find the one that is the most packed full of people.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1970 posts

There is an alliance of independent restaurants where real men eat quiche throughout France, called Les Relais Routiers. A lot of working people eat their lunches in them, the food is copious, homestyle cooking, often long tables shared with others, and my husband always slams on the brakes when he spots one. Many have children's menus, so they are for families, too. Anthony Bourdin went to one on a recent episode with a US celebrity chef from France, and the chef was grinning ear-to-ear. Last time we ate at one, we had all-you-can-eat first course buffet of vegies and cold cuts, true coq-au-vin, cheese plate, and chocolate mousse/fruit for 11 euros. The wine or bottled water and coffee are usually included. Most of the places I looked, the fixed-price menus were about 12 euros for the complete meal. Some you could get just the blue-plate special (plate du jour). Here is the website with an interactive map: http://www.relais-routiers.com/ The addresses, hours, prices are in French but you can use the google translator. Note: the ones on the autoroutes are restricted to only truck drivers.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Carol, if you want to save money, then don't eat around Rue Cler, take a metro trip out of the 7th, thats an upscale area, locals who want cheap food do not eat or shop there.. you are close to the 14th wander up that way. I liked the Autogrills, we found you could get a good meal for less then 15 euros. Pauls and Hippos is decent chains for family eating. Really a good knife will save you tons, buy a whole baquette, one euro( unless you are in an expensive area/bakery) , buy about 300 grams of meat slices, salami etc,, and some cheese, then make a long sandwich, cut into sections, sandwiches for 4 can come in under 5-6 euros. Stores sell six packs of soda, or juice boxes..order tap water if eating at a sit down place, its good.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2700 posts

Hi, As far as Asian food goes, Chinese restaurants are all over Paris but esp in the 13th arrond...the Paris Chinatown. Like any other cuisines, some mediocre, some very good. On the chain restaurants I've tried two which aren't bad for the quality and the money...Flunch and Buffalo Grill. Don't exclude the train stations in Paris where at the brasserie some good cheap food can be gotten.

Posted by Kim
Paris
544 posts

Creeps! There's a street full of crepe rise behind Montparnasse, rue d'Odessa, I think it is? (Of course, you'll also find creperies all over Paris, Breizh Café in the 3rd is always highly spoken of.

Posted by Beatrix
Calgary
1974 posts

When we travelled through Normandy and Brittany my kids fell in love with crepes and galettes. Very affordable options and tons of choices to try out. And creperies are everywhere! In fact, they loved them so much that I still make galettes (buckwheat pancakes) regularly back home. Even for their school lunches. We do adapt them to our Canadian palate by adding maple sirup even for those with savory fillings (usually ham and cheese).

Posted by Dina
Fontainebleau, France
893 posts

Our experience is that Autogrille is more miss than hit. We much prefer Courtepaille if it's an option on the Autoroute. But don't go to Courtepaille unless you are meat-eaters, as they don't offer many choices. Flunch is a family favorite for the reasons Nigel has pointed out. If you go to one, you will take a tray and put your drink, dessert, and salad options (if you want to buy them)on the tray and head to the checkout. You then tell them what main dish you want (or what "menu" you want if you're getting one that includes a drink. If you can't decide, I recommend just getting the menu du jour). You'll pay and they'll give you a receipt that you'll take to the food stations to get your main dish. THen you pile on the veggie/potato/pasta sides at the buffet. Kids meal is cheap, but only available to under 10s. If you stop at a KFC or McDonald's, remember that the menu looks like it's in English, but you'll need to order with a French accent in order to be understood LOL. Your kids might enjoy seeing the different options for a happy meal here (cherry tomatoes anyone?), but your wallet won't like the price (5€). If you want a fun look into how some French interpret American culture, stop at a Buffalo Grill. This one cracks me up (and their burgers and cajun chicken breasts are pretty good.) Someone in the translation department went a little too far with "Route 66" a while back and they had a "Road 66" promotion. Some, but not all, have a pinball machine or video game your kids can play while waiting for their food. Kids meal goes up to age 12 here. For your apartment food, check out Picard. All frozen food and usually good. Makes dinners easier and if you don't get the gourmet choices, they're relatively inexpensive. Bon Apetite!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8758 posts

BTW, if you do go to see the Hippos, be sure that the place you wind up has the fully spelled out Hippopotamus in the name, lots of the colour red in the restaurant. I abbreviate it <<Hippo>> but there are a few restaurants about calling themselves Hippo which are not the Hippopotamus chain...

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

And avoid "Quick Burger" that place was so gross my 11 yr old couldn't eat the burger( which really defined the meaning of mystery meat) ,, I would go to McDonalds before that, and that is saying something.I thought the other offering for the kids meals in Mcdonalds were great, mind you we offer yogurt and apple slices here too, so it wasn't a shock to see some of the healthier options.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

And avoid "Quick Burger" that place was so gross my 11 yr old couldn't eat the burger( which really defined the meaning of mystery meat) ,, I would go to McDonalds before that, and that is saying something.I thought the other offering for the kids meals in Mcdonalds were great, mind you we offer yogurt and apple slices here too, so it wasn't a shock to see some of the healthier options.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8758 posts

oy pat --- Leave Quick alone. I don't step in when you beat up on your neighbors to the south - but leave Quick alone. Maybe you've had a bad one, but when I'm motoring around Belgium, France and Luxembourg I have had many a decent meal at Quick. That's the last stop before the Eurotunnel, on Kirchberg Plateau in Luxembourg, and several other places in Luxembourg, on the Grote Markt in Brugge, in Lille, and loads of other places. I don't have their Toast (or similar name) but they do quite good other stuff... free and easy wifi, too. Much easier than French or German McDonalds wifi.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2700 posts

There is a Quick Burger at Gare du Nord, actually right across the street from the station.

Posted by Robert
Portland
629 posts

I wouldn't eat at any chains unless you're really desperate, but there is some great advice here: "There is an alliance of independent restaurants where real men eat quiche throughout France, called Les Relais Routiers." "There are lots of markets that roast great chicken and potatoes." Yes, look for roving rotisseries at outdoor markets. One of the best ways to save money and eat great, flavorful healthy food at a reasonable price.
And crepes are good anywhere in France.

Posted by Karen
Atlanta
800 posts

Carol-maybe I'm misreading your post, but if you are asking for suggestions in what to order, given that you have 3 kids, I can tell you that my kids loved our long trip to France as far as food goes. My son, who was 11 at the time was the pickier eater of the two but quickly found out that he liked Croque Monsieur or grilled ham and cheese sandwich. We stopped in many small cafes as we drove around and could find this in many places. He ordered it almost once a day for either lunch or dinner. Another thing that we loved was pizza! We had the best pizza in the dordogne-it was like bread with salad (arugula) and tomatoes on top-so fresh tasting! But my sons favorite meals were at a hotel in Brittany where we had dinner included in the room rate. Though he still left many of the cooked vegetables, there was always a salad option, relatively plain meat dish, and best of all-the cheese course! So much of the food we found in cafes and restaurants was not necessarily fussy-chicken was lovely-just roasted and The frites (french fries) were the best potatoes ever. Salads and baguette sandwiches for lunch often came with little or no dressing/mayo so again was good for my kids and for me too. Finally-one thing we've learned from our trips is that it was a good idea to use the bigger cities to have some sort of ethnic/Asian food. We didn't always find multiple cuisine options in small towns so it was nice to have the variety of the big city offerings. We ate very well in France!

Posted by Kim
Paris
544 posts

Stupid autocorrect!! Clearly I meant crêpes, not creeps!!

Posted by Carol
Lynn, MA, USA
74 posts

Thanks to all. I was hoping for advice and information on places throughout the country as well as what to order at French restaurants and I got both. Thanks to everyone who answered. I will be printing this for later reference, Carol