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Are There No Good, Inexpensive Places In Paris?

  • h

After 3 days of searching here, it appears that every request for inexpensive food in Paris is met with responses about restaurants in the $50+ (30 Euros) per person range. Is that because there is no way to eat in Paris for less, or because the view of inexpensive on this particular part of Chowhound is so expensive?

In my book, inexpensive is around $8-$10 a person for breakfast, $10-$15 a person for lunch and $20-$30 a person for dinner. Anything above that is mid-range, and once you're getting into the 30 Euros per person range, you are getting up toward expensive.

I remember that the last time I was in Paris, it seemed to me that the only way to eat reasonably while there was to go to the bars for coffee and croissants or pastries for breakfast, bakeries and sandwich shops, and perhaps neighborhood eateries of which I did not know, for lunch or dinner, and to make heavy use of crepe stands/Tunisian Sandwich stands, as well.

Is that about right, or are there truly inexpensive and good places to eat in Paris?

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  1. i'm on a limited budget (and am paid in usd, no less) and i still manage to eat extremely well for not much money. there are plenty of good places with 20 euro prix fixe menus for dinner or a la carte options for less - in the past few weeks i've eaten at autour d'un verre (a wine based resto with an 18 euro menu), l'encrier (3 courses, 19 euro), cafe des musees (3 courses, i think it's 22), breizh (where a crepe will run 4 - 15 euro)... a lot of these are listed in other threads (I think you may be having a problem with your search function since in another thread you mentioned not finding any inexpensive paris threads for the past several years, but there have been 5 or 6 this year alone)

    1. You need to remember that expensive in Paris is €300 ($450) a head for dinner so €30+ a head is pretty inexpensive in comparison.

      Your strategy of a bar for breakfast with a coffee and croissant is good (and is what I do), I would try and eat lunch around the business districts (or main local shopping areas) as you will find a lot of the restaurants will do lunch menus that are priced to line up with the luncheon vouchers issued by companies (I believe legally French companies either need to have a on-site restaurant or give workers vouchers). The vouchers were valued at €7 so set three course lunches are often around €14 or €21. If you are around a tourist area you will pay more, as you do in any city.

      I think dinner at €30+ is very good value, especially for the standard of cooking and ingredients you get. Maybe that is because I am a European and so am used to a different cost of living - you should be thankful you don't need to pay for petrol over here - nearly $12 a gallon.

      It is also good to remember that the board is about finding good food, not just cheap food. So when we are recomending inexpensive food there is always an underpinning of quality. I would guess there is a economic price point were the rents/labour costs in Paris mean you can't do good/quality meals for less than a certain amount (apart from fast food like crepes/falafal). Also remember the prices are inclusive of service so you shouldn't need to tip on top of the bill, a Euro or two as a token of appreciation is all that is expected (although an American accent can alter this).

      11 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        "I think dinner at €30+ is very good value, especially for the standard of cooking and ingredients you get."

        But good and inexpensive does not mean good value and expensive. So, at €30+ each, it had better be an awfully good meal, because you can get spectacular meals over here at that price. And, even if it is spectacular, it's just good value, not inexpensive.

        "you should be thankful you don't need to pay for petrol over here - nearly $12 a gallon."

        Yet. It's $5 a gallon here, and I just paid $85 to fill my tank today, which I have to do once a week just to commute to work and back (no decent public transport where I live).

        "It is also good to remember that the board is about finding good food, not just cheap food."

        Actually, the board is about finding good food cheap. I remember that from when I originally found it. At least, when I first came here a few years ago, the mission of the board distinguished between a Chowhound and a Foodie. A Foodie is about trendiness, while a Chowhound finds the best hole-in-the-wall restaurants, that, while not trendy, are inexpensive and have great food. The mission might have changed over the past few years, but I don't think so.

        The one other thing is that, when someone requests advice on inexpensive restaurants, the responses should give advice on inexpensive restaurants that have good food, not on expensive restaurants just because they have good food.

        1. re: Hoc

          Hoc - "inexpensive" is a relative term. Around €30 in Paris is quite inexpensive if you are getting a well cooked meal in one of the good bistro's like Chez L'ami Jean, Le Regalade, or Les Coccottes. You need to remember mid range in Paris is in the €60/70pp range (and these are prices without wine), and the top is €200 to €300pp.

          Patz has listed some of the very good places were you can get good food at a lower price, Cafe des Musees has a inexpensive dinner and even lower priced lunch, although there ALC is higher. The wine bars like Autour d'un Verre, Les Pappilles, or Cave de l'Os a Moelle are also inexpensive.
          At lunchtime it is perfectly easy to find good food that is inexpensive especially if you head for the salads in the popular cafe's.

          I am not sure where you got the "...Actually, the board is about finding good food cheap" idea from. Yes it is all about good food, but the cost of it is inmaterial. I understood the board to be simply about finding good food, and looking for the best food. It can be inexpensive food, or it can be top of the range, eye wateringly expensive, Michelin starred food....as long as it is good (and no expensive does not always mean good or better). Check the Manifesto to see why I say that.

          I used the petrol price to simply try an illustrate the relative costs of things in Europe compared to the US. My car cost about €125 ($190) to fill so £30 for a good meal is inexpensive..

          1. re: PhilD

            Please! Using the excuse of being European to talk about relative prices - of food or petrol - is absurd. Paris is Paris. I am American by passport, but am a mixture of European nationalities with many close relatives in Europe and have spent more than 12 years living and working in Europe. The average European cannot afford 30+Euro meals, much less 300+Euro meals...Paris is more like NYC, not even like France. Let up on the "you should be thankful..." whatever. There are ways to eat well, and you need not eat in the restaurants of famous chefs. Just stick to brasserie and one will do just fine in Paris. If you try to eat in any famous chef's restaurant in any of the world's cities, you'll be paying the prices only the elite can pay (or those willing to spend weeks of salary for one meal). Correc that the ingredients are fresh - which is the same whether in the bistro/brasserie, or in the resto of the major chefs. Idea/suggestion: Keep It Simple! You can do it!

            1. re: CzechMike

              Why is it absurb? I was simply trying to illustrate the different cost structures between countries. Eating out in the US is relatively inexpensive especially compared to Europe, but there are things in Europe that are relatively cheaper (health coverage for example). I didn't say the average European spent €300 on a meal I said that was an expensive meal.

              I am interested in hearing about the Parisian Brasserieies where you can eat a meal, especially an evening meal, for less than €30 - names and addresses would be especially useful.

              Obviously you can eat cheaply if you eat simply, obviously there are cheap restaurants in Paris. But as this is Chowhound the question is: are there good cheap restaurants in Paris? Not simply can you eat cheap food, you can, but unfortunately much of it isn't that good. As you say: "Paris is more like NYC, not even like France", it is true, it means Paris is an expensive city, thus if the food is cheap the chances are something will suffer and that is often the quality.

              I believe it is useful to make this point to visitors they will have a far better experience by focussing on a few good, realistically budgetted, meals during a visit (often lunch rather than dinner), and then picnicking/snacking on other days, rather than trying to eat cheaply every day: better a few high spots than a week of mediocrity.

              1. re: CzechMike

                Yes, where are those 30 € good meals in bistros or brasseries. In the past month have been to 7 or so of these places. Granted the food was wonderful. The wine was from carafé, and generally a dessert was shared. The range in prices was from 45 to 65 €. l am not complaining, but this was the price, more than NYC, probably a little less, but a lot better IMHO. Maybe many of the patrons were tourists, if so they sure spoke perfect French, and the places were stuffed with people.

                1. re: souphie

                  All very good points, re: 30 euros vs. 45 euros and up. In Paris, quite often, you get what you pay for, tourist or resident...One thing tourists do not realize, though, is that the portion sizes in most Parisian restos are nowadays huge! Splitting plates is simply
                  not done, though it's OK to share dessert, and doggie-bags don't happen here. If you want to economize, just order less! There is simply no good reason to fill up on
                  "entree-plat-dessert" at each meal. A starter and dessert, say, or a main dish and coffee - make these choices, and drink tap water and house wine, and you will have no problem eating well for less money.

                  1. re: manouche

                    We notice "portion creep" more and more in moderately priced places. Even humble Machon d'Henri has changed its dinner plates to what I would call a "charger" or chop plate: enormous. We used to be comfortable ordering a starter, entree and simple dessert here. No longer. Maybe split a starter and each have a main, pot of wine and coffee.

                    1. re: mangeur

                      Sans doute - you will live longer, and both you and your wallet will be happy
                      - and full! Pity the poor tourists who must eat out all the time, and who have been led to believe that the 3-to-5-course-French-meal is the only way to survive...so many more reasonable alternatives exist.

                2. re: CzechMike

                  Sure, many bistros make it possible to pay less that 30 euro for lunch, but these are some pretty unremarkable meals to the extent that I'd probably be indifferent between this and a sandwich grec.

              2. I am American and recently returned from a trip to France. What I tried to keep reminding myself is that the price of things wasnt inordinantly expensive. Its just that the dollar is so weak. If our dollar was not so weak 30 Euro wouldnt seem materially more expensive that in some of our larger cities here in the states. You cant really expect them to lower their prices because the US dollar is weak. 30 Euro is not mid-range.

                IMO I think it will be hard for you to eat in the $8 - $10 range. Perhaps 8 - 10 Euro.....but not dollars. I did not encounter any place with prices like that although they MAY exist.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Brunella

                  The dollar/Euro ratio is not that much different from when I was there in 2004. Then, it was about $1.49 to the Euro. Now, it's about $1.55. So, on a 30-Euro meal, that's only about $1.80 difference. So, the weak dollar really doesn't have much to do with it.

                  1. re: Hoc

                    actually, right now the dollar/euro ratio is close to the highest it's ever been. when we were in paris in sept 2004, it was close to $1.25 to 1 euro. it was close to $1.30 to 1 euro when we were there 2 years later. see the following link:

                    http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/...

                    1. re: beantowntitletown

                      No point making the conversion. It is what it is, regardless of conversion. I just compare on par, always.

                  2. re: Brunella

                    " If our dollar was not so weak 30 Euro wouldnt seem materially more expensive that in some of our larger cities here in the states."

                    I don't think that many people, even in big cities in the U.S. consider a $45 per person lunch to be cheap. I have paid $200 a head for some very nice dinners in the U.S., and I know that there are places that charge more. But they are not cheap, and there are cheap but amazing options. Even New York City (one of the more expensive cities) has Gray's Papaya, where you get 2 hot dogs and a drink for $2.50, or some spectacular pizza or deli spots or ethnic restaurants where you can get a nice lunch for about $15. In fact, go into Katz's and share a pastrami sandwich and pickles, and you have one of the all-time great food experiences with amazing quality, and will leave unable to eat dinner, all at about $9 per person. So, most places where there is expensive food still have some amazing, inexpensive dining experiences. Even London -- one of the world meccas of high priced food -- has some great Pakistani or Indian restaurants with 15-pound dinners that are very nice.

                  3. Remember that the cost of living in the US is AMAZINGLY cheap compared to most of Europe - not just in terms of eating out, but in terms of rents/property prices, shopping in supermarkets and everything.
                    Paris is more expensive than the rest of France, and so things here aren't cheap. And they're getting more expensive very quickly, too, with the cost of basics increasing so much.
                    I'm British and the idea of being able to get a dinner for $20-30 (£10-15, €12-18) is pretty miraculous if you want to get more than one course and something to drink.
                    A sandwich and a coffee to takeaway in the UK will come to about £6/$12!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: chochotte

                      Oh and remember that you don't need to tip in French restaurants. So when your bill arrives for €30 that's it. No additional 15-20%.

                      Another little tip: don't get café crèmes (a white coffee) or a cup of tea in any café you take a break in. A 'café' or a noisette - both espresso-sized coffees - will cost you between €1-€2.50 depending on neighbourhood, whereas a café crème or a tea will cost something nearer €4!

                      1. re: chochotte

                        Not terribly on-topic, but FWIW: as an American who's lived in Europe since before the Euro, and has returned regularly to visit, I'll just say that this is no longer true WRT grocery store prices: last month in Atlanta grocery store prices were more expensive than what I pay here in Amsterdam (not an especially cheap European city).

                        1. re: chochotte

                          Ive lived in Most major U.S. cities-it isn't much different. The prices in Paris are on par- if you were in Chicago, If you eat at high priced bistros every night- you would have sticker shock too-I have found many decent , 10-16 euro prix fix meals here...

                        2. There is plenty of good, affordable food in Paris. This little corner of Chowhound is waaaay more "foodie" than the rest -- that's one aspect of it. You don't see a lot of discussions about the best kebab here, alas, unlike the endless taco discussions on the SF board.

                          The other is that Euro-denominated countries just suck for you Americans right now. You could get a nice lunch (entrée+plat or plat+dessert, sometimes a glass of wine) for 10-ish € back a few years ago and you can now. Back then that would have translated into $12, now it's $16. That change means that what used to be at the bottom of your price ranges is now at the top -- and things towards the top are hors du budget.

                          And then there's the fact that we're talking Paris here, and it *is* and expensive city. It's a bit like NYC that way -- if you stick to mid-town, your funeral if you're not rolling in it. But if you branch out to Harlem and Brooklyn you can find real gems. Same goes for the quartiers populaires and the banlieus.

                          Much to my horror one of my favorite places in my neighborhood was just mentioned here in another thread, which has a great lunch special for 9 or 10 € or so -- I never remember, just that it's a ticket restau plus a bit. Ask specific questions if you want better answers.

                          As for your approach, you get off to the right start. Breakfast for me usually means yoghurt and coffee at home, but if you're going out, a croissant a noisette sounds good.

                          For lunch, either seek out interesting lunch specials or hit up the markets. You never have to go too far to find one -- the little map-booklets by arrondissement usually list them. Of course you won't be buying a horse roast or dried beans or a pumpkin, but there are always seasonal fruits and veggies, fresh breads, cheese, wine, pâté, charcuterie, etc.

                          Go for lighter/less fancy meals for dinner, because things are more expensive then. That said, you ought to be able to find a great tagine, a bottle of acceptable wine, and really good desert in your price range.

                          There's no reason to suffer a grec-frites or a crummy crepe.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: tmso

                            Awesome post! Thanks. Spot-on!