Economical Paris Bistros: You can still eat well for 30 Euros or less!
Preparing to return to Paris, I looked back at some archived web sites I've used for prior visits.
I am pleased to note that some of my favorite bistros, featured in the annual guide of 100 Paris bistros for less than 30E published by the French newspaper, L'Express, still exist and are still holding their prices down.
First, take a look at the last published edition (2005) and consider printing it out prior to your visit:
Also, as part of its regular reviews of restaurants, L'Express continues to feature restaurants, both in Paris and the countryside, for less than 30E. Here's the current list:
In looking back over some of our favorites from the list, I noted that Dix Vins, in the 15th, is still going strong, getting good reviews and still offers a 3-course menu for 24E. Here's a recent review:
The former owner of Dix Vins opened a new bistro in the 6th a few years back, called "Le Midi Vins." According to the above site, it is doing well and features a 30 E menu.
That web site seems to be a treasure trove of listings and reviews of Paris bistros. Here's the link:
Some rudimentary knowledge of French will help you navigate this site, which is very well constructed. All you need to do is click on the arrondissement and you will be brought to a list of bistros in that neighborhood, many of which are described in great details or have reviews linked. There's even an English language version of the site (click on "English version" in the top right corner), but the English version does not yet have the navigable map. Instead, it just describes a dozen or so popular bistros.
Many of the more popular bistros accept reservations and I encourage you to make reservations a few days in advance. In many cases, your hotel can call ahead on your behalf.
Also note that most close one night a week, often Monday or Tuesday. Check before going to see when a bistro has its fermeture hebdo. Also check credit card policy, as smaller places tend not to accept Amex, but usually accept Visa and MC.
If anyone uses either the L'Express listings or paris-bistro.com in the next few weeks, please comment on your experiences! Also, if you find prices deviate from those provided on either of these two sites, let us know.
Speaking of real bistrot, cheap and good, le Dernier Métro on bd de Grenelle in the 15th (by Métro Dupleix) has excellent meat and fries, and this is the kind of place where you eat for less than 30eur with a full meal and beverage. Also, they're very nice and the terrace is appreciated when the nice weather comes back -- as now.
All those lists are useful but slightly misleading, as most of them feature bistrots with prix fixe menus under 30eur, sometimes only for lunch. Such is a French meal that with water, wine and coffee the bill comes most of the time closer to 50eur. That said, you can indeed stay under 30eur if you stick to the naked menu and drink tap water. In the least expensive bistrots, I might add, tap water is more usual, so that the least expensive ones tend to be even less expensive compared to the apparently only slightly more expensive ones, if you see what I mean.
In any case, one place I went to yesterday with a 27eur prix fixe menu and that is really excellent is Au Bon Accueil, rue Montessuy. They cook and season perfectly some very good ingredients. Their fish in particular is top notch, even in the cheap menu. My neighbour had a sole meunière that made me drool. The catch of course is that ALC prices are excellent value, while being significantly higher than the prix fixe. Thus they have a truffle, potato and egg course for 30eur something. They roast a whole chicken (a Coucou de Rennes to be precise) for two with a truffle risotto for less than 80eur for two, which is a great value anywhere, believe me. I feel that I might become a regular, despite the white tablecloths and the grey suits, which don't shout "warmth" at first sight.