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Poor and hungry visitors to paris

Hey chow hounders - hoping you can help us out. We are traveling to Paris next week with our kids - age 14 and 16. We're New Zealanders en route to the UK. Our NZ dollars go NOWHERE when converted to Euro's. I've read the blogs on brasseries and Bistros but think thats going to be too expensive for the 4 of us. My kids are eaters - very keen on patisserie, charcuterie and bread...We are staying right in the tourist centre near the louvre in a cheapy hotel. We'll need to buy all our meals for 4 days - I'm thinking we can do pastries or macaroons for breakfast, crepes for lunch ( have copied the threads on good cheap crepes - if there are any more suggestions I'm eager to read them) and buy fruit and bread... No idea what to do about dinner and have skinny teenage boy who is always hungry. Don't want to waste our hard earned savings by going to some dumb tourist place when I know there is superb patisserie, cheese etc out there.
Please help us - all suggestions appreciated - specially with directions from city centre!!! There are some threads about morroccan food that sound really good - can we easily get to those areas from city centre? We've never been before and its hard to get a sense of where these places are in relation to where we are staying - Hotel Pontpensier, Rue de Richelieu.
Thanks for your time.

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  1. A few recommendations- visit the rue du buci market on the left bank- they have fresh and prepared foods that are outstanding and not too expensive. Do some research, there are several open air markets and they are great places to buy cheese, wine, cold cuts (which are wonderful) and prepared goods. Also, you are not too far from the galerie lafayette, which has an entire floor of food - huge, huge selection. A lot of prepared dishes, not quite as cheap as the outdoor markets, but quite reasonable. A nice splurge would be Fauchons, they have prepared food that is a bit pricier but top rate. Their breakfast pastries, especially their savory madeleines, are great. Also, they have salted caramels, a unique french candy.
    Two restaurants fit your bill - La table de fes is on 5 rue saint beuve, not too far from saint germaine du pres, but hard to find - make sure to print off a google map. They have great, inexpensive couscous. Huge portions, get one lamb tagine and 2 vegetable couscous dishes to split between 4 people. don't bother with the appetisers. A corny favorite of mine that is somewhat reasonable and is near you is La Souffle. What is the point of going to Paris without trying a soufle, they have main course and dessert ones. It isn't cheap but I remember it as being reasonable. But in general, middle eastern and north african food may be the way to go.

    1. One of the places that we plan on trying is L'as du falafel. They are known for hearty and delicious falafel and are located in the Marais.

      1. My husband and I have also been trying to eat more frugally, and we have "discovered" the Cafe (cafeteria, really) on the mezzanine at the Louvre. It is not really chowhound-worthy, I suppose, but last Sunday we had a sumptuous lunch of braised ham with creamed cauliflower and green beans, for 8,90 euros each, plus wine. They also offer a salad bar, a selection of pizzas, charcuterie and cheese plates, and desserts. At any rate, you can fill up on fairly good food at cheap prices. A bit like eating in a school cafeteria in terms of ambience, though.

          1. re: hychka

            thanks all, I'd already taken on board phyllis cohens sensible suggestions but good to re read them. . I've marked out a couple of markets that we can walk to and will google map la table de fes and Fauchons. If too wet to walk to the market we'll do the cafeteria.
            Thank you so much!!! I can hardly wait.

            1. re: destitute gourmet

              You're near rue Ste-Anne which has a lot of cheap-ish Japanese noodle restaurants. Higuma at 32bis rue Ste-Anne is popular, cheap and hearty.

              1. re: Cookingthebooks

                Second that. Also Jujiya at 46 or 48 is an excellent Japanese fast-food.

                1. re: Cookingthebooks

                  higuma is our favorite cheap noodle joint. usually a line out the door but it moves pretty fast

            2. If you're budget conscious, just don't eat or drink out in Paris. It's never, never a good deal.

              And stay away from luxury shops such as Fauchon, and fake affordable places like La Table de Fes (an excellent couscous, at 35€ pp for the couscous itself).

              The only way to eat out for cheap is to go Asian (and not even in your neighborhood). Even sitting for a coffee will easily cost you 3€ at least in the center of town. Au Dernier Métro last saturday, we ate and drank for 28€pp and felt like it was dirt cheap, which it was.

              Your friends are the supermarkets (esp. Monoprix), the cheese shops, the bakers, the markets, the butchers.... Try crepes if you like but they're really not that great anywhere in Paris.

              How long are you staying? Get in touch if you'd like some help shopping (zejulot@gmail.com).

              Close to you is Julien, the baker (rue Saint Honoré). There's also the market on rue Montorgueil, very exciting.

              1 Reply
              1. re: souphie

                Souphie, that was a very generous offer you made (to a CH family with the ravenous teenager going to Paris). Because I work all over the world and am normally not a tourist and don’t like spending in restaurants in expensive cities (prefer to spend at home on my daughter), your advice is very close to what I do: try to find markets, bakeries, grocery stores, and more with good, healthy, plentiful foods at affordable prices.

              2. As you are Kiwi's I would avoid Asian food in Paris. Whilst I understand it has got better over the last few years it isn't going to be near the quality you can get in NZ (same applies to the UK).

                The food shops are really good, and so you can get lots of good stuff for picnics etc may still be chilly (or should that be Chully) though....!

                It may be good to try and eat big meals at lunchtimes, many places have low cost set menus and if you avoid lots of extras (coffee, bottled water, etc) these can be economic. Always ask for tap water - it is good quality and free.

                Don't miss spending some of those hard earned $$ on a couple of decent meals, it is part of the experience of Paris. Try at least one old Brasserie (Bofinger is central), a good bistro (Chez l'ami Jean in the 7eme), and a street cafe for lunch or early evening people watching, Le Philosophes (28, rue Vieille du Temple, in the Marais) is good and not that expensive. Another Marais restaurant that is fun and cheapish, popular with students and young professionals is Chez Janou (2 rue Roger Velomme 2eme). Try the absinthe at least once....!

                1. not real cheap but also not really expensive is Juveniles right on Rue de Richelieu. food is good, wine well chosen and the owner Tim Johnston (a Scot) is a hoot.

                  Souphie is right about Rue Montorgueil. Good food shopping and IMO better than Buci.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: jock

                    Thanks again, we Kiwis (or Koywoy's if you want to sound like a local) are accustomed to superb asian food, I buy fresh noodles at my corner store and choose from 9 asian food stores within 10 minutes walk from my home. Everyone here eats sushi, thai, Korean .. While the north african stuff may not be the "cheapest" choice, it will be a novelty for us and being in Paris eating sushi and noodles just seems wrong somehow. I've been talking to the kids for weeks about pastries and baguettes and soft cheese and fab sausages...
                    So far the plan is to go to the markets on Sunday - I believe Marche de Cler is open and on google map is only 35 min walk - will be good after flying. If its pouring with rain will do the cafeteria at the louvre as suggested and try to buy some supplies at supermarket. Next day is Eurodisney - kids insisted! so plan to stuff ourselves before we go, will need a patiserrie near rue de Richelieu. May try one of the restaurants you've recommended that night - depending on how late. Next day we are sightseeing - maybe try Marche le enfant rouge - did I get that right? and will follow up other recomendations. We only have a couple of days so trying to make the most of it. Thanks for the kind offer souphie, hope we'll be able to manage but very kind of you.

                    1. re: destitute gourmet

                      Montorgueil is much closer than Cler and probably a little less expensive. Certainly as good, maybe better for your needs. go east on Petite Champs which becomes Etienne Marcel. Follow Etienne Marcel to Montorgueil

                      There is a patisserie on Richelieu just off Petite Champs but IMO it is not very good at all. One of the best patissieres in Paris is Stoher on Montorgueil. Closer and much better than the one on Richelieu is la Vide Gousset located just off the Place Victories on Petis Peres. Just a little farther down Rue de Mail is the closest Franprix.

                      1. re: jock

                        jock beat me to it!

                        We have leased apartments near Cler and Montorgueil and love both. But, Montorgueil is certainly closer to you and, from my memory, more extensive. You will have no problem packing up for EuroDisney...other than selecting exactly from a myriad of wonderful choices!

                        1. re: jock


                          the good patissiere is not the Vide Gousset it is right next door.

                          i should probably be more emphatic about the patissiere on richelieu - it is really lousy and one of the few in paris that i would avoid entierly.

                        2. re: destitute gourmet

                          One other thought. This may seem odd, but if you want to explore French wine you could do worse than heading for a wine-bar owned by a fellow Kiwi (Drew Harre) and his business partner Juan Sanchez (US). It is called "Fish" (69 rue de Seine 7eme) and if you are lucky Hayden (another Kiwi) will be behind the bar.

                          When we moved to Paris he was very good at educating us on French wines, especially as most of our knowledge was based on Aus/NZ single varietals. They sell lots of wines by the glass and generally take the trouble to explain the wine.

                          It is also a good restaurant. It tends to blend new world simplicity with French techniques even though the chef is English. Set menus are about €35 a head for three courses. Great food but maybe not different enough to NZ to fit into a Paris agenda. If you want to eat you must book as it is very popular most days.

                          1. re: PhilD

                            Drew and Juan are both great and the food at Fish is very good too. Juan has a wine shop close by called La Derniere Goutte - good selection of French wines. Drew, Juan and Tim Johnston (Juveniles mentioned above) are good friends and they will take good care of you.

                      2. It takes some effort to eat cheaply and well in Paris, but it can be done. You've got the right idea of bakeries, crepes from a stand, and street markets for picnics.

                        Hre are a few more general tips, which I learned during my months in Paris as a dirt-poor student and honed with later visits as an exchange-rate-poor American. (Apologies if any tips are out-of-date - it has been 7 years since I've been to Paris...)

                        - For a break from crepes, try a bakery sandwich for lunch. Some bakeries also have salads and baked items, like quiche, which are warmed up when you order.

                        - To find a good bakery, look for the word "artisanale" on the door or window. That means they make their products themselves, rather than buying prepared dough or pastries from a central supply kitchen (which is depressingly common).

                        - For a great picnic, pick up a roast chicken from a rôtisseur - there's always one at or near a street market. Add a prepared salad from a supermarket (or cooked dishes from a traiteur), some street-market finds like fruit and cheese, a bottle of wine, and dessert from pâtisserie or chocolate shop. You won't feel at all deprived!

                        Here's a good list of Paris markets:

                        I like the Place Monge market and the Bastille market on Blvd Richard Lenoir, but they're a ways from your hotel. The Marche des Enfants Rouge is closer and features traiteurs, rôtisseurs, and even a place that does couscous to go!

                        - To maximize your restaurant funds, look for the daily set meal ("menu" or "formule") so you can get two or three courses for a modest price. It'll be cheaper at lunch - you can always have a "hotel picnic" for dinner.

                        - In a restaurant, ask for "un carafe d'eau" or "l'eau de robinet" (tap water) with your meal. It's free, unlike bottled water. If you want wine, you can usually ask for house wine by the verre (glass), quart (quarter-litre), demi-pichet, or pichet ("jug"). For pronunciation and other tips, see Rick Steves' tips in the link below.

                        - I'd skip the big brasseries - they're expensive. But you could go for a drink or snack to soak up the atmosphere. (Note: Brasseries are open all afternoon, but most other restaurants close between lunch and dinner.) Instead, I'd head for a hole-in-the-wall place like Le Temps de Cerises - lunch only, with a "formule" for as little as 14,50. It's not that far from your hotel - near the Bastille, just past the Marais (which is worth walking through, anyway). See these threads for info on the food:

                        - To navigate, get a free metro map at any metro ticket booth (ask for "un plan de metro, svp"). But Paris is small and made for walking. Metro stops are usually quite close to one another, so I prefer to get out and walk when ever possible. And get a "Plan de Paris" map book at a news stand - I think the little blue "l'indispensable" guide is worth its weight in gold.

                        For more good tips, see:

                        ParisLogue's tips for eating on the cheap:

                        David Lebovitz's eight money-saving tips:

                        Rick Steves' tips for exchange-rate-stricken Americans
                        (But use caution with his restaurant recommendations; the central ones, especially near the Tour Eiffel, are often overrun by USians.)

                        And this chowhound thread:

                        Have a great time in Paris, and please eat a croissant for me!

                        Bon voyage,

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                          I'm ignorant when it comes to most (99%) of Europe. Wish I knew you and souphie prior to very brief stints in Paris.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            Sam, let me know the next time you head to Paris. I love researching food for other people - it almost makes up for not being there myself.


                          2. re: AnneInMpls

                            I forgot my main tip: Use PetitFute.com to research cheap eats. It's the online version of the Petit Futé guidebook, which is my favorite resource for Paris (the name means little fox or minx - i.e., clever one). It's been 7 years, but my recollection is that the restaurant info is solid.


                            If you don't read French, skim for good prices for a "formule" or "menu" (set dinner). And look for terms like "bon marché" (good value; i.e., cheap), "prix doux" (sweet, aka low, prices), "à volonté" (all you can eat), and "bon rapport qualité-prix," (good value for the money). Or you could use an online translator, but they use a lot of slang that gets butchered in the process. (It's rather fun, actually!)

                            As far as couscous is concerned, surely there's something cheaper than Table de Fès - I mean, 35 E for couscous?!?!? And, according to this review, they won't let two people share one order.

                            I got inspired to search PetitFute.com for couscous and found these possibilities, though I haven't tried any of them myself. (Has anyone else tried the places below?)

                            First, this amazing bargain. Note that it's quite a trek from your hotel, but would bring you to an interesting and non-touristy area.

                            - Restaurant Les 4 Frères (11th arronissement; M° - metro stop - Ménilmontant)
                            Plat du jour for 5,90 and couscous for 6,90. No decor, no fancy dishes, and no alcohol (it's an Algerian place), but hey - mint tea is cheaper anyway. To get there from your hotel, take the metro's yellow line, then transfer at Nation to the blue line.

                            Note this recommendation from the reliable Chez Pim:

                            Other couscous places I found on PetitFute.com

                            - Chez Katy (1st arrondissement; M° Louvre)
                            It's near your hotel, and Petit Fute says it's some of the best couscous in Paris, with menus starting at 16 Euros (couscous around 15-27).

                            - Darkoum (2nd arrondissement; M° Quatre-Septembre)
                            Couscous is between 15 - 23 Euros.

                            - Chicha Cafe (3rd arrondissement; M: Filles-du-Calvaire)
                            Couscous starting at 15,50, and a lunchtime "formule" for 12 E.

                            - Founti Agadir (5th; M° Censier-Daubenton)
                            Lunchtime formules for 16 & 19 ; about 25 à la carte.

                            - Le Mechoui du Prince (6th; M° Odéon)
                            Lunchtime couscous "formule" for 9,50, and dinner couscous for 19.

                            Bone appétit (as my dog would say :-),

                            1. re: AnneInMpls

                              thanks Anne, I'll not only eat a croissant for you I'll also eat a Mille Feullie, a Macaron, some fromage, and anything else I can manage to pronounce.
                              Will post my experiences on my website when I return. www.destitutegourmet.com
                              Thank you all for your time and input

                          3. Thanks for starting this thread, destitute gourmet and I hope you don't mind me piggy backing on your thread. My DH and I will also be in Paris from april 20-25 and are looking for cheap food options since it's costing us an arm and a leg to get there and stay there and attend a conference! Alas, the Caanadian dollar doen't fare too well against the Euro either. We are staying near Porte Maillot. Are there any markets and other good deals near us? I don`t know Paris at all and it's hard to judge from looking at maps how close we are to the places mentionned. i am afraid because we are near the convention center and touristy areas, we won't fare well. Any help appreciated.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: hungryann

                              Not as familiar with Maillot and some areas but you are not too far from Rue Poncelet which is one of the best market rues. It is east on Rue Ternes toward Place des Ternes.

                              1. re: jock

                                Ethnic places and make it yourself meals from the markets are a great way to keep the costs down. You also might want to get Pudlo's Paris reviews. It includes not only fine dining, but neighborhood places and features a section on best values. It is arranged by district so we reviewed it each day as we made our plans. We particularly enjoyed the Cafe des Musees in the Marais. Great steak frite and very reasonable prices. As someone else said, don't go the the overadvertised brassieres like Bofinger. We made the mistake of going there - tourist trap where they treat you poorly and have mediocre seafood - I am sure you can get much better at home. Way overpriced for the quality.

                                1. re: wallygirl

                                  Re: Bofinger. On re-reading my post I should have been clearer. IMO a visit to Paris is as much about the unique experience of eating and drinking in Paris as it is about the quality of food on the plate. It would be a shame for any visitor to Paris to miss out on the "dining experiences" because they were focussed simply on value.

                                  A big Deco/Nouveau Brasserie of the type that is replicated across the world would always be on my list for a visitor, although as a resident I rarely went to then because I could get better meals elsewhere. It is the same as sitting on a cafe terrace in a ritzy part of town and watching the glamourous people walk by, certainly you will save money by sipping a beer/coffee inside and standing at the bar...but isn't sitting on a terrace in the sunshine in a beautiful part of Paris what memories are made of?

                                  1. re: PhilD

                                    I have been to Paris countless times on extremely limited budgets (not as a tourist, but I got in some tourism sometimes) and have never been too such a brasserie in Paris (I have been to one in Lyon). I'll survive.

                              2. re: hungryann

                                You are pretty far to the west end of town, very nice, btw. ..close to Bois de Boulogne, a very big and attractive park. Try using Google Earth (earth.google.com) and plug in your address and then some of the places mentioned in this thread to get an idea of where things are relative to your place. Be sure to visit Muse'e Marmottan-Claude Monet @ 2 rue Louis-Boilly, walking distance south of your place. Maybe someone else would comment on the restaurants in Bois de Boulogne as I've only walked by...never eaten in that end of town.

                                1. re: hychka

                                  None of them is for people on a budget. Plus, some are pretty bad.

                                  1. re: souphie

                                    Yikes, as I suspected. We will have to do some serious planning with our sightseeing. the Metro Card is obviously a must.

                                    1. re: hungryann

                                      One last question from the kiwi destitute gourmet here - packing our bags now with great excitement having just Googled Bowfinger (Wow, thanks Jock for the recomendation).
                                      Tips - what do we do about tips, who do we tip and how muc?. In NewZealand tips are not part of our culture, no one tips (except tourists) so I'm at a loss. Do we tip at the hotel? do we tip waiters (even surly ones in long white aprons?) Taxi drivers? Don't want to be un- generous just because we are unfamiliar.
                                      Also want to say thanks again to all of you for taking the time to share your suggestions. I now have a sheaf of papers, google maps and a raging appetite! I was worried that we'd be in Paris but never manage to "make contact", just be tourists looking but not experiencing- I'm sure you know what I mean. Now I'm confident that we'll really get the most out of our few days and my kids will have their "small Island" world view changed forever. Thanks Jock, Souphie, Hungryann, Hychka, Phill et al

                                      1. re: destitute gourmet

                                        it is not dissimilar to NZ - tourists probably tip more than locals.

                                        In taxis round up to the nearest €, so €8.50 become €9. After a cafe meal leave a few € coin (one or two) no need to do a % as the service charge is already included in the bill - the coins(s) is simply a token indicating you received good service.