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Paris: Inexpensive, French, Pescetarian, and Really, Really good

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The title indicates my interests. My wife and I are going to Paris next week. I'm on a pretty strict budget (maybe 100 Euros a day?). I can't afford to go to the haute cuisine places, though I would love to be able to. I'm interested in having French food mainly--I've had good Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Middle Eastern, etc. elsewhere. Also, I'd love for the food to be really good. We're always interested in food from local sources with fresh ingredients. Also, my wife and I try to avoid beef, poultry, and pork, so set tasting menus can be an issue. (We love fish). Any help you can offer on this front is greatly appreciated.

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  1. - L'Ilot: seafood bistrot on 4 Rue de la Corderie in upper Marais (must reserve)
    - Pleine Mer: oysters, on rue Chabrol.

    1. Clarification - €100 a day for two for all three meals - so €50 a head a day....?

      How strict are you on fish only, you may get a good set lunch which has a fish main as an option, but not likely to get a fish starter as well. Like all cities fish is expensive and in an expensive city like Paris it's even more so.

      Tip for breakfast, stand at a cafe bar for a coffee and croissant it's cheaper than sitting down (and don't sit on a terrace as it's the most expensive) or get your croissant from a bakery that has a takeaway coffee machine - coffee is not the best but it's the cheapest.

      6 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        Yeah, about €50 a head per day. We eat veggies, cheese, etc. too and can stretch on what we eat.

        1. re: FritzJMcDonald

          ...but I can stretch that to about 75 each if necessary.

          1. re: FritzJMcDonald

            If you are staying in an apartment and have a kitchen, which means you can use the fabulous market finds, the budget is doable.
            Otherwise, with that budget, you need to reassess the "very very good" condition.

            1. re: Parigi

              I can stretch it to very good.

              1. re: FritzJMcDonald

                If you can do just one meal, and picnic or snack for the other meal, you can possibly have a quite good meal in places like Chaméléon, oysters at Pleine Mer (hard to make that the major meal of the day), Jeanne B, Playtime.
                Once Pti and I spent 20 euro each on lunch at Dans Les Landes without wine. That would qualify as "very good".
                Abri would fit also the "very good bill but it is probably too late to reserve. Still, as they say: you don't try, you don't get.

                1. re: Parigi

                  Thanks!

      2. Where are you staying ? Maybe there's someplace right under your nose that we can suggest.

        With so many possibilities in Paris, I tend to be be very quartier-centric and so would urge you and all posters to include location/ proximity as one of your criteria.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Parnassien

          We're staying at the Hotel du Champ de Mars, in the 7th, near the Ecole Militaire metro stop.

          1. re: FritzJMcDonald

            Not a great part of town for a visitor on a budget but try le 122, Laiterie St.-Clotilde and Chez Graff behind the national assembly, which I recall as having nicely-priced limited-choice lunch menus. You should be able to get out at 50 euro for 2 if you're careful about drinks and supplements, leaving the rest of your budget for coffee at a café and a picnic for dinner. The only hard part will be guaranteeing enough fish options with a limited-choice menu.

            Le 122 is probably the most traditional and the other 2 share an owner. I don't know about 'really really good' but these should all deliver enjoyable modern bistro cooking with a bit of style. You'll need a booking for lunch - these well-priced places are deservedly popular with the working crowd in this area.

            1. re: shakti2

              Thanks! This is exactly what I'm looking for.

            2. re: FritzJMcDonald

              In addition to Shakti's excellent suggestions, I'd add the fab Bistro Belhara on the rue Duvivier... 5-min walk from your hotel.... updated trad cuisine with a Basque accent and classic bistro decor.... fish is always on the menu ... if no wine and no bottled water, you can scrape by for 35 € pp for a 3-course for dinner and much much less for weekday lunch... closed Sunday and Monday And, at the same price point for lunch and dinner, the excellent Philippe Excoffier on the rue de l'Exposition.... again, just 5 mins from your hotel.... cuisine is modern (ish) French with a few updated classics... closed Sunday and Monday. Also on rue de l'Exposition, le P'tit Troquet... cuisine is relatively classic and very meat-heavy so check before you go that fish is on the menu and available in the prix-fixe formules.... 16€ for a 2-course lunch and 35€ for a 3-course dinner excluding wine, bottled water, coffee.... open Tue to Fri for lunch and Mon to Sat for dinner. For Sunday when most other places are closed, Pottoka on the rue de l'Exposition.... modern French with Basque influences... 35€ prix fixe for Sunday lunch or dinner (cheaper for lunch during the week)

              Personally, I find your part of the 7th a wee bit dull and crawling with American tourists in the summer. So my advice would be to get out to one of the real life quartiers like the Haut Marais (direct métro from Ecole Militaire to République) in the 3rd for dinner. A short-walk from the Haut Marais, my go-to resto in the area, Ober-Salé on the rue Oberkampf has a 33 € dinner prix prixe (and 16 € for a 2-course lunch... wheeee!). And, already suggested by Parigi, l'Ilot on the rue Corderie in the 3rd is a great-value tiny seafood resto/ wine bar with a few tables outside to ease the congestion inside... lunch on Sat only but dinner Tue to Sat... if not too hungry, 20 €.

              You can also make a little excursion to the 15th on the other side of the Champ de Mars. Le Casse-Noix on rue de la Fédération is a very popular foodie-quality resto open Mon to Fri where you can eat lunch for 20 € and dinner for around 35€. Around Dupleix métro, there's a little cluster of excellent and well-priced Basque eateries .... the no-rezzie Cantine du Troquet Dupleix on boulevard Grenelle (my fave, no lunch formule so around 30 to 35 € for both lunch and sinner, open 7/7)... Au Dernier Métro on the boulevard Grenelle (20 to 30€)... Les Prolongations on the boulevard Grenelle (starters 6 to 12 €, mains 12 to 15 €, open 7/7) .... Le Volant on the rue Béatrix Dussane ( 25€ prix fixe but fish not always included, closed Sunday).

              I quite disagree with Souphie and Parigi. Good budget eats ain't all that difficult in Paris. The very best will be out of your reach but just "good" in Paris is so much better than anywhere else.

              1. re: Parnassien

                I will take the middle ground between Soup and Parn. You can eat for your budget, and carefully chosen restaurants, will mean you can eat reasonably well. But you are going to struggle to get really good food for the budget, and I wonder how much fish you will see on the lower cost set menus (as fish is expensive).

                Breakfast - as mentioned upthread, if you go very local to a little bar/cafe and stand at the bar for coffee and croissant it will be cheapest. Head to somewhere with style, sit outside, or add breakfast items and it gets expensive quickly. At the bar it should be under €10 for two, sit outside and it could be heading over €20 to €30.

                Lunch - the magic number of €16 each is not a coincidence, many French workers get luncheon vouchers as part of their pay and these are worth about €8, so lunch is a multiple. Best places to see these deals is near office areas. That said €16 a head is basic, if you add bottled water (tap is free), a glass of wine, and a coffee, you can easily head towards €25 to 30 a head for a reasonable lunch (but even then care is needed).

                Likewise many bakeries have good value "formula" lunches which consist of a filled baguette, a drink and usually a basic pastry - these are again around €8.

                Picnicking is good, and the best option is to grab some cheese and a baguette. However, conservative ordering is sensible as good cheese is addictive and the costs can mount up.

                Dinner is going to be the key, I think it's depressing to stay in in the evening in a hotel - OK in an apartment with decent kitchen - but even then you are on holiday and the Parisian nightlife is good. For dinner set menus are going to be €30 a head plus and if you add drinks, coffee etc it is likely you are going to be at €40 to 50 a head.

                So adding it up (for two): €10 to 20 for breakfast, €16 to €50 for lunch, and €80 to €100 for dinner will bring the daily bill to between €106 to €170 a day. So if you can stretch to €75 each I would think you will have a more relaxing and better food experience.

                1. re: Parnassien

                  Thank you, Parnassien, for all the recommendations!

                  1. re: Parnassien

                    "I quite disagree with Souphie and Parigi. Good budget eats ain't all that difficult in Paris."
                    Where do you see an disagreement ?
                    If we bear in mind we are talking about very good food, which is what the OP wants, that's another matter.

                  2. re: FritzJMcDonald

                    Take a look at la Fourchette, the counterpart of Open Table for on-line reservations and occasional discounts. Its coverage isn't comprehensive but sometimes something may fit your interests eg. Parigi's rec in the Republique area Chameleon can be booked for dinner with a 30% discount at the moment, at least according to their marketing spam in my mailbox.

                    And if you are going to look around on-line, see if you can book Septime for lunch on their web-site. It's a tough booking given short notice and the holiday week, but their 28-euro lunch has always been 'really really good' for me and you will almost definitely have veggie and fish options on that menu.

                    I can't agree with PhilD's recommendation to raise your budget to fit in a sit-down dinner in a restaurant. You will still end up at the same level of restaurant for 100 euros at dinner as you get at 50 euros for lunch (certainly I think this will be the case for many of the places suggested here). You may get a slightly upgraded experience in the evening (or not), but it's not going to be in a different ball-park in terms of ingredient quality or ambition in the kitchen.

                    There are plenty of things to do in Paris in the evenings apart from sitting down to a 3-course meal, so absolutely on need to blow your budget on that count (and many folks on this board opt for their big daily meal at lunch by preference, not by budget constraint).

                    If you are looking to spend more, the options only start to get more interesting at 60-ish euro per person when you can think about some of the cool young places in the 11th/ 12th for dinner (Septime, Roseval, Bones etc are fixed-menu-only at 50 - 60 euro before drinks and will accommodate your no-meat requirement with advance notice). But even then, you could be just as happy for the same money by opting for somewhere more grown-up in the 7th/ 8th/ 16th at lunch time (les Climats comes up a lot for example).

                    1. re: shakti2

                      Shakti - I actually agree with much that you say about lunch. I prefer a good lunch over a dinner and agree they are much more economical.

                      However, many of the big lunchers on the board are locals, so its a different dynamic and they can head home to their apartments. Others, have rented apartments in order to use kitchens so they eat lunch out and then dinner at home - the best of both worlds. Equally I sense some posters are older with smaller appetites and one meal a dat suffices - I need at least three! And there is also the other demands on people time in Paris to hit the galleries and museums (I know some have later openings on certain days).

                      So if you are in a hotel what are the cheap evening food options? Definitely fewer than at lunchtime and a visitor does need to eat.

                      Part of the experience of visiting Paris is enjoying a glass of wine on a terrace then heading to a cosy bistro for dinner before strolling home through the empty streets.....you could just stroll the empty streets but that just seems a little sad.

                      I know when I travel I would feel I was missing out in any city if I didn't experience the nightlife and with a constrained budget you need to get the balance right to do that.

                2. I'm with Parigi. With that budget, eating out is a waste -- focus on very very good bread and cheese and charcuteries and vegetables, take a pocket knife with you, and then you might wanna try a few restaurants, but they won't beat cheese from Dubois with bread from Bosson.

                  1. OK; another idea from a chef who does both seastuff and veggiestuff really well - Jean-Marie Courtel at Sur Le Fil in the 14th; my second meal - I'd even recommend his dishes for vegetarians because the vegetables are so well prepared whether cooked or raw, chopped or whole, sauteed or tempured.
                    Our bill with 4 dishes, 1 bottle of wine, and 2 coffees was just 76.60 E with a 20% discount for a la carte items through LaFourchette.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: John Talbott

                      Thanks John!

                      1. re: FritzJMcDonald

                        Because Typepad was down I didn't post my report but it's at http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/...

                    2. Thanks for the recommendations everybody! I was able to use The Fork to book Sur le Fil, Philippe Excoffier, Pottoka, and Playtime.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: FritzJMcDonald

                        I must have been taking an old-guy's nap when we discussed Playtime; what did i miss?

                        1. re: John Talbott

                          Parigi recommended Playtime.

                          1. re: FritzJMcDonald

                            Sorry I missed that, Parigi is a great source - I gave it a 5.8/10 but I missed the discussion.
                            Sorriest..
                            Back to normal programming.

                            1. re: John Talbott

                              Whew. I was wondering why you were querying, if you had had a bad experience.
                              The restaurant has gotten even better since its early days, and has its inventiveness nicely under control.