Paris has more restaurants per square foot than you can muster. When you're on a budget and can't afford to fork out a fortune for a meal in a high gastronomic establishment, it can be a challenge to sift through Paris' many mediocre kitchens and find a spot where quality and budget are compatible.
These ten budget French restaurants offer a la carte and menu options at reasonable prices, while managing to retain the savoir-faire and attention to detail you'd expect from French cuisine.
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This legendary Belle Epoque restaurant draws constant crowds for its elegant turn-of-the-century dining room (seating over 300 people), gregarious wait staff (who scrawl orders out on white paper tablecloths), and, above all, the inexpensive, traditional, and decent fare. The menu is classic (beef bourguignon, sauerkraut, sea bream, etc.). Sides are as low as 2 Euros/ approx. $2.70, main dishes are about $8-$10, and three courses can be enjoyed for approx. $20-$30. Arrive early: this one's very popular with tourists and locals.
This relaxed and always-bustling kitchen in Paris' village-like Butte aux Cailles neighborhood offers quality French Basque-style meals for around $10-$20. Hearty dishes like potatoes with ham and cantal cheese, enormous mixed salads, or cassoulet await. Two caveats: neither reservations nor credit cards are accepted, so arrive early and bring cash.
Address: 3 Rue Beccaria, 12th arrondissement
Tel.: +33 (0)1 43 41 56 77
Open: Tues-Sat, noon-2 pm; 7:30 pm-9:30 pm
This gastronomic kitchen specialized in southwestern French cuisine offers authentic and budget-friendly lunch menus. A fixed menu with a starter, main course and dessert is 18.90 Euros (approx. $25), while seasonal plats du jours are 11.90 Euros/approx. $16). Wine by the glass is 3.50 Euros/ approx. $4.60. Specialties include ham persillade with balsamic vinegar, filet of pollock with fennel, and chocolate-pear clafoutis.
Dinner menus are a bit steeper, but great value as well.
Metro: Rambuteau or Arts et Metiers
Tel.: +33 (0)1 42 72 18 10
Open: Mon-Sun, 8:30 a.m.- 9:00 p.m.
This humble market-style bistro near the Centre Georges Pompidou is well-known for its creative, freshly-prepared plats du jour, tasteful salads, and decent-to-very-good wines served by the glass for next to nothing. The owner, Laurent Delcros, formerly served in posher kitchens, and brings know-how and a pinch of audacity to classic French bistro dishes. Set menus (glass of wine included) run at around $15-20, and plats du jour are often under $12.
Address: 232 Rue St. Charles, 15th arrondissement
Tel.: +33 (0)1 45 57 89 14
Open: Mon-Sat, noon-2:30 pm; 8:00 pm-10:30 pm
Known as one of the city's prime spots for la bonne vieille cuisine française (good old French cuisine) at modest sums, this restaurant offers classic Paris brasserie ambiance. Near the Parc Andre Citroen, Le Bistrot d'Andre's decor is awash in automobile nostalgia.
Specialties include hearty classics like duck confit or cassoulet. Expect to pay 12-20 Euros/ approx. $16-$27 for plats du jour. Lunch menus will set you back approx. $20.
6. Chez StellaAddress: 3 Rue Therese, 1st arrondissement
Tel.: +33 (0)1 42 96 22 15
Open: Mon-Fri, noon-2:00 pm; 7:00 pm-10:00 pm
This friendly nook near the Opera Garnier offers creative and tasty salads and classic dishes for slim prices. 12 Euros/approx. $16 will allow you a three-course meal featuring simple favorites like peppersteak, herring with potato salad, or creme caramel. The owner and waitstaff are well-known for their affability, and the non-smoking rule will please anyone who wants to avoid smoke interfering with the flavors. Reservations are recommended as this is a popular spot.
Metro: Hôtel de Ville
Tel.: +33 (0)1 42 78 54 03
Open: Tues-Fri, noon-1:45 pm and 8 pm-11:30 pm; Sat. 8 pm-12 am; Sun, 8 pm-11 pm
This cozy gay-themed restaurant in the heart of the trendy Marais neighborhood proves that hip doesn't have to be synonymous with overpriced. In a neo-kitsch setting (Greco-roman statues and bold colors abound), one can procure a very decent lunch menu that includes starter, main course, dessert, and a 1/4 bottle of wine for approx. $18-$30. Le Petit Picard has been noted for its generous portions and cheerful service.
8. PolidorAddress: 41 Rue Monsieur le Prince, 6th arrondissement
RER: Luxembourg (Line B)
Tel.: +33 (0)1 43 26 95 34
Open: Mon-Sat, 12 pm-2:30 pm and 7 pm-12:30 am; Sun. 12 pm-2:30 pm and 7 pm-11 pm
This is a legendary Paris bistro where luminaries like Hemingway and Andre Gide once occupied the tables. Open since the mid-19th century, this is one of the rare places in the overpriced Odeon area where one can find solid traditional cuisine that's not exorbitant. Lunch menus available for 9 or 18 Euros (approx. $12-$24). Polidor's homemade pumpkin soup, tarts and cakes are especially recommended. Credit cards not accepted.
9. Chez Papa
Address: 206 Rue Lafayette, 10th arrondissement
Tel.: +33 (0)1 42 09 53 87
Open: Mon-Sun, 9:00 am-1:00 a.m.
Chez Papa has several addresses around the city, and is nearly always packed and boisterous. Known as one of the city's best spots for copious French-southwest style salads and main courses, one can feast on delicacies such as magret de canard (duck breast) with leeks, or pan-seared foie gras with gingerbread crumbs for under $25. Lunch menus are a better value still at approx $15. Wine by the glass is budget-compatible, too, at under $5.
10. Chez Germaine
Address: 30 Rue Pierre Leroux, 7th arrondissement
Tel.: 33 (0)1 42 73 28 34
Open: Mon-Fri, 12 pm-2:30 pm and 7 pm-9 pm; Sat. 12 pm-2:30 pm
This unpretentious family kitchen in the generally-posh 7th district offers up simple, classic dishes like gratin dauphinois, pork with lentils, or herring with potatoes in a laid-back, intimate setting. No frills here, but French bistro favorites that won't compromise your budget. There is a set menu at 14 Euros/approx. $18.60 that includes starter, main course, and dessert. Portions are generous and the service is reputed to be friendly.