I remember visiting Paris a few years ago as a broke college student, walking around until my feet hurt, excited to be in a place I’d always dreamed about visiting. I ate as cheaply as I could, which meant I had a lot of crepes, sandwiches, and budget meals at tourist traps in the Latin Quarter.
Today I’m lucky to have a slightly bigger budget when I travel, and I’m willing to spend money on interesting eating experiences. Finding fresh, unique, local food has become very important to me. But I still value being able to travel on a budget, and I know that one doesn’t have to spend a lot of money to get a delicious meal. If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ll know that while I have splurged on some expensive dining experiences, I also love street food and hole-in-the-wall places.
So, while visiting Paris for a quick 3-day trip last month, I wanted to see if I could find good food for a reasonable price—not always easy in this city of 6 Euro cappuccinos! I stayed north of the Marais, so my recommendations skew to that neighborhood and the city center.
Here are my recommendations for restaurants that I felt delivered quality and/or a unique experience without being overly priced.
Bob’s Kitchen, 74 Rue des Gravilliers, Marais (3rd)
After a dismal free breakfast buffet at our hotel on the first morning, I decided I had to have something better for the second. My first choice was to get crepes at Breizh Café, but unfortunately they’re closed Monday and Tuesdays, and I was leaving Paris in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Bummer. Instead, my parents and I made our way to Bob’s Kitchen for some of their famous wheat pancakes, which turned out to be a very good second choice.
The atmosphere at Bob’s is reminiscent of a retro American diner, with long tables that you might share with others. It’s a little divey, and the toilet was out of order when we were there, but the friendly waiters and quick turnaround made us feel at home.
The pancakes were delicious, and we were fully satisfied with the “demi portion”. The juice here is good if you want to splurge, although I found it a bit pricey at five Euros.
Sample costs: 5 Euros for demi portion of pancakes, around 3 for coffee, 3.75 for musli and yogurt.
Verdict? Good deal for a sit-down full-service breakfast
Marché des Enfants Rouges, 39 Rue de Bretagne, Marais (3rd)
Going to a market is usually a great bet for high-quality food without sky-high prices. The Marché des Enfants Rouges is small, but they still pack in quite a few eateries. You can choose from a large variety of ethnicities and there’s plenty of seating.
I was craving Moroccan food, so I went to Le Traiteur Marocain and ordered their “couscous du chef” and a piece of baklava. The couscous itself was great but it had a lot of meat; frankly, too much for me (also a bit pricey at 14 Euros). If I were to go again I’d get something simpler. My parents chose an Italian stand for delicious pasta and a carafe of house wine.
Sample costs: 8-14 Euros for couscous, 1.5 for soft drinks, 1.5 for pastries
Verdict: go for the less-expensive couscous; good-priced pasta and yummy ethnic foods
L’As du Fallafel, 34 rue des Rosiers, Marais (3rd)
There is a street in the Marais neighborhood in Paris where you’ll find a small cluster of Israeli falafel shops side-by-side. I love and have eaten my fair share of falafel, pita bread, and hummus, but I’d never tried Israeli-specific falafel, so of course this was must-do for me. Based on a recommendation from David Lebovitz's extensive list of Parisian restaurants, I chose L’As du Fallafel and ended up there around 1 pm in the afternoon after a stressful morning fighting crowds at the Louvre.
At L’As du Fallafel, you can get take-out or sit down inside the restaurant. I read on Yelp that this place can draw quite a crowd, but I got seated right away. The waiters were all very attractive young men, so that made me even happier with my choice. The restaurant is super casual and has photos of Israel and a signed poster from Lenny Kravitz—apparently he’s a fan.
I ordered the vegetarian falafel plate, which came with hummus, falafel (of course), some salad, and bread. It was a lot of food. I also splurged on an Israeli beer, which immediately eased the morning’s stress away. The falafel were crispy on the outside and not too dry. The hummus was a bit too sweet for me, but it was still an overall delicious meal. If you’re not very hungry you could go for a pita sandwich, and if you’re on a very tight budget, get take away—it’s a few Euros cheaper!
Sample costs: Falafel plate: 15 Euros, pita sandwich: 8, beer: 5.50 (sit-in prices)
Verdict: not super cheap, but the food is filling and delicious (and you can’t beat the friendly service from cute Israeli guys!)
Chez Janou, 2 rue Roger Verlomme Marais (3rd)
I have a friend who has raved about Chez Janou's famous all-you-can-eat chocolate mousse. For this reason alone, we decided to check out this popular bistro on the east edge of the Marais. We were squeezed into a tiny table and the restaurant quickly filled up around us.
The atmosphere of the restaurant is charming, with walls covered in nostalgic posters of films by Marcel Pagnol.
The meals themselves are delicious, so you might have a hard time saving room for dessert. We had some great mains, including a lovely scallop risotto. The menu is Provencal and features fresh seafood.
I ordered a cheese for dessert and was given three obscenely large pieces of strong cheese—good, but not necessarily something I’d recommend unless you’re still hungry after your meal.
We also ordered the mousse (of course!). The waitress set a huge bowl filled with the rich, decadent dessert on the table and we served ourselves. We had three spoonfuls but barely made a dent in it. While we dug in, I noticed a few thin French girls at the table next to us eyeing us... I think they were probably just jealous.
Sample costs: Mains around 20 Euros, Desserts 9 each (including the mousse)
Verdict: reasonably priced with delicious and generous portions
Le Trumilou, 84 quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, near Notre Dame (4th)
We went to Le Trumilou for a homey, old-fashioned meal of hearty food. It’s a great location just north of Notre Dame, but didn’t feel overly crowded or touristy. The only downside for us were that there was no air-conditioning or fans, which was a bit tough on a hot summer night. The waiter was extremely kind, translating nearly everything on the menu.
We ended up splitting a salad and each ordering our own main dishes, but I liked the look of their 3-course menu for just 22 Euros. We tried the duck, a buttery white fish, and (my favorite), veal escalope. While not quite up to the standard of Chez Janou, the mains were solid. We didn’t have room for dessert.
Sample costs: 3 courses for 22 Euros, 2 courses for 18, mains 17-21 Euros
Verdict: traditional bistro fare dishes, friendly service, great value
Le Relais de l’Entrecote, 20 bis rue Saint Benoît (6th)
I decided to include Le Relais on this list because the experience was so amusing. If you read the reviews on Yelp you’ll see that some people call this a tourist trap while others love it. I personally would recommend it, as long as you go with the right expectations and an empty belly.
Le Relais de l’Entrecôte has no menu for their main course, because they only serve one thing: steak with french fries and a garlicky sauce. When you sit down, a waitress will come to take your drink order and ask how you want your steak cooked. You’ll also get a small green salad with a mustard dressing. Just before you clean your plate, the waitress will come by with a second helping of steak and fries (you can decline if you're full).
If you still have room for dessert (which I highly recommend), you choose from a menu of about 10 options. We had profiteroles, fruit with cream, and a lemon tart, and they were all incredibly delicious.
People wait in line for this place, and the line can get very long. We were lucky to show up around 7 pm and get seated right away. The service is brisk and extremely fast, which does makes you feel a little as if they’re hustling you through the meal so that they can reseat your table. But I still really enjoyed this restaurant for its no-nonsense feel, traditionally decorated interior, and very delicious steak.
Sample costs: 26.50 for steak and fries with salad (including a second helping), desserts 7 each
Verdict: a good price if you’re hungry enough for a second helping, otherwise perhaps a bit expensive.
Hungry for more? Read all of my posts about food here, or more posts about France here. Thanks so much to my mom for letting me use her great food photos! You can find more of her photography on 365 project.
Finally, if you want to say "bon appétit" at all the places I've mentioned here, visit GPSmyCity to download a map to this article. It's available offline—perfect for if you won't have data while you're traveling! If you decide to purchase the map, I'll make a few cents, which goes toward the cost of maintaining this blog. Click here to download the article app.