If there’s anything that Paris is known for — besides grand boulevards, impressive museums and a sparkling river crisscrossed by pedestrian bridges — it’s food.
The City of Light is a veritable foodie paradise, practically overrun with bakeries, pastry shops and bistros offering light-as-a-feather baguettes, buttery croissants, hearty steak frites and so much more.
When you’re feeling flush, there’s almost no limit to the French capital’s gustatory pleasures; it’s when your wallet is slim that challenges can arise. But if you do your research, eating well on a budget is possible even in this pricy city.
Here are our top four picks for cheap eats in Paris — for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Start the day with a pastry (or two)
With multiple locations across the city, Maison Landemaine (maisonlandemaine.com) is a bright, modern bakery that peddles exemplary versions of the buttery pastries for which France is so well known. In the morning, the patisserie offers a generous breakfast deal — for about $8, you get two beautifully burnished pastries, coffee or tea, orange juice and unlimited sliced baguette served with butter and jam. The gorgeous pastry case is crammed with tempting options, including almond croissants under a snow of powdered sugar and a yeasty autumn bread stuffed with nuts and dried fruit. Don’t leave without trying the genre-defining croissant.
Two lunchtime options in the Marais
One of Paris’s most beautiful walking neighborhoods, the Marais is also one of its most ancient, gridded by small pre-Revolutionary lanes and home to old-nobility gems such as the gorgeous Place des Vosges. The city’s small but lively Jewish Quarter is located here, and it’s full of wonderful options for the midday meal.
For the best falafel sandwich you’ll ever eat, sidestep competitors on the block and head straight to the original L’As du Fallafel (34 Rue de Rosiers). On a nice day, skip the table competition at this ever-crowded spot and get your sandwich to go: for about $6, you get a fresh warm pita stuffed with crisp, well-seasoned and greaseless falafel patties, plus shredded cabbage, chunks of cucumber and roasted eggplant, nutty tahini and an excellent, fiery hot sauce.
For a more classically French meal, grab a seat at the excellent creperie Breizh Café (109 Rue Vieille du Temple, breizhcafe.com), specializing in the savory crêpes of the country’s northwest region of Brittany. Known as galettes, these hearty crêpes are made with nutty buckwheat flour and folded around fillings such as ham, cheese and eggs. Breizh’s are faultless, and cheap: for a range of about $9 to $14, choose from delicious options such as the Provencale (Gruyère, onion confit, ham and a sunnyside-up egg) and the Montagnarde (raclette, scrambled eggs, bacon and crème fraîche). And yes, there are sweet crêpes for dessert.
When in France
One of Europe’s most diverse cities, Paris doesn’t lack for international food of all stripes, from the city’s excellent Lebanese tables to ramen shops that would pass muster in Tokyo. But as a visitor, it’s hard to resist the call of the traditional French fare. A quintessential bistro that delivers solidly executed Gallic classics such as celery root remoulade, duck confit and crème brûlée, A la Biche au Bois (45 Avenue Ledru-Rollin) is long on cozy Parisian atmosphere but short on price. The must-order dish is the house specialty — a deeply flavorful coq au vin served in a well-worn enameled casserole. The stew, based on a glossy sauce made from reduced wine, boasts tender pieces of chicken, meaty mushrooms and the little nuggets of bacon known as lardons. It’s a piece of French gastronomic history that, at about $15.50, is a total steal.
Worth a $plurge
If you find yourself in the enviable position of having a few extra euros to spend, there’s no shortage of wonderful Parisian restaurants that are worth shelling out for.
In the 2nd arrondissement, head to Frenchie (5 Rue de Nil, frenchie-restaurant.com), a stylish modern bistro, for a four-course lunch (about $48) or five-course dinner (about $79) characterized by bright flavors and inventive uses of local vegetables.
Nearby Verjus (52 Rue de Richelieu, verjusparis.com) is another solid option: its dinner menu includes five courses of stunning, globally influenced French fare like squid with Spanish salsify and caramelized sunchoke ice cream, for about $72.
After a long day at the Louvre Museum, settle in at Spring (6 Rue Bailleul, springparis.fr) for the restaurant’s beautiful dinner tasting menu (about $90), which serves up market-inspired, technique-driven dishes such as asparagus with smoked tuna and caviar and mustard-braised rabbit with morel mushrooms.