5 Easy Ways to Save on Meals in Paris -- and Still Feel Very French

by  Lane Nieset | Mar 30, 2017
Atout France Cédric Helsly
Atout France Cédric Helsly

In Paris, you’ll find more than 71 Michelin star restaurants, each more creative than the next, and with price tags to match. But if you’re looking to indulge in French cuisine like a local, don’t feel like you have to go haute or go home. Here’s a few ways to eat your way around the capital without going over budget on day one of your trip.

Sample Street Food

It’s never hard to find a traditional crepe in Paris. There’s a reason why these sweet and savory treats are favored by students. The paper-thin pancakes are made on the spot at stands sometimes attached to restaurants, ensuring they’re fresh and quick, best eaten on the go as you stroll through the city’s streets. You’ll find stands scattered across the city selling crepes for around 3 euros (about $3.25), especially in late-night areas like Bastille and the Latin Quarter. One favorite near the Gare Montparnasse is Creperie Josselin. It's known for its authentic and affordable Breton-style crepes and draws a constant crowd. Prices start at at just 5 euros (about $5.45). In the Marais, in the area's Jewish quarter, you’ll find another street food fave: falafel, which runs around 5.50 euros (about $6). Falafel stands abound on either side of the Rue des Rossiers, but one of the must-try spots -- L’As du Fallafel -- is also the easiest to identify from the continuous line wrapping around the restaurant’s green façade.

Embrace Cafe Culture

Breakfast in Paris can be as leisurely or as quick as you like, with a baked good to go from a bakery (a boulangerie), or coffee and a croissant enjoyed at a table in a cafe. If you’re going the bakery route, you’ll spend a little over a euro for a freshly baked croissant or pain au chocolat, a chocolate-filled pastry. To feel really French, take a seat on a cafe terrace and order one of the petit-déjeuner combos, typically an espresso or American-style coffee served alongside croissants or a tartine -- a sliced baguette with butter and jam. This may be one of the cheapest (and most common) breakfast options you’ll find; it's typically less than 5 euros. The best part? Cafes help you get to know a neighborhood. Let yourself stumble upon whatever's nearby.

Lunch like a Student

When it comes to lunch, you have a few affordable options. One is to pop into a boulangerie and snag a salad or sandwich to go. Another is to order the classic sandwich, soda, and dessert combo served at bistros and stands. For something just as affordable but slightly more chic, head to the up-and-coming Canal Saint-Martin area, where you’ll find a handful of coffee bars and take-away shops like El Nopal, which serves Mexican street food (taquitos will cost about 2 euros each), and Jules et Shim, a Korean cantine known for its 10 euro ($10.90) bibimbap rice bowls. These make for a great to-go lunch that you can take along while you walk by the canal.

Go the Sharing Route for Dinner

Tasting menus are one way to sample the finest French cuisine, but some of the hottest new restaurants in the city offer a more affordable option. On the Canal Saint-Martin, the recently opened Gallina is a joint cocktail bar and rotisserie. It's a great place to start or end the night with a group of friends, sharing roast chicken or pork (11 euros or $12) and seasonal sides like homemade slaw and mashed potatoes. At Hero in the Saint-Denis area, you’ll find Korean-inspired street food like fried chicken (14 euros or $15.20) served with a series of sauces and snacks, such as kimchee and nori chips, designed for the table to share. Of course, there’s always classic bistro cuisine like beef tartare, steak frites, and duck confit. For a spot that’s slightly more trendy than traditional, try Chez Justine. Across the street from the Nouveau Casino concert venue in the Oberkamph neighborhood, it's a popular pick for apéro, or pre-dinner drinks, and light bites with friends.

Shop the Markets

One of the easiest — and typically French — ways to lunch in Paris is by taking a trip to the market. Most quartiers, or neighborhoods, have their own, with vendors setting up stands early in the morning selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to a variety of local cheeses and cured meats. One of the largest is the Marché Bastille, with 100 stalls lining the Boulevard Richard Lenoir in the 11th arrondissement on Thursdays and Sundays. In the 12th arrondissement, one of the city's oldest markets, Marché d'Aligre, is open every day except Mondays and is the go-to spot for seasonal produce. To get a true feel for Parisian market culture, bring your own sack (a cotton tote will do), and stroll the stalls listening to the vendors chanting poems and songs about the food they're selling, stopping for a sample, or goûter, along the way.
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