Affordable Europe: Dining wisely in Paris

Alexander Lobrano

Alexander Lobrano is Gourmet’s European correspondent and has just published Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City's 102 Best Restaurants. He recently told us that, "even with the dollar in bad shape, it's still possible to eat extremely well in Paris for modest prices." Here are a few of his general suggestions, and then some specific addresses. Bon appetit!

1) Skip pricey hotel breakfasts. If breakfast isn't included in your hotel rate, head for a corner cafe instead. For small splurges, I suggest Ladurée on the rue Royale in the city's heart and Angelina on the rue de Rivoli. Both serve breakfast.

2) It's fine to ask for tap water. By French law, all restaurants are obliged to bring you a "carafe d'eau" if you ask for one. Bottled mineral water only boots up your bill, and soft drinks are pricey.

3) Drink house wine. In France, these are usually quite good. And happily, more and more restaurants are offering wine by the glass and the carafe as well as by the bottle.

4) Picnic! It's a great way to save some money and also have the fun of visiting one of Paris's wonderful outdoor food markets. The Marche d'Aligre in the 12th arrondissement has great prices and is open every day but Monday.

5) Go ethnic! Paris has two large Asian neighborhoods—in the 19th arrondissement and the 13th arrondissement behind the Place d'Italie. Both of them teem with great-value restaurants, including one of my favorites, Le Bambou, which serves delicious, home-style Vietnamese cooking. Another Vietnamese gem is Au Coin des Gourmet, 5 rue Dante, 5th arrondissement. (Bonus tip: Asian restaurants are among the few in Paris to often offer buffet-style eating. The phrase to look for if your hoping to come upon a buffet is, a volonte, which roughly translates to help yourself.)

6) Skip restaurants with a view. They charge a premium. Go to places with good atmosphere but not necessarily great window views. Here are a couple of such romantic spots that won't be total wallet-busters: Josephine-Chez Dummonet, 117 rue du Cherche Midi, 6th: Just the kind of old-fashioned Paris bistro that's made for hand-holding on the Left Bank. Mon Vieil Ami, 69 rue Saint Louis en l'Ile, 4th: Delicious modern French bistro cooking at this stylish place on the pretty Ile Saint Louis. Walk home afterwards along the banks of the Seine. For both of these restaurants, reservations are recommended.

7) Lunch early. Plan to have your main meal at noon when many restaurants offer extremely good-value, prix fixe lunch menus.

Some of my favorite, "good buy" restaurants in Paris

(Find more in my book Hungry for Paris.)

Itinéraires, new, 5, rue de Pontoise in the Latin Quarter.—Talented young chef Sylvain Sendra has just moved to this pretty dining room from his tiny and very successful restaurant Le Temps au Temps in the 11th. Wonderful market-driven cooking, i.e. changes almost daily and follows the seasons.

Le Petit Pontoise, 9, Rue Pontoise in the 5th arrondissement—Friendly service, fair prices, delicious French bistro cooking.

Bistrot du Dome, rue Delambre, 14th arrondissement—This is the lower priced annex of the v. expensive Le Dome, one of the best fish restaurants in Paris.

Two other great picks:

Le Mesturet, 77 rue de Richelieu in the 2nd arrondissement.

La Ferrandaise, 8, Rue Vaugirard, 6th arrondissement.


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