Paris – Luxury for Less – Part 3 – Dining Out

 Part 3 of a “how to” series to help you enjoy a first class Paris experience on a coach budget.

After airfare and accommodations, dining out will be your biggest expense in Paris.  Dining out three meals a day could easily cost 45-50 Euros per person; 10 Euros for breakfast, 10-15 Euros for lunch, and 25 Euros for dinner with wine.  But you can manage for much less.  Follow these tips to save money on dining out:

  •  Most hotels charge 9-12 Euros for continental breakfast, with some as high as 20 Euros for full breakfast buffet.  You can purchase continental breakfast at a café for 5-7 Euros.  Or stop by your local boulangerie for a fresh baguette, about 1.60 Euro, or croissants at 1.10 each. 
  •  For lunch, look for the “formule” or “menu”, or “Plat du Jour” which is the daily special, a multi-course meal which costs less than ordering individual items “a la carte”.  You’ll notice portions in France are not “super-sized”, which is another reason the French are slender.
  •  Picnic – Paris is a treasure trove of markets selling fresh produce and artisanal products.  Wander through a market and pick up fruit, cheese, a fresh baguette, bottle of wine, and enjoy your picnic in the local parks.  Rotisserie chickens are delicious; many vendors will sell half a chicken – ask for “demi”.
  •  When choosing your hotel, look for one with a mini-fridge, perfect for storing juice, yogurt, cheese, wine and picnic items, etc.
  • Best money-saving tip for Dining out?  Rent an apartment with a kitchen, and eat in several meals a day.  Grocery shopping in a foreign country is a delightful glimpse into local culture, and much more affordable than eating out three meals a day.  On a recent trip to Paris, we rented an apartment and spent about 100 Euros for groceries for 3 people for 6 days (including one “fancy” dinner with hors d’oeuvres, wine and a cheese course).  On average, we ate in 2 meals/day, which works out to 2.78 Euros/meal.  With one meal & one snack eaten out each day, averaging 15 Euros, that brings the food budget down to about 20 Euros per person/per day, instead of 50 Euros.  That’s a savings of 540 Euros over 6 days!  Be sure to factor in this savings when deciding whether to choose a hotel or apartment.
  • No need to do any major cooking either, as there are many gourmet frozen foods, fresh pastas, hundreds of cheeses, etc. 
     
      
  • Grocery stores in Paris have many specialty items you won’t find back home, some of which make great gifts, like gourmet mayo and mustard, chocolate bars, teas.  Neighborhood groceries include G20 and Franprix, larger hypermart stores are Monoprix, Auchan and Carrefour.
  • Street snacks are a great way to enjoy a quick lunch on the go.  Crepes are a local favorite, and come in both sweet (Nutella!) and savory.  Croque Monsieur is a French version of grilled cheese sandwich, but with a delicious twist, cheese on the outside, usually ham on the inside. Street snack pricing will vary by arrondissement. The 6.00 Euro Croque Monsieur in the 7th Arrondissement was only 3.50 in Les Halles. 
     

 

  • Ethnic eateries and take-aways are wonderful, lower cost options.  Falafel stands do a bustling business in the Marais, and you’ll find many Greek, Middle Eastern, Indian, African and Asian dining options, depending on the neighborhood.  The word for food “to go” in French is “ a emporter” pronounced “ahm por tay”.  “Traiteurs” are food establishments usually set up delicatessen style, displaying prepared dishes “to go”, with limited or no seating.
  • In a café, resist ordering soda with your meal.  A Coke can easily run 5-6 Euros at a sit down restaurant.  The house wine is often cheaper.  If you’re a soda fiend craving a Coca Light, buy a liter at the local grocery and enjoy it in your hotel room.
  • Another way to save money, don’t order bottled water in a café or restaurant. The waiter will be happy to sell you the 6 Euro bottle of Evian or Pellegrino, but instead ask for tap water, une carafe d’eau (doh), s’il vous plait.
  • For popular restaurants, reserve in advance.  If your French is limited, ask the hotel if they will call to reserve for you. Or you can check out websites that handle advance bookings.  Google “France restaurant reservations”.
  • Restaurants touting a tourist menu in 7 languages = fail.
  • Upscale  restaurants may offer lower prices at lunch than at dinner, so check into this if you’ve been dying to try a famous chef’s establishment.  Be sure to inquire about advance reservations.
  • Service is included in your bill in France, which means no tipping is required, or expected.  You can leave a few coins if you feel obliged, or a few Euros to reward outstanding service.
  • Waiters in France do not hover, they won’t check in with you every five minutes, nor will they assume you want to be on a first-name basis. They are in no hurry to turn the table, as they do not rely on tips.  The table is yours for as long as you like, and when you’re ready, you’ll need to ask for the check. L’addition, s.v.p.  It’s considered rude to present the check early, or to continually pester diners. 
  • A note on dining manners – as a culture, French people are quiet, polite and reserved, so try to keep your voice down. If you need to attract the waiter’s attention, simply raise your hand, catch their eye and say “Monsieur” or “Madame”.
  • With so many dining options, it’s good to research in advance.  Invest in a guidebook on Paris dining. One book I’ve enjoyed recently is “Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris”, by Clotilde Dusoulier.  And definitely check out David Lebovitz blog and see his post on 10 insanely delicious things you shouldn’t miss in Paris.
  • You may save money by ordering your beverage at the bar, but for the quintessential Parisian experience, be sure to stop at a sidewalk café.  Linger a while, the table is yours for as long as you like.
  • Rest your feet, read a book, write postcards, or just enjoy people watching.  Remember, you’re not paying $10USD for a cup of coffee, you’re paying for a place to relax and enjoy the sights, sounds, and free fashion show that is the Paris street scene. 

One last tidbit – Café culture suggests you and your companion sit side by side, facing out towards the street. So don’t be a tourist and sit with your back to the street action! 

 What are your favorite tips for dining in Paris?  Do you have a favorite restaurant, café, or guidebook to share? Click to leave a Comment below and share it with us.

Prices are current at time of publication but always subject to change.  All photos are my own except petit déjeuner, courtesy of Birdfarm, via Flickr with Creative Commons license.

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25 thoughts on “Paris – Luxury for Less – Part 3 – Dining Out

  1. Betty C.

    All good advice. I would also emphasize going down side streets. I often go to meetings in the Arc de Triomphe area — very pricey — but find that the further you get from the avenues, the cheaper things get. Definitely forget eating anything on the Champs-Elysée…

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      You are so right, Betty. The further you get from the touristy areas, the better! Thanks so much for your comment. I greatly appreciate it.

      Reply
  2. Shane

    A few things I have found is that if you eat your main meal at lunch the prices are cheaper and often the food is almost the same size as what you woudl get at dinner.
    Another thing is many paris restaurants, have price fix you know three courses for 20E for example.

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      Thanks Shane. Yes, that’s a good tip to eat your main meal at lunch. Prices are better, and you have more time to work off the lunch by walking and sightseeing afterwards. Thanks so much for contributing your comment.

      Reply
  3. Tanya

    This is the best compilation of ideas for dining for less in Paris I have ever seen. All these tips are great, but my favorite is: “Restaurants touting a tourist menu in 7 languages = fail.” Too true! Those must be avoided at all costs.

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      Thanks so much, Tanya! I’m so glad you liked the article, and very flattered too, since you’ve been living in that part of the world! Maybe one of these days I’ll get to live the ex-pat life! Good luck with the move back to the states. Thanks again for your kind words. Much appreciated.

      Reply
  4. Sheila Campbell

    What an enormous amount of terrific information you’re sharing here. I agree that eating the main meal at lunch makes sense (and is better for you). For great galettes (buckwheat crepes) I love both Breizh Cafe in the Marais and Creperie Josselin in Montparnasse. They’re delicious, filling — and addictive!

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      HI Sheila, thanks so much for your tips on galettes. I don’t think I’ve ever had the buckwheat version. What are your favorite fillings? Sweet or savory? I’ll definitely give these a try next time.
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  5. Lori

    Wonderful and very useful information for Paris, as well as most locations in Europe! As an American, the most difficult thing to get accustom to is waiting on the check. We’re programmed to eat quickly and get out of there. It’s nice to enjoy the meal and the ambiance of the restaurant.

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      Hi Lori, thanks so much for your comments! You’re right, Americans are programmed to be in a hurry! Not so in other cultures. Glad you liked the article, and I greatly appreciate you stopping by.
      Mary Ann

      Reply
  6. Jacquelyn Goudeau

    Dear Mary Ann,

    I have been in contact with Paris Perfect, since reading your comments in Bonjour Paris on Monday, 3/1/10
    Their studios really say something to my soul, and they told me that you were the decorator!

    Though booking Cotes des Provence studio, I am completely taken back by the conversion of Kir and the use of space for 180 sq. ft. You & your team are phenomal!
    I hope that I can at least take a peak while in Paris in Oct.

    PS. I wrote for Bonjour for a year…and since I stay in touch I was able to read your great info.

    Merci for the treat,
    Jacquelyn Goudeau,
    San Francisco, CA

    Reply
  7. Mary

    Mary Ann, I’m an old France hand and must say I find your advice very much on the mark. Will recommend your site (which I wandered into via Twitter) to friends.

    Lunch suggestion: When looking for a “formule” check out a neighborhood café. Many will serve lunch for local business folk who eat there with their “tickets déjeuner.” Again, this works best off the tourist track.

    Also, there are Monoprix mini food marts called Monop’ that I discovered last year. They have many great takeaway options.

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      HI Mary, thank you so much for the kind words. And your suggestions are great too. I’d forgotten about the lunch voucher or “tickets”. Great idea. I haven’t seen the Monop yet, I’ll look for them next time I’m in town. Take aways are great, aren’t they? I’m so glad and greatful that you found my tips accurate. I have two more articles to go in this series, so I invite you to subscribe. I welcome your feedback.
      Merci!

      Reply
  8. enchantedtraveler Post author

    Thanks for all the nice comments. My new post is going to be about sightseeing from Paris. These sights are going to be astounding. I can’t tell about the sights, you just have to wait and see………

    Enchanted Traveler

    Reply
  9. Ashley

    I love this advice (just RT’d your link on Twitter)…you touched on all of my favorite budget tips! When I stayed in Paris – it was for almost two weeks – we rented an apartment, shopped at Monoprix, and made our own breakfast everyday…and it was sooo much fun. Plus, some of the best food we had was the street food – stopped by our local crepe stand almost daily and one of my favorite memories is wandering around in the rain eating french fries from a stand.

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      Thanks, Ashley! I appreciate your comment. Renting an apartment and living like a local is Paris is way to go! I love Monoprix for everyday shopping – like the French version of Target! Crepes are yummy! Did they serve mayo with your fries? Thanks too for the RT! Greatly appreciated.
      Cheers!
      Mary Ann
      Enchanted Traveler

      Reply
  10. Cal Ford

    Another consideration while planning a visit to Paris, or most anywhere in Europe, is to reserve a hotel that includes breakfast in the rate. Sometimes a bargain can be found. Serving proportions are increasing I think so many times for lunch we order ala carte and split a plate. Smaller extablishments don’t mind. Lastly, strange but true, at a sidewalk cafe a drink such as Pastis or Kir is usually less cost than a coffee and a heck of a lot more fun.

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      Hi Cal, thanks so much for your comments. That’s great to find a hotel that includes breakfast in the rate…get your day off to a good start. That’s a good idea too, to split a plate with your companion. Sometimes I order two appetizers, instead of an entree, because you get to sample two small dishes. I’ll have to remember your tip about the Kir and Pastis! Merci.

      Reply
  11. marisolecitosuiteofmarilynmonroe.com

    So how can you make your trip a success? If you do not speak French would definitely recommend learning a few French phrases that would make the French ready to help. Because let’s face it when foreigners come to your country, you expect to talk to you in your language. This means that the same applies to France!

    Here are some things you should know how to say:

    – Hello!
    – Thanks!

    Reply
  12. Pingback: Fresh From Twitter

  13. Jen Laceda

    These are all great tips! Very valuable to a first-time Paris visitor or even to a repeat visitor. Paris can get unreasonably expensive, so we all need to save a buck or two anywhere we can to enjoy the city without coming home broke 😦 LOL!

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      Hi Jen, thanks so much for your compliment! Greatly appreciated. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

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