Monday, 13 February 2012

Cheap Restaurants I love in Paris

Continuing on from the theme of places to recommend friends I'm going to do one on food, these are more varied in their location, but I still recommend every one is worth a visit.

While not all of them are classic French Bistros it's Paris and there is one of these on every corner; I'm sure you will have no problem finding them. This however is a list of my favourite places to bring friends when they visit. Good places at good prices, and not all French.

Also worth a special mention are all the people who first brought me to these places. You are far too numerous and awesome to list. Sophie, Katie, Emma, Tom, my Dad and..... Hmm I guess not that numerous actually. Maybe just your awesomeness is too awesome to list. But hey, you have good taste and like eating out.


The Madrin du Marche
The reason I'm including this first is because it was one of the first restaurants I used to go to as a baby and I have childhood memories of being 5 years old and scared of the waiter. This cheap Chinese restaurant is  still one of my favourites though, and while the locations is far from ideal, the menu is extensive and affordable. There is a 3 course meal for €7.50 and the main courses tend to be around €6 max with rice. While it is not gourmet food you certainly get a good feed and the service is good. Make sure you try the Nems (what we call spring rolls) as a starter as they come with mint, lettuce and the dipping sauce. The great thing about this restaurant though is that the food is not sitting in display cases out the front like all the other cheap Chinese restaurants in Paris and is cooked to order. The restaurant may not look like much from the outside as the décor is basic, but it is definitely the best Chinese in the area as it is often full of Chinese people and locals.

Bistrot Beaubourg
Nearly every person I know in Paris will have been here with me. Why? Well it's just around the corner from the Pompidou centre and I used to work in the area. This medium sized French bistro is a very authentic and is very affordable regarding prices. There is no set menu available but the "plat du jour" is only €6.40 so if you're on a budget go here. It is a very local French place and with the décor of local theatres posters it feels more authentic than your average remodelled tourist bistro. The tables are quite close together and you will often end up sitting right beside strangers. The food is uncomplicated and served in reasonably large portions, I recommend getting something off the menu of the day(usually hand written on the small piece of paper just on the inside of the menu. The plat du jour is usually good but can be hit or miss. The staff are polite and efficient, but not friendly so don't ask them questions in English. The wine is also quite cheap and there is a 25cl carafe for under €4, so you wont break the bank eating out here and it's very central

Caldo Freddo
This Italian place is a little more expensive but still very good. They do a great selection of sandwiches, pizza slices and you can even order an entire pizza which they will make fresh. The Italian staff are great and very friendly and when not busy working they are usually leaning over their takeaway counter offering pizza samples to passers buy. It has a more canteen feel than restaurant feel as you will pay for your food as you order it from the counter. The truffle pizza is awesome though and they also do a very cheap and good cappuccino if you just want to stop by for a coffee. There is a lovely terrace in the summer and if its cold there is a large selection of tables upstairs, just make sure you order first. The restaurant is located in a fantastic (not too touristy) street called Rue Montergeuil so make sure you go for a wander around all as its very cool and has lots of authentic little boutiques.

Breakfast in America
Okay so I've only been here once, but if you are after a nice and affordable brunch, you should go here. Brunch is very popular in Paris and most places will charge you through the teeth for something half decent. BIA (there are 2 branches) however is a good quality, good price place and despite its American origins all the Parisians will literally be queueing to get in on a Sunday morning. They actually have their own website too so you can check out the menu in advance and the locations are pretty central. The menu is also in English and the staff will usually be anglophone or English speaking. The burgers are also very big and good and the student menu is very cheap. So definitely check it out if you're hung over and getting sick of all the French stuff.

L'as du Fallafel
Ahh yes, this is indeed a famous French institution. Even if you claim to not like falafel you will like it here; as it is really freshly cooked and the roasted aubergine is delicious and all for €6. This little Jewish Israeli take away has gotten a lot of reviews in guides and the large queue outside is a perfect example of the result of this. However don't be daunted by the queue as it moves very quickly and they have a very efficient system where you pay this kinda random guy standing out the front and he will give you a ticket for the falafel. Then you get in the quickly moving queue to swap your ticket for the falafel at the takeaway window where you can watch it being made almost hypnotically by this guy who moves very fast and probably makes like a million falafel a day. Since there is such demand everything is very fresh and they have adapted their system to cater for the crowds. There is a restaurant inside but the prices are higher and there will also be a wait here. While they do meat dishes and sit down menu ect don't bother as it takes longer and is more expensive, just treat this place like as fast food grab and go, then have a lovely wander through the small streets and boutiques of the Marais. Also make sure to take a few extra napkins when you are at the counter as it can get a little juicy at the end.

Lile de Créte
Located on the very trendy  Rue Moufftard, this place is a hidden gem, while it may look like a regular Kebab shop from the outside, it serves far more than a good kebab. I'd recommend getting one of the little high tables along the side and having a closer look at the menu, while it might feel a bit casual for a meal out; the prices reflect this and the cans of Mythos (Greek beer) are only €3.50. I've been here a couple of times and always enjoyed it. As a starter I'd recommend sharing this dish (mezze I think it's called) with 12 different samples of Greek finger food, stuffed vine leaves, hummus, tsatsiki and tamara are all scooped into little dents in the large dish. Also if you order this the guy lets you pick out the stuff from behind the counter. It might seem a bit expensive but it comes with unlimited warm pita and well worth it if you're sharing. The main dishes are also very tasty and while you can order a classic kebab, there is also excellent lamb skewers and moussaka on the menu, or if you're too full after the mezze you can get a smaller pastry. The prices are good and the food is great and has an authentic Greek feel. Also it stays open till like 2am and there is a larger dining room in the cellar if you get stuck for space. Well worth a visit to feed up before doing a tour of some of the busy trendy and cheap bars that line the rest of the street.

Pizza Cesar
This is one of the more up market restaurants I'm going to recommend. There are a few in Paris and the one I always visited was the small one near St. Germain. The food is authentic Italian and the ambience is more luxurious with proper plush restaurant feel. The staff are very friendly and there will sometimes be a queue outside on busy nights as the prices are affordable for a top restaurant feel, but if you're waiting don't worry the staff will bring you out a little drink as an aperitif. The pizzas and pastas are excellent and not too expensive at around the 15-20 budget mark to much higher if you feel like splashing out. The St. Germain area is very central and chic so make sure to check out the rest of the area, including the fantastic Rue Buci. They have their own website but unfortunately the prices are not listed.

Cave La Bourgogne
This is a proper French Bistrot, so if you feel like getting a very good meal at a slightly higher but still very affordable price you should go here. Located at the bottom of the afore mentioned Rue Mouffetard, this place is a gem and I was first brought here by some colleagues who called it the "Magic Salad". It's clearly a very popular local spot and you might have to wait at the counter with some wine while a table becomes available. The salad is one of the the best things on the menu, and don't be fooled into thinking that a salad is for wussies as this salad will knock you out as it is very big and my favourite the salad "du masion" comes with a big selection of ingredients which I personally have never managed to finish. The confit de canard is also renouned and very tasty and make sure to try my favourite French dessert crème brulee or even better the café gourmand. For those of you that have never heard of this French tradition a café gourmand literally translates as a "greedy coffee" which entails of the classic small espresso coffee with a selection of small deserts, it can be a little more expensive than a dessert but works out at good value if you are getting a dessert and a coffee. The decor is classic French and the ambience is a mix of relaxed locals while yet trendy.

Le Relais Gascon
So this is another nice French restaurant, and in the very popular Montmatre area. The food here is good and not too pricey, however again the reason I recommend going here is because of the Massive salad (salad géantes). Seriously as with the Cave La Bourgogne they are the kinda salad that will kick your ass, here the salads come in this great big brown bowl and are topped with sautéd garlic potato slices, which are really yum. I once brought a guy friend here who thought "ya a salad whatever" but when he arrived and couldn't finish it he conceded that yes a salad can be a full meal.
There is a great selection of salads and the prices are very reasonable at the 12-13 Euro mark, which is excellent if you consider the area you are in and that you will probably not have to eat again for 12 hours. The bar is clean and nicely decorated (maybe a little touristy) and there is a small terrace and another large dining area upstairs- so plenty of seats, the staff are friendly and very efficient and the only thing is that it does not take credit card, so bring cash. There is a good few locals but also a very large tourist crowd which is understandable in the area, the menu is also in English and they have their own website with the prices listed if you want a preview. Deciding a winner between  the Magic salad and the Gascon salad is very difficult and I guess I never will need to as they are at completely different ends of the city, so it depend more on where I am than where I prefer.

La Taverne de Montmartre
So this is another one of my Favourite traditional French restaurants in the Montmartre area. The location is just far enough off the beaten tourist track to be quite local and well priced for what you get. The bar right next door is called the Rendez vous des amis and is really popular with the locals, really cheap and I recommend going for a few beers there before or after dinner to check out the cool atmosphere and photographs they use as décor. The Restaurant itself does all the usual French stuff, but to be honest the real reason for going there is the Raclette a L'ancienne, while this has a minimum of two people and the price is a good bit higher than the set menu it is definitely worth it. Raclette for those of you that don't know is this dish of potatoes and hams with melted cheese on top and is a delicious tradition in France. It does not come out ready made though and you are expected to melt your own cheese so that it stays hot stringy and fresh, the raclette a "l'ancienne" is even better than the modern version "melt the cheese under a electric grill" as they bring out these large apparatus with a real little charcoal fire inside. The idea is that you get this large slab of cheese that you then move near to the fire and allow a layer of cheese to melt before scraping it off with your spatula and lathering it onto the plate of potatoes and hams that accompany the meal. Yum. Also worth getting if you are a larger group is the "pierrade" this is another 2 person dish with a real charcoal fire apparatus that comes out, accompanying it is a plate of raw meats and some cheesy sauce and it is up to you to cook the meat and heat the sauce on the grill which is lots of fun.
The ambience in the restaurant is nice and cosy with 6 large bench style tables and if you get multiple raclettes you will soon be melting with heat. The staff are friendly and efficient but don't speak great English and the menu is all French (which shouldn't be a problem if you just order what I recommend). The raclette and pierrade are the more expensive options on the menu at about €20 per person but well worth it as a treat. There are also cheap desserts and carafes of wine available if you want to cut costs elsewhere. A great place to go in the winter and you will leave absolutely stuffed as the raclette cheese is unlimited, getting drunk later is pretty much impossible as the cheese provides an impenetrable coating in your stomach.

Rice and Beans
This nice little Mexican restaurant run by and American guy is tucked away near the top of rue St Denis at rue Grenata, they do great authentic Mexican food and the burritos are massive and reasonably prices(7-9€) and soft shelled tacos for 3€. There is not much seating available so try an go off peak. A perfect solution if you have had enough of French stuff, the staff should speak English and are friendly and they have their own website if you want to check it out in advance. They don't do reservations but apparently have an extra room downstairs. American people all love this place because it's as close as you can get to the stuff back home, apparently the Sunday brunch is also quite reasonably priced but I have never managed to check it out. It's a cash only place but there is an ATM around the corner if needs be.

Rice and Fish
Another great foreign Japanese restaurant run by a highly trained Californian sushi chef, so there will be English speaking staff, this place is more known for its excellent Californian rolls and is a welcomed break from the standard Sushi restaurants you will find in Paris. My personal favourites were to start with some edemame beans as something to nibble and then have the chirachi (chirachi is the large enough bowl of rice with different types of fish placed on top and is delicous) for a main, the bento box is also very good and okay priced at about a tenner. The food is filling but not overly so and the restaurant is only open for dinner 4 days a week, so its more of a lunch place. Careful though as the restaurant is very small so you might have to wait as the local office workers come here for lunch, also the food is reasonably priced but not cheap. There are no reservations and no credit cards. If you want a lighter non French lunch this is a great little place to go.

This is a great little place to go for relaxing sandwich at lunch, the staff are English speaking and the food is good. Basically its a sandwich deli with a difference, the difference is that they use great fresh ingredients in a creative way and the bread is always fresh and hot from the oven. While they do good sandwiches my favourite is the Sanchez salad as it is pretty big, has lots of lovely ingredients (like my favourite the back olive tapanade) and you get as much bread with it as a sandwich has, so while it might be a bit more expensive than a sandwich it is worth it as I find the sandwiches can leave you a little hungry considering their price. The feel is relaxed and some what like a canteen as you carry your own food on trays upstairs to the tables. While there may be a queue at the door it tends to move quite quickly, once ordering, paying and watching your food be made you can go grab a seat, and there are plenty available. The seating area is nice and relaxed and it's a great place to go and meet friends for long chats as you don't feel rushed to leave.
The sandwiches are 6-8€ and the salads 7-8€ you can also get the menu with a dessert and drink which I enjoy sharing if you are two people as I like the tirmasu but feel a bit guilty eating it all by myself.

That's all I can think of for now so enjoy eating your way through Paris in between all the sight seeing that is.

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