Unique and Affordable Dining Experiences in Paris
Gourmands rejoice! For not only does Paris boast some of the finest dining on the planet, it’s also possible to eat relatively cheaply, with many restaurants, bistros and brasseries promising world-class three-course meals for just €20-30 per person. Our advice for those on a budget? Bodyswerve the Michelin-starred joints and hotel restaurants, because you’ll find equally sumptuous eats (and often even better!) in the legendary food markets, quirky side-street bistros and lesser-visited arrondissements across the City of Light. Tuck in to our pick of the finest unique and affordable dining experiences in Paris, featuring the garlicky little morsels of deliciousness that are escargots, crispy Alsacian flammekueche, bottomless chocolate mousse and wine served in baby bottles. Mais bien sûr!
One of the oldest and most beloved bistros in town, this warm, wood-paneled Paris perennial has welcomed the likes of Hemingway, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Joyce and Gide through its doors down the decades. Not much has changed in Polidor’s near-200-year history, its worn tiled floors, arty murals, unfussy wooden tables and welcoming waiters exuding a distinctly old-world charm. Amazingly you can still eat here for around €30 each – the three-course prix fixe menu is an absolute bargain, clocking in at a mere €25 per head.
Find it: 41 rue Monsieur Le Prince, 75006 Paris
Ground Control is an ace, industrial-style food hall just a couple of blocks east of the Seine in the 12th arrondissement. Step inside for a smorgasbord of global street food, chief among which is La Résidence, run in collaboration with the UNHCR-backed Refugee Food Festival. This admirable project sees an ever-changing roster of refugee chefs given an opportunity to showcase the cuisine of their home country. So you can expect the likes of Middle Eastern mezze and falafel, spicy Nigerian chicken sandwiches and Côte d'Ivoire couscous salads. Walk it all off afterwards with a stroll down to the epic Bois de Vincennes, Paris’s largest public park with a chateau, boating lake, forest, zoo and arboretum.
Find it: 81 rue du Charolais, 75012 Paris
Craving pizza in Paris? Sure, there are plenty of Neapolitan and American-style joints to choose from, but why plump for plain old pepperoni when you can hit up L’Alsacien for slice after delicious slice of crunchy flammekueche instead? In its purest form this Alsacian taste sensation comprises a wafer thin crispy base topped with onions, bacon lardons and crème fraîche or fromage blanc. Order up the classic or swap out the lardons for emmental, tomatoes or mushrooms instead. With prices that start at around €10 per flammekueche it’s likely you’ll be back for more of these almost comically cheap Paris eats. Handily, there are two L’Alsacien outlets in Paris.
Find them: 6 rue Saint-Bon, 75004 Paris / 9 rue René Boulanger, 75010 Paris
Another Paris institution – this one in the enchanting maze-like lanes of the Marais district – Chez Janou is perhaps best known for its decadently rich mousse au chocolat – and not without good reason either! Gorge on classic French bistro dishes like tuna carpaccio and sautéed calves liver before diving straight into the uber-gratuitous chocolate dessert. Guests who opt for this over the cherry clafoutis or apricot tart are served a great big dollop of the sweet stuff from an oversized bowl, which is then left on your table for you to continue to dig into until you can eat no more. It's the stuff chocolate dreams are made of! Chez Janou pushes a little at the boundaries of what can be considered affordable Paris dining – you won’t get much change from €50 for three courses here – but hey, what price bottomless chocolate mousse?
Find it: 2 rue Roger Verlomme, 75003 Paris
Chez Alain Miam Miam
Still in the Marais, Chez Alain Miam Miam is one of the runaway street-food success stories of the legendary Marché des Enfants Rouges food market. Simplicity is key here: chef Alain’s belly-busting galettes, wraps and sandwiches come loaded with grilled meats, nutty oozy Comté cheese and freshly shredded salads and veggies. That one-hour queue? Worth every stomach-rumbling minute. While away the wait by mingling with friendly fellow Alain devotees in the queue and boning up on the long history of this, Paris's oldest covered food market. First opened in the 16th century, it has long outlived the nearby orphanage that gave it its name (literally ‘the market of red children’ after the distinctive red clothes worn by the orphans).
Find it: Marché des Enfants Rouges, 75003 Paris
Café des Deux Moulins
Fans of quirky rom-com Amélie can follow in the titular heroine’s dainty footsteps at a number of touristy Paris hotspots. Perhaps the best-known of these is the real-life Café des Deux Moulins, the cute Montmartre bistro where Amélie worked as a waitress. The café still looks much as it did in the film, but with bonus Amélie posters, trinkets and ephemera dotted around for fans to admire. Ok, it’s neither the cheapest place to eat, nor the nicest food in Paris, but fans of the movie will nevertheless be in seventh heaven. Afterwards, head over Canal Saint-Martin where you can make like Audrey Tautou in the movie and skip stones across the water.
Find it: 15 rue Lepic, 75018 Paris
Another venerable Paris institution, Chez Ramona serves up Spanish food with heart on the labyrinthine lanes of the aptly named Belleville district. The interiors are a delightful jumble of paintings, plates, family photos and all manner of other weird and wonderful bric-a-brac (replica bull’s head, anyone?). Bon viveur Ramona has been a fixture here for decades and can still frequently be found chatting with the locals in the bar. You won’t leave hungry either: the absolutely enormous house paella is meant for two but could easily satisfy a family of four, while great plates of Galician cod, Iberico ham and other Spanish classics round out the menu. It’s cheap, too. You’d be hard-pushed to spend more than €40 a head on a fairly substantial dinner and drinks.
Find it: 17 rue Ramponeau, Paris 75020
Le Refuge des Fondus
We promised you wine in baby bottles, so wine in baby bottles you shall have. Located at the foot of Montmartre, Le Refuge des Fondus is perhaps one of Paris’s most eccentric fondu joints. There are only two decisions to be made here: whether you want meat in your gooey cheese fondu, and which color of wine you’d prefer. Your wine selection is then served in (and drunk from) a baby bottle. Why? Who knows. Sure makes for some fun photo opportunities though.
Find it: 17 Rue des Trois Frères, 75018 Paris
Privé de Dessert
Wine in baby bottles not wacky enough for ya? How about savory dishes designed to look like desserts? Once again ours is not to reason why, but simply to indulge in burgers that contrive to look like a Saint-Honoré, the class cream-and-puff-pastry French fancy. Or a beef-cheek ‘brownie’. Or a mac and cheese ‘waffle’ with ‘churros’ (French fries). It’s a feast for the eyes as well as the belly for sure. Find it at any one of three Privé de Dessert locations around town: in Pigalle, Batignolles and Aligre.