Here's how to enjoy Paris’ tres magnifique culinary scene on un petit budget.
One of the joys of traveling is eating well. For decades, Paris has long been regarded as the culinary city of Europe (and some may argue the world), yet with more than 44,000 restaurants in the city alone, it can be mind-boggling to find the perfect restaurant that meets both your budget and also your discerning palate.
With Paris being a giant melting pot of cultures, the city has a diverse range of dining options. From cheap eats on the street to lush experiences in fancy hotels. I remember the first time I visited Paris more than a decade ago. Hours of research proved that the best way to enjoy Paris without digging too deep into your pocket is actually to eat a hearty lunch. Described as a “menu du jour,” the French love a long lunch, and this gastronomic delight is even a UNESCO World Cultural listing.
In Paris, you can have elaborate degustation or tasting menus that will cost you more than $370 (€350) but at lunch, a simplified menu will cost a mere $50. The lunch menu is a condensed version and can even appear in the form of a two to three-course menu, but it gives the hungry diner a chance to enjoy a true culinary experience without too much stress on both the wallet and waistline.
Before Covid-19, many Michelin-star chefs started opening more casual restaurants but after the pandemic, more chefs started to open more casual eateries, creating a Paris teeming with restaurants that don’t compromise on taste, service, or experience. “Budget” can take on many meanings for travelers, but we’re not talking “cheap eats” here or even street food necessarily; this is true French fine dining with a smaller price tag. For just €22-50 ($25-55) you can get a gorgeous French lunch, leaving you with more cash to spend on that Parisian shopping spree.
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L‘Atelier Maître Albert
WHERE: 1 Rue Maître Albert
Just a stone’s throw away from Notre Dame is where the legendary chef, Guy Savoy, has opened this more rustic rotisserie. L‘Atelier Maître Albert is located in a historical building that dates back to the 1400s and it is at this restaurant where the multi-Michelin star chef brings market-fresh ingredients to the table for less.
Simple but striking dishes include spit-roasted beef rib, suckling pig, and fire-roasted fish that come out hot and fast, so be ready! Dinner can set you back more than €100 ($105) but for lunch, the restaurant’s menu of the day is only €39.90, which gets you an appetizer, entree, and dessert.
INSIDER TIPFinish your meal in the Library lounge for a smokey cocktail.
Brasserie Lazare Paris
WHERE: Rue Intérieure
Chef Eric Frechon is also a multi-Michelin star chef and is often referred to as the “chef of royalty,” with many French politicians and celebrities constantly dining at his restaurant, Epicure in Paris. His most popular restaurant remains his 3-Michelin star restaurant in luxury hotel Le Bristol, which costs almost €1200 for two but lucky for us, Lazare exists and is much cheaper. Located near Gare Saint-Lazare, good food comes in at just €22 ($23) for lunch and you can enjoy great French classics like beef tartare and grilled cod. Don’t miss on enjoying a delightful dessert and glass of red wine for under €40 ($47).
Restaurant LE Drugstore
WHERE: 133 Av. des Champs-Élysées
If you can’t book yourself a table at Lazare, head straight to LE Drugstore, which is also by Chef Frenchon. Sitting at the top of the Champs-Elysees, the restaurant provides some much-needed relief to rest your weary feet from too much shopping on the famed Paris strip. The menu is even cheaper here compared to Lazare and the vibe is very casual while satisfying a growling stomach. Order anything from fish and chips to club sandwiches (but with a French flair that only a Michelin-star chef can create).
INSIDER TIPDon’t miss on the croque-monsieur with truffle butter for instant gratification.
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Étoile
WHERE: 133 Av. des Champs-Élysées
Chef Joel Robuchon needs no introduction. Considered one of the most experienced chefs in French gastronomy, the chef may have passed on in 2018 but he still has stunning Robuchon restaurants all around the world that continue to garner a lot of attention amongst foodies.
Atelier Robuchon Etoile allows diners to experience a bit of Robuchon for a mere fraction of what you would normally pay at his 3-Michelin star restaurant (which is close to $400 without wine). For lunch, there are three set menus on offer with the cheapest being €49 ($52) for a 4-course meal. A glass of wine is just over €10 and you really can not go wrong with ordering anything off the menu when it comes to Robuchon.
Frenchie To Go
WHERE: 9 Rue du Nil
Renowned restaurant, Frenchie has been feeding Parisians for more than a decade and still remains a top spot for both locals and travelers. With his take on “American street food with a French twist,” Chef Greg Marchand has since opened a few more eateries in both Paris and London.
Sure, it is simple but the original Frenchie menu is still close to €100 ($105) if you want to eat well in the original restaurant. However, a good alternative is Frenchie To Go (FTG), where you will find a riff on American fast food with the same cool Frenchie flair. While this may not be classic French food, it is worth checking out (especially if you need a break from French fare). Imagine classics like homemade hot dogs, super crispy fried chicken, and the best fries you can find for under $10.
WHERE: 16 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis
To counteract the very American lunch experience at Frenchie To Go, head straight to Bouillon Julien for the most Paris experience you can get in a restaurant. There is no Michelin-star chef here but instead, you find yourself in a historical dining room rooted in history (so be sure to take pictures of the room and not just your food). The menu is a delight with traditional food at its best here. Duck foie gras? Oui. Escargot? Oui. Chocolate mousse for dessert? Oui oui! All possible for just €25, including wine.
WHERE: 4 Rue d'Assas
Helene Darroze is one of the most recognized and celebrated female chefs in France. As a 3-Michelin star chef, her degustation menu in London starts at around €225, but it is exquisite and great for a special occasion. Fortunately, in Paris, we have Marsan by Helene Darroze and on the ground floor, there is Le Salon d’Helene–a casual version of her upscale restaurant upstairs. Expect tapas and dishes like roasted langoustines and creamy crème Brulee for just €28 (two plates).
WHERE: 39 Rue des Jeuneurs
The most recent restaurant opening by Helene Darroze is JÒIA, which is even more delightful than Marsan when it comes to being easy on your wallet. Focused on “grandmother” dishes and inspirations from her travels to London, NYC, and Italy, expect a great cocktail list and home comforts like a succulent Spanish roast and artichoke salad to start, when in season. However, the piece de resistance has to be the dessert menu: Mille-crepes, pavlova, and a decadent chocolate tart are always on the menu.
WHERE: 80 Rue de Charonne
A few years ago, a restaurant called Septime took Paris by storm. It was the hottest place to eat at. Many years later, the restaurant still has the same charm and popularity but it is a little bit pricey if you are a bargain hunter. But you don’t have to spend more than $110 to get the Septime badge of honor; a cheaper alternative exists at Septime La Cave. A cool wine list and some delicious tapas are available for much less (and you can brag to friends you went to the Septime.)
WHERE: 28 Place des Vosges
Gastronomy and fine dining run through the blood of Chef Mathieu Pacaud. As a young chef, he grew up in his father’s kitchen, Chef Bruno Pacaud of L’Ambroisie. However, all grown up, the chef has since opened a long list of restaurants to his name. No longer in his father’s shadow, we have his newest, Anne. With one Michelin star, the menu can be more than €90 ($97) for just the main dish at night, but for lunch, you have it for a fraction of the price.
INSIDER TIPCome for the three-course meal for just under €50, served from Wednesday to Friday only.
WHERE: 18 Rue Fabert
There is a lot to love about Divellec. Also by chef Mathieu Pacaud, this restaurant is all about sharing, which is rare in Paris where set menus rule both lunch and dinner. You can gather 10 of your best friends and split the large seafood platter for just under €90 or just choose a couple of plates to get a taste of what a Michelin-starred chef can do with seafood (starting at €15 for starters). It is a fun place to drink wine and just blend in with the cool kids in Paris.
WHERE: 29 Rue de Cotte
After more than eight years working in 3-Michelin star restaurants, Chef Frédéric Lorimier decided to open a Paris restaurant that catered to real food lovers. New to the Paris food scene, Virtus is exciting and daring. For €45 you can enjoy a lunch menu that really pushes boundaries and is a delight considering how much you pay for this quality of food.
WHERE: 92 Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière
Unbeknownst to many, Paris is home to a slew of fantastic Japanese restaurants that are worth checking out. Once you’ve had your fill of French fare, make sure to swing by Chef Katsuaki Okiyama’s restaurant, Abri, to see how French-Japanese flavors and techniques come together. For less than €50, you will get four courses during their lunch service. For those who feel like a splurge, dinner can be enjoyed for under €65.