I have read a number of brag blogs. I hope you don’t confuse this blog with them because I like to think my inspiration stems from a genuine love of travel. I make no pretensions about my financial capacity. I rarely go on a trip under my own steam; I am financed in one way or another by my work or my family. So what I am sharing here depicts the real struggle of someone who is blessed to travel, but limited by a very finite bank account. This what you call the Broke-ass Guide to Paris: Foodie Edition.
Ernest Hemingway wrote this quote in his book A Moveable Feast, which is a memoir of his life as a broke young man living in Paris. He wrote of days of not having eaten anything and then days of surprising bounty. In much the same way, being a foodie in Paris is also a moveable feast. There are the famed restaurants that will cost you your whole month’s salary for a dinner for two, and then again, there are the small cafes and bolt-holes that are equally, if not more, sumptuous and all for the cost of a few euros. Wherever you go, there will always be that feeling of being in a feast because in Paris, food is not just for your taste buds, it engages all your other senses as well.
My best tip is to look at your budget and decide how much you are willing to shell out per day for meals. Some days you can cut back on snacks and opt for a fancier dinner instead. For our own trip, we had a budget of €40 per day per person. Not shabby, but also not enough to go on a binge. We survived mostly on croissants, subs, McDonalds and sushi (because our hotel has an awesome sushi place beside it). But we also splurged a handful of times for a nice sit-down dinner in a proper café while people-watching. And all of them were delicious, McDonalds included. Must be the ambiance!
You should also download the app The Fork. It shows you the best-rated restaurants and cafes near your area, and you could even use it to reserve your table. Read more about The Fork here.
Foodie Level: Broke-Ass
Asians = Rice, right?
But you will be surprised how many days you could survive without it in France. Even if you barely have two cents to rub together, you are bound to stumble unto something that is both delicious and filling. If all you could really afford is a €10 per meal budget then I suggest you cast your sights on street food. (Hey, I did say I was a foodie, not a gourmand!)
The ones we tasted in Manila (French Baker anyone?) has a chewier consistency. So imagine how heavenly the ones from a nondescript little bakery tasted --- crumbly on the outside but melts like butter inside. And you could actually taste the salted butter in the mix! My son was wild about the chocolate and almondine ones. There’s no one place we could recommend since it’s the small unknown ones that seems to taste the best. Keep your eyes open when you’re out and about, there’s bound to be a boulangerie near you possibly harboring the best tasting bread you have ever tasted in your life. A plain butter croissant usally costs €1.45 to €2.00, while fancier ones can go as high as €3.00.
The French are a bit snobbish about their crepes. There are a number of "best crepes lists" in Paris --- so many in fact that I decided to just ignore all of it. You can, of course, try to line up at Café Breizh or swing by Creperie Broceliande. However, the crepes we ate were situational. We were simply hungry and holding out for a posher next meal so we decided to eat a crepe as a snack. My favorite one is from a small stall in Montmartre, because the sugar crepe was just the right sweetness, the edges a bit toasty, and the center was meltingly pure bliss. Yummers. Crepes were between €2.50 to €4.00 each.
Sandwiches, Wraps and Salmon
I found a new love for wraps in Europe. This is not your usual 7-11 or Ministop sandwich. The ingredients are fresh as heck. The lettuce always has crunch, the cheese always Brie or Emmental, the salmon always sinful. I am not a wrap snob and very happy to eat from Monoprix as much as in a café. Do not turn your nose up on those convenience store aisles. They contain treasure for the cost of only a few euros. Best for breakfast or lunch because the sandwich products are made daily and stocked every morning (except for the frozen section, obvs). you could grab a wrap for as low as €4.90.
Foodie Level: Middling
We were able to try a couple of sit-down restaurants or cafes which we consider as not fancy but respectable.
Le Malakoff was just 5 minutes away from our hotel, and after traveling from Geneva all morning, we were simply famished. We ordered steak and fries, salmon, a chicken dish and a pasta dish for me. My son loved the “French” fries. My sister liked her steak. It was alright for the prix-fixe menu cost of about €15 each.
Paradis du Fruit
Our next culinary exploration was in Paradis du Fruit at Saint- Germain-de-pres near the Seine (and with a clear view of Notre Dame). My friend, L, took me and my sister out for lunch and suggested this place. It was only the end of August and the weather was still nice. The restaurant had set out tables and chairs out along the pedestrian lanes and we got seated outside. This one I loved. I think, if I live in Paris, this will be my go-to comfort food spot.
L had a salad. My sister ordered the Mamasköl which is chicken in vanilla sauce with bananas and raisins, with a side order of rice and salad. It sounds weird, but it is absolutely heavenly. I had the Mama Coco Rosè which is also chicken but stewed in coconut and red curry with a side order of rice and salad as well. The curry had apples in it, which was weird at first but it worked so well!! I did not regret my choice. I loved it so much, I have tried recreating the dish when I got home (to complete failure). Do try this one when in Paris. The dishes range from €13.90 to €16.00. Not bad, eh?
When visiting Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, you will have to use the stairs. A LOT. Halfway down there’s a funicular which we tried out for fun, and even then, we still got hungry. So we parked our behinds at Café Chappe just one turn right after descending the Sacre Coeur stairs. We ordered our Cokes with lemon slices, and a number of pasta dishes. I got a lasagna and to be honest, I have quite forgotten how it tasted. What I remember is thinking that I wish there was more of it. Or maybe I was just really hungry with all the walking we did. The price range was somewhere between €12 to €16 euros. I will give this a skip next time though.
Yushi has a proper sit-down place, and right behind it is the take-away section for pretty much all the sushi you can eat. For €8.00 for a medium tray of mixed sushi, it was our actual go-to place in Paris. It helped that it is literally beside our hotel! I love sushi, so you can imagine how happy I am that I can access them anytime between 11am and 8pm. We have had sushi for lunch and dinner a number of times because the variety changes but the quality is consistent. Now, I know that unless you are staying in our hotel, finding this place may be a bit of challenge. There may be decent Asian diners in other parts, but we just considered ourselves lucky we were living beside one. If you do check in to Hotel Longchamp Elysees (and I recommend you do), you won’t be hankering for rice because Yushi has got you.
Berthillon Ice Cream
Let me rephrase that, it’s The Berthillon Ice Cream. It’s famous and rightly so. This is the best Ice Cream in Paris. The shop reminds me of a Harry Potter set and I wouldn’t have been surprised if they have Butterbeer on the menu (I checked, they don’t).
There are lots of flavors on the offer, but I made sure I got a Cafe. The true test of an ice cream shop is its Coffee and Vanilla ice cream. Very few out there actually tastes like real coffee without tasting like Nescafe.
No surprises that Berthillon got it absolutely delicious.
Here are the flavors the day we went there:
I was tempted to get seconds, but I’m diabetic. The first cup was already too sinful. :D Do visit for desserts after dining in Paradis du Fruit (it’s just on the other side of the bridge), or after your walkabout at the Notre Dame Cathedral (just a couple of blocks down after the bridge). To avoid getting lost, Google Maps is your friend. :D
Foodie Level: Modest Posh
Bistrot Paul Chene
We were supposed to try 2 posh restaurants (in Paris) but only ended up with just one. Bistrot Paul Chene was just around the corner from Hotel Longchamp and I had been eyeing it since Day One. On our last day in Trocadero (before moving nearer the shopping area and the Opera House), we decided to have our lunch here. The family had mixed emotions, but I happened to love all of it. Paul Chene was an institution that closed down about 3 years ago, but re-opened in 2017 under the new management of Sebastian whom we met and who personally helped us order from the menu. We got the prix-fixe meal costing €24.90 each, and we got a couple of steak sets and salmon sets (again). Did not disappoint because I found the salmon rich, tasty and flaky soft while the steak was perfectly medium rare. I think my husband’s dissatisfaction is mostly about the price (because so far, this had been the most expensive meal we had in Paris), but other than that, I found it faultless. Don’t believe me?
Cafe de L'Homme
The one that got away was our reservation at Café de L’Homme. This is THE café to go to with its amazing location facing the Eiffel Tower. The food, I was told by my sister who has eaten there in previous trips, was sumptuous. The price even more so. But worth it because as you dine, you see this:
However, it has a reputation for having snobbish waitstaff, especially if you are not dressed in your finery. The dinner we reserved there was after our Versailles fiasco, and we were all bone-tired and irritable. It could have been amazing. But maybe, I could have ended up biting someone’s head off. If you have the budget and the patience, do make a reservation ahead of time.
Baby-Friendliness of Restaurants and Cafes
You have to be prepared for the fact that very few establishments in Paris are truly baby-friendly. Most of the petit-cafes are small and it will be a hassle to go to with a stroller. No baby high chairs to be found anywhere (unlike in Switzerland where we were always offered a seat for the petit-cherie). However, the menu itself almost always offers a Kid’s Menu (with the exception of Paul Chene). Usually fries with filleted sole, or fried chicken and waffles --- at a slighter cost than the adult fare.
The restaurants usually have their own washrooms, but small and cramped ones. No space to lay down a diaper changing mat for little “accidents.”
What worked for us is to train my son to wake with the rising sun. He found it easy to transition to Western hemisphere time, and his body functions followed. He usually goes #2 around mid-morning, and then late evening before sleeping. We just timed our foodie adventures in between that. At this point, may I just wax poetic about what a little champ my Dylan was? He is built for adventure like his mom, that one.
I hope you found some good nuggets nestled in that long essay up there somewhere. And I would love to hear other mom’s recommendations about that fab café you and your family went to and just loved! Leave your story below!
Smell ya later,