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Cheap eats/inexpensive restaurants


Margaret Pilgrim
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Cabby:

Grand Vefour is probably the cheapest (prix fixe) menu for lunch in a Paris Michelin 3-star, but do your 85 Euros include tax and service? Also, of course that's assuming that the menu isn't deviated from (no a la carte ordering) and no beverage is ordered.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Pan -- Yes, Grand Vefour's price, like that of other facilities, includes tax and presumably also includes service. I have argued in another thread that I believe additional tips should be provided, but here budgetary considerations might make that difficult for the diners. Prices obviously significantly increase if wine and water are ordered, and at three-star facilities, it would be more akward not to order such items (although not impossible). However, one has to do what one has to do to get good cuisine.

There was a good selection (4-5 items maybe) for each course for the GV prix-fixe lunch; I ended up ordering a la carte, though.

Edited by cabrales (log)
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I have to say that the service was so outstanding at Grand Vefour that it would have bothered me a lot not to leave a tip that showed some appreciation for their great professionalism and impressive choreography. It was a wonderful experience.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Pan -- That is my argument as to why additional tips should be provided. :laugh: However, when one has budgetary constraints of the type we are addressing, something has to give and, in my mind, that shouldn't be the level of cuisine at least sampled once during a trip for a foodie traveler.

I'm trying to highlight that one can eat well even if one were subject to the types of budgetary constraints described by joshlh. I also ask members whether they are allocating funds in the right way. For example, taking a Cityrama or Paris Vision tour for museums or going to the Louvre and other places on one's own, using the metro, might make a difference in the budget joshlh could allocate to food (I am not aware of how he is allocating his budget, to be clear). Similarly, joshlh might want to consider whether he could be a bit more frugal while not in Paris to build up additional funds for a nice three-star lunch.

To be clear, I do not pretend to know what would be appropriate under the particular circumstances of a diner. I merely subjectively believe that at least one wonderful meal at a two- or three-star restaurant is a necessary part of everybody's trip to France (I appreciate this may be a controversial perspective.) :wink:

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To be clear, I do not pretend to know what would be appropriate under the particular circumstances of a diner. I merely subjectively believe that at least one wonderful meal at a two- or three-star restaurant is a necessary part of everybody's trip to France (I appreciate this may be a controversial perspective.)  :wink:

It wasn't a necessary part of my two trips to France as a graduate student, and I did have some delicious meals on a student's budget, especially in Nice, where I spent the most time. :smile:

But I don't disagree with the rest of your points.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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It wasn't a necessary part of my two trips to France as a graduate student

Pan -- If you are comfortable discussing it, how foodie were you when you were a graduate student? :blink:

I sometimes wonder why a foodie might spend hundreds of dollars (at least) to fly to France (or deplete her frequent flyer miles), if she is from the US, and then eat only at bistros (with no negative connotations on the cuisine at bistros). (I appreciate this might be a controversial statement as well)

Edited by cabrales (log)
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I sometimes wonder why a foodie might spend hundreds of dollars (at least) to fly to France (or deplete her frequent flyer miles), if she is from the US, and then eat only at bistros (with no negative connotations on the cuisine at bistros).  (I appreciate this might be a controversial statement as well)

I could easily defend spending hundreds of dollars on air fare and eating at inexpensive bistros in Paris. For one thing there's a certain minimum price one has to pay to get to Paris. In real life one has to subtract that from what one can afford to spend on the trip. The rest has to be budgeted. I'd forgo an awful lot of things for good food, but we have to eat every day and we need to live within our means. It's possible one just can't afford to come to Paris at all, but if one can and has a small budget left over, I sincerely believe a first time visitor to France can have a superb time taking meals at unstarred bistros, brasseries and creperies. I'd rather forgo a star than a glass, or more, or wine.

Regrettably bistro food today is not what it was when I was a student or when my wife and I first visited Paris. On the other hand, it seems to be a lot better than it was a decade or two ago having undergone revitalization in the nineties. I have mixed feelings about the least expensive menus in the hautest of the three star restaurants. Sometimes they are an incredible buy, but sometimes they buy entrance into the luxury surroundings and service and nary a hint of what the chef can do. They are like visiting an opera house between performances. It's a tourist experience. There's only one restaurant in Paris where I've had both the least expensive pre fixe lunch menu and the most expensive tasting menu for dinner. That was at Carre des Feuilliants. I felt the grand tasting menu at well over twice the price was so much better that it was the infinitely better value.

If I thought the bistros of today represented the soul of France the way they did in the sixties, I'd say one was better off learning about food at that level and using what one learned to better appreciate the starred experience the next time around. It's more difficult to say with conviction that these days.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I'd rather forgo a star than a glass, or more, or wine.

Happily I haven't yet had to forgo anything, but I would forego wine and bottled water for a star or a material improvement in cuisine. If I had to, I would forego nicer acommodations, shopping for clothes and taxis in Paris for food. :blink:

On the prix fixe lunch or other "bargain" meals at two- or three-stars, the quality of the experience depends on the particular range of choice offered and other fact-specific considerations. I can vouch for the quality of Lucas-Carton's 78 euro "business lunch" though -- it currently contains one of the restaurant's top three signature dishes (the foie gras in steamed cabbage) and a choice of at least five items in each course. The quality is no different, in my assessment based on an increasing number of visits during lunch and dinner (a la carte and prix fixe), than that at dinner. The atmosphere is a bit different, because of the effects of light and other considerations. But the food and service are equally good. I believe Grand Vefour has a good quality prix fixe lunch as well, although I have not ordered it.

My question is this: Let's say restricted economy airfare from the US to Paris costs $500/person. If the total budget were $1100/person for a week, and the post-airfare $600 had to cover accommodations and food, not more than $300 would be left for food even assuming very reasonably priced accommodations. Why would the traveler not choose to allocate the total budget of $1100 on a Quebec vacation, where airfare might be $200/person, and assuming the same accommodations cost of $300/person for the week were still applicable, $600 could be left for food? Unless one is visiting Paris for the first time, do members perceive a strong attraction to Paris (or any other place) other than food-related attractions? For example, how high a priority is restaurant going relative to visiting museums or engaging in other sightseeing activities in Paris? (Note I no longer do anything, in general, between meals if I take in two significant meals a day in Paris. Even if I take in one significant meal a day, it takes a lot of rest in the hotel to be ready for the next meal.)

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Having flown just a little bit in the US, I'm surprised at just how expensive it can be. I'd just as soon be in Paris dining in bistros than dining in the best restaurants in most cities in the US. Of course if one lives in NY, you can have a couple of very good meals here for just the price of your ticket to Paris and back, but then you haven't seen Paris and I think people find the city has attractions beyond just the restaurants. There are the patisseries, and chocolatiers for instance.

:biggrin:

Seriously, I find I can't take two great meals in one day, nor six stars in two or maybe even three days and make it my business to get to know a part of the city by doing a lot of walking and visit a few cultural institutions.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I am sure there are many people who love Paris who don't have any particular interest in the food. I feel more strongly about Barcelona in that respect, but I can see it with Paris too. I'd live in Barcelona even if the food were consistently poor. And I don't suppose I'll find much disagreement here if I suggest that people visit London for reasons other than food. :rolleyes:

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Pan -- If you are comfortable discussing it, how foodie were you when you were a graduate student?  :blink:

I sometimes wonder why a foodie might spend hundreds of dollars (at least) to fly to France (or deplete her frequent flyer miles), if she is from the US, and then eat only at bistros (with no negative connotations on the cuisine at bistros).  (I appreciate this might be a controversial statement as well)

I have been a lover of good food for a long time, taking after my parents. I had wonderful food during my long sojourn in Malaysia and other trips associated with that stay, at the ages of 10-12. When I was 15, I found toward the end of a summer in Tanglewood that I had a good deal of spending money left over from what my parents had given me, so I went with a friend to a restaurant in central Lenox that was given 3 or 4 stars by the Mobil Travel Guide.

I was in France as a Javits Memorial Fellow. Our tax dollars paid for my flight, my TGV to and from Nice, and my tuition and dorm room at the Academie International d'Ete de Nice, and allotted me $30 per day to spend on food and other necessities during my term of study. I did spend about $30/day on food in Nice, and ate quite nicely. :smile:

On the other hand, when I was in Paris, whatever money I spent was as part of a tourist trip and was out of my own pocket. I found that I spent more on average than I had in Nice, but I couldn't be a spendthrift, as my yearly income was mostly accounted for by my stipend from the Javits Fellowship, and that stipend really did not cover more than the 9 months of school. I actually would have spent more money if I had _not_ gone to France and had 2 to 4 weeks paid for, but instead stayed at home, spent money, and got reimbursed for nothing.

If I had had to pay my own way to France, I wouldn't have been able to go. Thank you, U.S. government!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Well, I can't comment on why most people would rather go to Paris than to Quebec, but in my case it's because our tickets were only $170/person before tax (which bumped them all the way up to $250). I'm in Boston, not so far from Montreal really, and I don't think I could get there that cheaply. And as for the rest of our budget, we've already booked the cheap hotel, don't plan on taking any taxis, and will pretty much be confining our shopping to comestibles. And even after all that, as much as it pains me, we'll have to forego the expensive meals. So, I don't really expect that we'll eat that much better than we could in the US. But I do hope that we'll find better casual meals more easily, and that the experience in general will be different and exciting.

Bux, you mention patisseries and chocolatiers. Any chance for a few quick recommendations in that area?

Thanks, everyone, for all your help.

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There have been quite a few threads here on that subject. Number one candidate for the the number one position may be Pierre Herme who's, among other things, designed a line of chocolate cakes for Wegman's the NY/NJ supermarket. Take a look at the recent JP Hevin thread(s) as well. Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets may be a book you'd want to look at for some names and addresses. It would be easy to blow your budget for dinner on a few choice things at Herme's shop on the rue Bonaparte.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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La Regalade is an excellent value, as is Chez Michel in the 10th...maybe the two best values in Paris

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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Well, I can't comment on why most people would rather go to Paris than to Quebec, but in my case it's because our tickets were only $170/person before tax (which bumped them all the way up to $250).

joshlh -- How did you secure such inexpensive tickets to Paris? Are these direct flights?

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Josh,

For a really inexpensive and fun night you might try La Cave au l'os à Moelle in the 15th. It's a tiny restaurant in a wine shop that has three communal style tables. The food is all served family style, meaning you help yourself to the 5-course meal being served each night--all for 20 €. And the wine's not marked up, you just pick your bottle from the shelves.

The restaurant shares the same kitchen with L'Os a Moelle, next door,which gets rave reviews.

Main courses are served from a large pot on an old fashioned stove and I've had things like: Coq au Vin, pig cheeks with lentils (they're delicious really!), etc.

As for speaking French, definitly use as much as you can. Bonjour, merci, S'il vous plait and parlez vous Anglais, will get you far. I hate to see English speakers who make no attempt at the language and assume that everyone speaks English. It's very arrogant! Imagine someone coming to the States who couldn't even say "hello" or "thankyou" It's unthinkable, but many many Anglophones do just that when visiting Paris.

www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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Or the Auberge Pyrenees-Cevennes, a big favorite with mrs. Wells... they have a great cassoulet!

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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  • 3 months later...

I'm off to Paris next week, and I have tons of recommendations for top-notch, star-spangled restaurants. I think this trip it's going to be Pierre Gagnaire. That means the rest of the time it's small, inexpensive places that offer great food with out the bite...financial, that is. Any suggestions?

Thanks.

David Leite

Leite's Culinaria

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Try Le Comptoir du 7eme. This is a locals place at the Metro Ecole Militaire. It's packed every night. The menu is simple, but well prepared and extremely reasonable. They have big salads, including one of the best "chevre chaud". They also have a great confit de canard, poulet roti, and tartare. They are also open on Sunday. The only downside is that they've really kicked up the music volume at dinner. If you aren't into that, try lunch-time.

Cheers,

David

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Places we've been to recently enough to feel we can recommend, at the price (not in any order):

La Fontaine de Mars (7th arr.)

Le Dauphin (or Au Dauphin) (1st)

Chez Michel (10th)

C'Amelot (11th)

Bistrot du Dôme (14th)

Paris is full of places that are good, but disappointments abound. Equally true is that how well you do at any of the above listed places may depend on what you order. I suggest you review old threads here for more information and some insight on these places which others have mentioned. The problem with asking about inexpensive places that offer great food with out the financial bite, is that many members have already made recommendations within the past year and may not bother to repeat themselves yet another time. This is a popular subject that's been covered many times.

Two places we've really loved, in which we've not dined recently enough to recommend with any confidence:

La Régalade (14th)

Philippe Dutourbe (15th)

I'm a fan of brasseries and less critical than others of the ones run by the Flo group. It's not great cuisine, but stick to simple food and brasserie standbys and they're worthwhile. Admittedly the ones I knew well in the sixties are the ones that please me less now--most notably La Coupole--but try Vaudeville. I had a good andouillete at Balzar, but there were a lot of American's in the room.

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, in the Hotel Pont Royal (7th) should have opened by now and I suspect it's well worth checking out. It's Robuchon's attempt to unretire himself and offer a relaxed version of his food. Supposedly it wasn't going to take reservations and was to offer counter seating with a view of an exposed kitchen. If you're on your own, it sounds like an ideal situation. If you're a couple it should still offer a great experience at what I hope is a fair price.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Perhaps the "Best Buy" is Le Bistrot du 7eme, at 56, bvd LaTour Maubourg, just across the street from the metro station of the same name, L.T.M. The prix-fixe meals offer many choices, including some, such as confit de canard and trout, that are at times left off these bargain menus. At 16e for three courses, what's not to like! This place is a local's hangout, so you should reserve, especially for dinner. JP

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