|Café on the same street as my school. It is the epitome of French café culture and pretty expensive. Photo courtesy of Google.|
We moved into my apartment on January 24th. It was “unnaturally” warm for Paris according to everyone we spoke with (which was only a small handful of people since we were overwhelmed by the language barrier), yet it still felt cold. At least it wasn’t too much colder than it had been at home and I was equipped with my new long puffer jacket with a huge, warm faux fur hood. So we set out on our first day in search of food.
Our biggest mistake, one I assume most everyone makes, was paying way too much for food. Our lunches were around 15 euros each and when we headed to dinner at a restaurant Cameron recommended, we let him convince us it was unavoidable to spend a lot on meals. MISTAKE. No matter where you go in the world I guarantee you can find a grocery store of sorts or roadside stand or even an inexpensive restaurant. But alas, we were unprepared with this information and fell into the normal tourist trap.
A plate of so-so creamy veggie lasagna and two bottles of wine later, we got our check that divided to be 40 euros each for 6 people! No dessert, appetizers or anything special included. We had just made the mistake of letting Cameron pick the wine for the table and poor boy somehow got us stuck with two 70 euro bottles (that’s about $100)! I’m sure he felt our angry eyes on him when we got the check and I really think it was a mistake (darn French 1’s and 7’s look alike… imagine ordering a 15 euro bottle only to find the handwritten menu meant it was 75)! You can read the original story here.
My best advice: order water and wine by the carafe (carafe d’eau and vin de carafe). They have to give it to you, the tap water is perfectly safe and French restaurants are not known to carry bad house wines. It will save you a bundle in the long run. And look for small, lesser known restaurants as far away from tourist spots as possible. The food will still be great, if not better, and you will find much better prices.
Some of my favorite dishes since then:
Pesto pasta at Café Pierre in Place de la Republique – 11 euros for dinner, I still dream of this one
Falafel, of course, anywhere on Rue de Rosiers – 5 euros for a takeaway stuffed-to-the-brim pita sandwich, about 11 euros for a sit-down falafel platter at Chez Hanna.
Free pizza buffet at Spaghetti Bar – 3 euros for house beer or wine and unlimited pizza squares and pasta salad from 5-8 every day for happy hour. Be warned the food disappears quickly
Assiette de fromages anywhere – 6-10 euros, a great way to sample French cheeses, but sometimes it’s hard to find out/remember what you got
Savory crêpe from the crêpe stands on rue Oberkampf – 3-5 euros, a great bar street and crêpes are great late-night food. My favorite had sauteed onions, potatoes and peppers, and cheese. To die for.