I just returned from a week in Paris- I was in love with the city, and of course with the food. I was on a very strict budget and while I had received a lot of recommendations on this board for places to try, I unfortunately had to stick to cooking and/or the Latin Quarter for the most part. However, I'd like to share some of my tips and finds with you- especially for those who think you can't have a true chowhound experience in Paris without going to a $50 euro and up meal- I can prove you wrong! :}
- Do not eat in tourist traps. I made this mistake my first day as I was so jet lagged and ended up eating a pitiful nicoise salad for $12 euros (close to Notre Dame) when only a few mins away was the Latin Quarter- a student hangout and home to the $15, $12 and sometimes even less menus- prix fixed 3 course meals! Of course if you want to save even more money, they may look at you funny but feel not shame in ordering "d'eau natural" but even if you get some wine your meal will still be cheap. I say this because I thought it was outrageous that soda could be as much as 6 euros- when you do the conversion- yeesh. I don't recall the names of the restaurants, but one menu I had escargot, beef bourginon and chocolate mousse. Another time I had mussels in wine, herbed chicken leg with frites and trio of sorbet. (Each menu for $12 euro) At an Indian restaurant (also in the Latin Quarter) for the same price I had broiled tandoori shrimp (LARGE ones with the head!), fish curry, rice and semolina cake- with bollywood films playing in the background.
- Try the crepe stands! Instead of sitting down in a creperie (and thus charged more), if you are just visiting you're probably on the go anyhow. It's also fun to watch them cook it on the large circle, fold it and wrap it. My favorite was the crepe d'oef (no cheese)- they scramble the egg right on the crepe.
-Cook! If you have access to the kitchen, there are numerous groceries (monoprix for ex) or outdoor vendors. The eggs have ORANGE yolks. The beef and milk have a unique, fresher taste. (This was the observation of my friend as well) Notice that even in the prepacked foods, it is rare to find things like corn syrup or xanthum gum. My friend made many meals of fresh bread, cheese and milk and was quite content because the quality is so good.
Final note- the no liquid ban still applies in airports so if you plan on bringing back wine, just stick it in your suitcase (to be checked- not carry on)