Paris may be the most expensive city in the world, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money to dine well. Some of the best lunches are eaten in one of the city’s 426 parks and gardens or next to the Seine, after having been purchased at a nearby boulangerie, creperie or falafel house.
Parisian sandwiches are delicious. They are not stuffed like New York deli sandwiches. Most are lightly filled in a baguette with a serving or two of meat, cheese and perhaps some veggies. Try the classic ham and cheese (jambon et fromage), smeared with the secret to all French cooking: lots of butter. You know you’re Parisian when you’ve found the perfect baguette-ham blend. Or try the healthier Nordique, which typically includes salmon and goat cheese or fromage blanc (a sort of unsour sour cream). Most boulangeries have a midday special, or formule midi, where you can purchase a sandwich, drink and dessert for 6.50 euros or less. You can always skip the dessert and drink and buy just a sandwich for around 3 euros. Sandwiches are found at almost every boulangerie, but be sure to arrive before 2 p.m. for a wider selection. My favorite, pictured below, is Boulangerie des Arènes, on rue Monge, a street famous for its boulangeries. Or try the award-winning Grenier à Pain or the chain Paul.
Crepes are not just for dessert. In fact, there are two types of crepes: sweet (crêpes sucrées) and galettes (crêpes salées). Crêpes sucrées are made from wheat flour and filled with Nutella, confiture or some other sweet filling. Crêpes salées are made with buckwheat flour, are darker in color and are filled with meat, cheese and/or eggs. The most traditional crêpe salée is the complète, made with ham, cheese and an egg. Crepes to go will run you between 3 and 5 euros depending on the fillings. If you decide to sit inside, be prepared to pay a few euros more, and be sure to have a bowl of cider, traditionally drunk with savory crepes. Creperies are found all over Paris; look for streets with lots of bars, such as rue St.-André-des-Arts and rue Mouffetard, or stroll around Pigalle. Two of our faves are West Country Girl and Breizh Cafe.
Falafel is a cheap, filling and relatively healthy meal. This traditional Middle Eastern dish consists of a pita stuffed with cabbage, cucumbers, fried eggplant and fried balls of ground chickpeas. Branch out and try the various shawarma and kofta options. A falafel to go costs about 5 euros; to eat inside is between 6 and 7 euros. Most falafel places are run by practicing Jews, and are therefore closed on Friday nights and Saturdays. They’re usually a madhouse all day Sunday, so plan a weekday trip if possible. The best falafels are found in the Marais. Check out the ever-popular L’As du Fallafel, King Falafel Palace or Chez Marianne.
Boulangerie des Arènes
31, rue Monge, in the 5th Arrondissement.
L’As du Fallafel
34, rue des Rosiers, in the 4th.
01 48 87 63 60. Closed Sat.
King Falafel Palace
26, rue des Rosiers, in the 4th.
01 42 77 93 13.
2, rue des Hospitalières-St.-Gervais, corner of rue des Rosiers.
01 42 72 18 86.