If you mention Paris to any ordinary person, I think several iconic images will race through their minds: The Eiffel Tower. Snorgaboards of Food. Love and Romance. Haute Couture Fashion. Irresistible Food. Did I mention…food? (this is a food blog, isn’t it?) Frankly, my mind jumps straight to colorific macarons, crunchy baguettes, smelly but delicious cheeses, and flakey croissants. If you don’t know what to eat in Paris, you’re in the right place.
The one city I know better than the back of my hand is the City of Lights, and I have eaten my way through this mouth-watering city many times. When university students pack up their bags for a study abroad program or a European adventure, their main concern is finding cheap accommodations and affordable meals. As a result, I’ve concocted a list of the delectable foods that you just have to eat in Paris if you ever make a visit. And these are all affordable treats, so don’t worry about being unable to dine well in one of the most visited cities in the world. For under 5 euros, which is less than $7, you can munch your way through this city without feeling like a poor college student. Watch the accompanying video if you want to see me eat all these foods!
1. Croissant (1€)
Don’t even think about coming to Paris if you’re not going to load up on the utterly caloric but buttery and flakey pastries. Try it. I dare you. Walk past a patisserie or boulangerie and try not to order a croissant or a pain au chocolate that will cost you about 1 euro. It’s impossible! Here’s a embarassing story: my French sucked the first time I visited France, and I accidentally ordered 5 chocolate croissants when I meant to order only 1. (not sure what I said, but hey…c’est pas grave). I ate 5 chocolate croissants that morning. Worth every calorie and eurocent.
2. Croque Monsieur (5€)
Go to any brasserie or café in Paris, and you’ll see a Croque Monsieur on the menu. No, they don’t have just regular ham and cheese sandwiches in France… They go the extra mile and cover their ham and cheese sandwiches with a creamy, cheesy béchamel sauce and then throw it in the broiler so that every bite is hot, cheesey, and gooey. Order a Croque Madame if you want un oeuf au plat, or sunny side up egg, on top. Click here for my recipe for croque monsieur sandwiches! Croque monsieurs are more expensive in brasseries than in boulangeries, so opt for a to-go sandwich in the latter to do it the cheap way.
3. Crepes (1.50€)
Hailing from the region of Brittany, crepes are as synonymous with French cuisine as hamburgers with American culture. Savory crepes are generally called galettes, and sweet crepes are simply called crepes. One of the most popular flavors is “beurre sucre,” which is just butter and sugar. Of course the ever-so-popular nutella crepes are just as trendy. Don’t forget to try a “complet,” pronounced COHM-PLAY, which is a ham and cheese galette topped with a sunny side up egg. It’s just so darn good.
4. Rotisserie Chicken and Roasted Potatoes (under 5€ per person)
Imagine rotisserie chickens rotating behind a glass window, with their juices inevitably dripping onto the bottom of the rotisserie contraption. Then imagine that the bottom of the machine is covered in baby potatoes, which necessarily soak up all the chicken flavors. Okay, stop imagining. This is actually REAL. Rotisserie chickens in France are a must-have, and I don’t care if you’re a vegetarian. There’s just nothing like walking past a farmer’s market with these rotisserie machines just there and staring back at you. A standard little chicken will set you back just about 8 euros, but you can get a small roasted chicken leg for under 5 euros! Rubbed with spices and herbs such as thyme, paprika, and rosemary, the chickens are incredibly well-seasoned and just perfect with the accompanying potatoes.
5. The Baguette (0.80€ to 1.10€)
The cliché is true: Parisians love their baguettes. I have often seen people bite into a piping hot fresh loaf as they exit a boulangerie. The baguette is simply the bread of choice in France. If you order a sandwich in France, you will rarely get sliced sandwich bread because the French nearly always make their sammies with a baguette. And why shouldn’t they? A baguette will generally cost you less than 1 euro. Win!
And for the love of bread, do not buy a baguette at a grocery store. There is no shortage of boulangeries in France! There’s no better joy than being handed a freshly baked piece of bread. (but for the record, even the grocery store factory-produced baguettes are thousands of times tastier than the ones in many American grocery stores.) Here’s a little tip from Parisians: if you’re at a boulangerie in Paris, instead of asking for a baguette, ask for a tradition, pronounced TRAH-dee-see-ohhn. The tradition is made with a different blend of flour than a regular baguette. This results in a crust that is infinitely crispier, crustier, and more flavorful, and the interior is just ever so chewy like a traditional, artisanal piece of art.
6. Rillettes (3€ to 5€)
The French just know what to do with every sort of meats. One of the best things to eat with your crispy tradition baguette is a basic pork rillettes, pronounced REE-YET. To sum up a rillettes quickly, it’s like a meat spread (think pâté) that you schmear on bread or toast, and it’s salty, fattening, and melt-in-your-mouth smooth. The shreds of meat have been cooked until incredibly tender that it becomes spreadable. My favorite rillettes is duck, but you don’t have to go fancy-schmancy. Traditional rillettes is made with pork.
7. Cheese (Cheaper than the US)
France is the land of cheeses if there ever was one designated. Stinky cheeses, tame cheeses, soft cheeses, this country has them all. Basically all the cheeses are either light yellow or white in color. You’ll have some difficulty finding a native orange-colored cheese in this country. My favorite ones are comté, chèvre, brie, camembert, and roquefort. The perfect Parisian picnic always includes a baguette and some brie. Don’t forget to bring along charcuterie like French ham, saucisson, etc.
8. Macarons (2€ each)
These are the little cookies that look like mini dyed hamburgers in every shade possible. The perfect macaron should be crisp on the outside, never soggy, and chewy on the interior. Two macaron cookies are joined together by a buttery cream. A trip to Paris isn’t complete without a visit to the Ladurée store on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
9. Wine (starting at 3€)
Wine wine wine! Rosé, red, and white. I haven’t had a bad wine in France, and trust me — even the 3 euro wines taste as good as a $20 wine in the States. You must try all the wines. Make a stop to Nicolas, which is a chain of wine stores throughout France. Think Bevmo (just kidding!), except a lot more chic and fancy. And the wine sellers are always willing to help you find the best bottle for your soirée.
10. Ice Cream (2.50€ to 3€ per scoop)
Undoubtedly the most famous ice cream shop in all of Paris, Berthillon offers unique flavors that change constantly and are perhaps the most intense bursts of flavor I’ve ever experienced. For example, eating their salted caramel ice cream will take you through several rounds: first you get the sweet and buttery caramel flavor, and then the saltiness hits you like a fierce sandstorm. And then everything just rounds out together when the ice cream melts on your palate. I’ve even seen foie gras flavored ice cream at this place. Pear is another must-try flavor.