Oct 7th, 2023, 09:00 AM

Bon Appétit on a Budget

By Karina Peterneamt
Image credit: Openverse/Pierre Blaché
A student's guide to affordable dining in Paris

Paris - the city of love, art, fashion and food. The very name evokes images of picturesque dinners overlooking the Seine and sipping espresso at a charming sidewalk café. Although this city is known for its luxurious and costly restaurants, college students’ bank accounts aren’t exactly Michelin-star material. But there’s no need to resign yourself to butter on baguettes or instant meals from Carrefour, as there exists a secret world of affordable delights waiting to be discovered. In this guide, we'll navigate the labyrinthine streets of Paris to uncover untraditional food spots that won't drain your wallet faster than a metro ride ticket.

1. L’as du Fallafel

34 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris

As you stroll down Rue des Rosiers, in the Jewish quarter of the Marais neighborhood, you’ll find the ultimate destination for falafel enthusiasts - L’as du Fallafel is a culinary legend among locals and savvy travelers alike, committed to quality and tradition for over 40 years.

The most popular menu item is the Fallafel Special, a pita bread filled with creamy tahini sauce, zesty pickles, a riot of vibrant vegetables, and of course - the crispy balls of chickpeas. The best part for the budget-conscious student? This generous-sized meal will only cost you under 10€, and you won’t need to compromise its taste or quality. Also, you can either dine in at their cozy restaurant or take your falafel to-go and wander the charming streets of the Marais.

Writer's tip: During the day, there’s usually a huge line (30-45 minutes waiting time), so go later in the evening and make it your dinner.

Image credit: Karina Peterneamt

2. Marché des Enfants Rouges

39 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris

What could be more authentically French than a food market? A bit higher up in the Marais neighborhood, you'll discover a hidden gem that captures the essence of Parisian culinary culture: Marché des Enfants Rouges. Wearing the title of Paris' oldest covered food market, it’s a blend of tradition and modernity, filled with both locals and travelers.

One of the market's standout features is its diverse offering of ready-to-eat options, as there's something to satisfy every craving. The communal seating areas provide a perfect spot to savor your finds and immerse yourself in the convivial atmosphere that defines Parisian dining. And even better - for around 10-20€ you can try a variety of small plates from all around the world. Whenever you decide to check this spot out, don't miss out on the sandwiches from Alain Miam Miam, Le Traiteur Marocain for authentic couscous, and Les Enfants du Marché for avant-garde small plates.

Writer's tip: The stalls with long lineups are usually worth the wait.

Image credit: Karina Peterneamt

3. Dumbo

64 Rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, 75009 Paris

Burgers are probably not the first food item that you think about when you hear Paris, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t places here that do them right. With two different locations, one of which is at the bottom of the charming Montmartre area, Dumbo is a younger establishment than the first two mentioned on this list, but just as good and affordable. The menu is limited, which is always a good sign, and their specialty is, of course, the smash burger: tasty melted cheese, crispy steaks, pickles, and a flavourful sauce, all stuffed between soft buns.

Dumbo also serves amazing fries, a vegan burger, and fried chicken. And if this menu doesn’t sound great enough, it also has to be mentioned that nothing surpasses 15€, which makes for a gourmand dining experience at a small price.

Writer's tip: They only serve food for takeaway, but if you go to the location in Pigalle, take your goodies on a bench in Montmartre and enjoy the views of the city.

Image credit: Karina Peterneamt

4. Boullion Chartier

7 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009 Paris

Striking Belle Époque décor and traditional French food belong in fancy restaurants, right? Wrong. With many locations scattered across Paris, Boullion Chartier’s hallmark is its dedication to affordability without compromising on quality, as it was originally designed as a place for the working class to enjoy a hearty meal at a reasonable price. Over a century later, it still upholds this tradition, making it an attractive choice for students.

The menu is a celebration of classic French cuisine; from escargot and onion soup gratinée to coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon, you'll find an array of timeless dishes prepared with care and precision. 20€ will usually be enough for three courses, although you should get some dessert too - the profiteroles are divine.

Writer's tip: to avoid the longest lines, consider arriving either before the typical lunch (around noon) or dinner (around 7:00 pm) rush

Image credit: Karina Peterneamt

5. Oak Berry

31 Rue Notre Dame de Nazareth, 75003 Paris

Every açai bowl fanatic will be delighted by this spot for the Brazilian healthy and delicious treat. Oak Berry is a chain that aims to provide customers with fresh and natural choices for meals and snacks at affordable prices. With three locations in Paris, this is a perfect place for those who are looking for a more healthy meal option, at any time of the day, and most importantly, at a low cost.

An average-sized bowl is only 11.50€, and even better, it offers unlimited toppings. If you are familiar with açai spots, you’d know they usually have standard recipes with few ingredients or they charge you for anything extra. Whereas at Oak Berry, there’s a huge variety of toppings that you can choose from, thus you can create an extremely unique bowl that caters to your taste.

Writer's tip: if you go and fall in love with the place, get a loyalty card and start collecting stamps; for every 10, you’ll get a free açai bowl

Image credit: Karina Peterneamt