Un Bon Rapport Qualit Prix
My apartment has the cleanest refrigerator in Paris and I’m proud of it. The only things in it generally consist of the essentials: a bottle of champagne and a bottle of white wine, milk and juice, a half-dozen eggs, butter, a jar of olives and one of pickles, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressing, jam, coffee and if lucky, one or two onions (likely sprouting from age). The reason for this is that I dine out every meal…or almost. You’d never know that at one time (pre-Paris), I was hosting dinner parties weekly for eight to ten friends and cooking up a storm à la Marcella Hazan (America’s answer to Italian cooking like Julia Child was to French cuisine). Those days are gone, and instead, you will find me in the Paris restaurants I love.
Some people ask, “Don’t you tire of eating out?” It surprises me that anyone would tire of such a delightful experience! All it takes is a little thought about where to go, make a small effort to get there, arrive, find a nice table, read the choice of yummy things to eat, make a choice, allow someone else to cook it up serve you, pay and leave…never having to shop, cook, serve or clean up! What could be better?…unless of course, if it’s not worth the price!
That’s where the ‘little thought about where to go’ plays a big role. Because even in Paris, it’s easy to spend your money on a bad meal (yes, bad restaurants do exist, even in the City of Light), when instead, you can spend your money on a GREAT meal…and spend the same amount of money. If you know where to find “un bon rapport qualité prix” (good value for your money), you can really eat well without ‘breaking the bank.’
In 1996, after having accumulated a fair amount of favorite ‘restos,’ friends were calling for recommendations. It became tedious to dictate the names and addresses, so I created a list of favorites — about 50. It became the first online electronic guide to Paris restaurants, when the Internet was just a ‘toddler.’ It’s still there, still electronic, now with more than 200 restaurants. Soon it will be published and available on Amazon.com, but edited down to the top 100 restaurants, mostly French, but all ‘good value.’
It’s a habit to keep track of the receipts and at the end of each year, do an accounting and quick analysis of just how much damage it’s done to my pocketbook (not to mention my waistline). It never sees to amaze me both how ‘much’ and how ‘little’ it costs to dine out daily. ‘Much’ — because most people don’t devote as much of their disposable income to dining out as I do (they spend it on other bad habits, to be sure!), but ‘little’ because it’s my “raison d’être” to ferret out those one might define as ‘cheap’ and ‘chic,’ not to mention “delish.”
Here are the facts: In 2009 I had 17 more restaurant meals than in 2008, but 66 less than in 2007, for an average of 6.5 restaurant experiences every week. Even with the high rate of exchange, 2009 was more economical than 2008 spending on the average, about $2 less per meal for an average of under $28 including tax and tip. Keep in mind that a typical meal in Paris is comprised of two courses, one to two glasses of wine and a coffee.
Can you dine as well anywhere else for so little? I don’t think so! Especially when you consider the quality.
No doubt, you’d like to know what my favorite ‘good-value’ restaurants are, so that you don’t miss out on Paris’ finest dining bargains. That’s easy if you simply purchase the guide (electronic for now, in print soon to come)…but I will tell you now at least three to whet your appetite:
1. Chez Omar. It’s my neighborhood “cantine” and there isn’t a single thing on the menu I don’t like. The atmosphere reminds me of a middle class, family-style “Galatoire’s” (New Orleans) and the food is Moroccan couscous, perfectly prepared grilled meats and fish — all reasonably priced. They take no reservations, so you just show up and take your chances, but be prepared to pay cash. It’s bustling, noisy and full of life from the local residents as well as tourists who have heard of it and Omar’s charming personality. Chez Omar, 47, rue de Bretagne, 3rd, 01.42.72.36.26, open everyday except Sunday lunch.
2. Le Felteu. It’s a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ on a one-block-long street that you must know is there or you’ll miss it. If you order the “carré d’agneau” without looking at the menu, Jerry will know I sent you, but although absolutely everything on the menu is great. It’s just that you’ve never had lamb chops in your life like these. Don’t look at the decor, it will turn your stomach (nothing’s changed in 50 years), and tattooed Harley-biking Jerry is a character out of movie. It’s guaranteed fun, but don’t dare show up without a reservation or Jerry will send you ‘packin” even if he has a table. Le Felteu, 15, rue Pecquay, 4th, 01.42.72.14.51, closed Sunday and holidays.
3. Les Fêtes Galantes. It’s one of the strangest dining experiences you may ever have, as Bibi’s zest for life, women and cooking manifests itself on the walls of the restaurant with photos, business cards, and memorabilia including the bras and panties of some of his fondest clientele! He still charges way too little for his superb cuisine, but don’t tell him, otherwise, he’ll have to renovate and upgrade causing the funky atmosphere to sadly change (watch out for the broken springs in the seats). This small Egyptian man does wonders to a plate of food from a tiny kitchen for a very small number of diners — about 25 maximum. The one down side is that it’s filled with Anglophones, likely thanks to it taking first place in my guide as most written about by the diners themselves. Otherwise, it’s been one of my favorites for almost 20 years. Les Fetes Galantes, 17, rue de l’Ecole Polytechnique, 5th, 01.43.26.10.40, opening times may change, call in advance.
Please be sure to tell Omar, Jerry and Bibi I sent you! Bon appetit!
A la prochaine…
(with Jerry on my 2009 birthday at Le Felteu)
Editor, Parler Paris