There are thousands of restaurants and cafes in Paris, offering everything from street crepes for three euros to a lavish, eight-course tasting menu at a three-star Michelin restaurant, costing 350 euros or more. In between is a vast selection of restaurants, bistros, brasseries, and cafes with reasonably priced, three-course lunches costing under 25 euros per person, not including wine.
Since 2008, I’ve been dining at least once a month at a restaurant that offers an under 25-euro menu and writing a monthly feature on my blog about my wonderful discoveries. I was a chef and caterer in New York City for 21 years before moving to Paris in 2005. The list below is a personal selection of the best of these restaurants.
1. Le Reminet
In the 12 years and countless restaurants I’ve gone to, Le Reminet, hands down, still offers the best lunch deal in town. A stone’s throw away from Notre Dame Cathedral, in the quaint part of the old section of the Latin Quarter, Le Reminet, is a small bistro that seats around 30 people. The elegant but cozy interior is tastefully decorated with plum-colored walls, crystal chandeliers, gold gilt mirrors, and velvet banquettes.
The lunch menu at Le Reminet consists of three courses: entree, main course, and dessert for 20 euros, Monday through Friday. There’s a choice of two dishes in each category, and for dessert, either something sweet or a cheese and salad plate. I recently enjoyed a menu of smoked mackerel and endive salad with little morsels of Granny Smith apple for a starter; sliced breast of chicken with a mango chutney; and for dessert, a cream puff filled with fresh whipped cream and raspberry jam.
Pro Tip: Plan to make your reservations at least a week in advance for lunch. You can make a reservation on their website.
2. Bouillon Julien
Opened in 1906, Bouillon Julien is a stunning Art Nouveau showplace. At the time of its opening, the owner of Bouillon Julien selected some of the top artists and artisans to design decorative architectural details including Louis Majorelle, who created the handsome mahogany bar, Armand Segaud, who designed the peacock panels, and Charles Buffet, father of painter Bernard Buffet, designed the gorgeous panels of the stained-glass ceiling.
In recent years, the restaurant went too upscale in its prices, considering the remainder of the street it’s located on has mostly casual cafes and inexpensive ethnic restaurants. Bouillon Julien was recently refurbished and taken over by a new set of owners, who wanted to bring back the familiar food and menu prices of yesteryear. The result is an a la carte menu of classic French dishes, well prepared and executed, with a gentle price tag. Appetizers range from a mere 2.90 euros for a bowl of soup, duck foie gras for 9.50 euros, an endive salad with walnuts and Roquefort cheese for 4.90 euros, and six escargots baked with olive oil and parsley for 8.10 euros. Main courses range from 9.90 euros to 13.50 euros and include a half-chicken served with a hot sauce and fries, crispy salmon, duck confit with mustard sauce, and bavette steak with a shallot sauce and new potatoes. A single cheese course of either Comte, Camembert, Saint Nectaire, and Roquefort is served with baguette and costs 3.90 euros. If you have enough room for dessert, go for either rice pudding with salted butter caramel sauce, rum baba, a chocolate pot de creme, or fresh pineapple marinated in ginger and honey.
3. Les Foodies
For more contemporary French cuisine, Les Foodies offers an eclectic menu in a modern setting in the trendy Marais district. Speaking of eclectic, chef David Calloni is of Vietnamese and Italian heritage and cooked around the globe for 14 years in places such as Mongolia, Mexico, and Australia, before settling down in Paris and opening his restaurant in 2019.
Les Foodies special lunch menu includes either an appetizer and main course, or main course and dessert for 21 euros.
Pro Tip: Make sure to visit Eataly, the vast Italian food and restaurant emporium just next door.
4. Oxymore Pizza
Since I grew up in Brooklyn, I am a born pizza snob and very particular about what constitutes a good pie. The best pizza in Paris is owned by a Frenchman and uses high-quality French ingredients. Oxymore has a fantastic lunch deal, an individual pizza with either a side salad or dessert for 15 euros. My favorite pizza on their menu is the Albertine, which has toppings of Cantal cheese, fresh tomatoes, air-cured beef from the French Alps, brebis (sheep’s cheese), hazelnuts, Comte cheese aged 18 months, and basil in a crispy, not-too-thick crust.
There’s also a good selection of main course salad. For dessert, their pistachio and raspberry cheesecake is a pure winner.
Pro Tip: Oxymore is just down the street from L’Ateliers des Lumieres, an amazing laser light showing images from famous artists including Van Gogh, Monet, and Klimt.
5. Le Grand Colbert
One of the most romantic restaurants in Paris, Le Grand Colbert, was prominently featured in the 2003 film Something’s Gotta Give when Jack Nicholson surprises Diane Keaton by proposing to her while she’s on a date with Keanu Reeves. Opened in 1900 at the height of the Belle Epoque era, the grand interior has beautifully decorated mosaic floors, Pompeian style murals and paintings, bentwood chairs, and handsome globe lamps with pink bulbs.
The lunch menu consists of two courses for 22.50 euros or three courses for 31.50 euros. Popular dishes include French onion soup, lentil salad with smoked salmon, slow-cooked beef stew with herbed potatoes, Shepherd’s pie with duck, and for dessert, creme caramel, floating island, and a warm, dark chocolate cake.
Le Grand Colbert also has an afternoon tea menu for 13 euros, which includes a dessert or coffee or tea.
6. La Cidrerie Du Marais
Authentic, Brittany-style crepes don’t get any better than at La Cidrerie du Marais, a small, cozy creperie in Paris’s Marais quarter. The savory crepes, which are actually named galettes, are made with buckwheat flour, which is good news for gluten-intolerant or gluten-free diners. There’s a selection of about 14 crepes, which include ham and cheese, foie gras, and smoked salmon, or you can customize your own crepe with a list of other ingredients. Yummy dessert crepes include flavors such as Nutella and salted butter caramel. La Cidrerie du Marais also has an extensive menu of apple ciders made in Brittany, with and without alcohol, and with and without bubbles. Cider is recommended to go with the galettes.
Pro Tip: Arrive before 12:30 p.m. because the tables fill up quickly and they don’t take reservations.
7. Chez Julien
Although the dining room at Chez Julien is exquisitely decorated with painted glass ceilings, lush carpeting, and red velvet banquettes, the outside terrace is where you want to dine in spring and summer. The terrace, which has luxurious outdoor tables and comfortable chairs, is located in an ancient, cobblestone passageway. The 17th-century, Gothic-style Saint Gervais church is on one side and a view of the Seine River is on the other side.
At 26 euros (the extra 1 euro price is worth it), the menu lists three courses: appetizer, main course, and dessert, which is either ice cream or sorbet. The menu changes according to the availability of seasonal ingredients, and dishes on the current menu include pumpkin soup, risotto with whitefish and vegetables, and veal steak with sauteed mushrooms.
Pro Tip: Chez Julien is frequently used in films and television shows, and segments from Gossip Girl and Modern Family were shot in the restaurant.
More Paris Lunch Tips
All of the lunches at the restaurants listed above are available Monday to Friday, and serving times range from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. depending on the restaurant. A glass of wine at these restaurants will cost 5 to 8 euros. Please note that some of the restaurants offer only one or two dishes in each category, and they also have a la carte menus. I recommend making reservations in advance, either online or by phone. Please note that in France, an entree means a starter or appetizer, a plat, is a main course, and dessert is dessert, of course. As far as tipping, it’s perfectly acceptable in France not to tip, as the wait staff is on a full salary with health care, but it’s customary to leave 2 to 3 euros on the table in coins. (There isn’t a tip line on the receipt when you pay by credit card.)