On my very first visit to Paris (during a European backpacking trip with my sister), the only foods we ate and fully enjoyed were croissants at the hostel in the morning, several Nutella crepes, and a shared baguette that served as lunch on day three.
For years, I thought this first visit was a fluke… all you hear about is how amazing the food in Paris is, so we must not have looked in the right places. Right?!
So far, wrong.
After three visits, I have yet to have a good experience with Parisian food. And this has led to a growing resentment of the city that I can’t shake.
It has nothing to do with ‘rude’ service (which is one of those stereotypes about Paris that I now strongly disagree with) and everything to do with the two reasons below.
Food in Paris is impossible to source
I’ll be the first to admit, I get hangry. Knowing this, I usually allow an hour or so to find food before the apocalypse-that-is-my-hungry-self hits.
So when I’ve just climbed the 200+ steps of the Eiffel Tower and walked the full length of the Champs Elysees, and begin to search for food before my blood sugar falls off a cliff, I get increasingly annoyed as decent restaurants evade me.
Finding a hole-in-the-wall restaurant to spend an evening relaxing and laughing in has never been a problem for me anywhere (even in tourist-logged Venice!), but it always is in Paris.
Even with an hour to search, I only find white-tableclothed tourist traps or establishments without one traditional French item on the menu.
Quality meals at fair prices don’t seem to coexist in Paris
A divide exists in French food.
Either you splash out the big bucks for a fancy and delicious three-to-six course meal with pate, coq au vin, escargot, and flan, or you overpay for the reheated, glorified, half-a-grilled-cheese that is a Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame.
Or, you eat pizza or pasta or Thai cuisine that’s priced fairly (and tasty), but not French — something I’ve done at least twice during each visit to the City of Lights.
I’ve now resigned myself to the fact that the best and most cost-effective way to enjoy dining in France is to visit a local grocery store, boulangerie or market, pick up fresh ingredients and cook for yourself.
Now I must add: I’ve never lived in Paris, nor have I had a local show me around. I’m sure if I did, I’d discover the great food there is to find.
But as it stands, I’m of the (apparently) unpopular opinion that food in Paris isn’t worth the hype.
Please weigh in below on your food experiences in Paris (including how much they cost you) or leave some restaurant suggestions for my next visit.