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When it comes to love and chow in Paris, I’m as loyal they come, but I ain’t easy. Before it’ll catch my heart, any eatery had better possess a certain ambience, flattering lighting, an affordable menu, gastronomical consistency, and friendly service. If they recognize my devotion with a smile, a little wave or a complimentary cocktail, well then I am hooked—make no bones about it.
So, for your moveable feasting pleasure, I got out my little red book and whipped up a short list of favorite cheap eats in my Abbesses neighborhood. The joints listed here will not only save you money but enhance your overall travel experience.
As my grandmother would say, saving for a trip starts at home. So set down that fancy frappuccino, and wait to treat yourself to a “Sez” draft at a café above the Seine instead!
Getting there: Métro Abbesses, Pigalle or Blanche
1. Le Coquelicot (“The Poppy”)
24 rue des Abbesses
Here’s where I buy my ham and cheese sandwiches, along with their award-winning “Piccola” baguettes.
Decor: Shabby-chic with hand-painted murals
Vibe: Fresh and bubbly
Perks: Fabulous view of the bakers kneading, perky staff, and terrace seating
Try: Jambon-fromage baguette, lemon bars, pain au chocolat, and Piccola baguettes
Tips: As always in Paris, takeout is cheaper, so make a selection and picnic at nearby Place des Abbesses and its little Square Jehan Rictus by the “J’taime Wall.” Love your bread straight from the oven? Ask and they will tell.
2. La Pignatta
89 rue des Martyrs
Here’s where I buy take-out pizzas for my dinner parties. With their gravity-defying pizza tossing tricks and brick oven, they’ve never let me or my shindig guests down.
Decor: Old World charm accessorized with checkered tablecloths and travel posters
Vibe: ‘S Wonderful, ‘S Marvelous
Perks: Terrace seating, personable staff, hefty portions with Cheapo price tags attached
Try: Pizza Caprese or Pizza Pignatta, topped with a roasted egg and crème fraîche
Tips: Again, take-out is cheaper. From here it’s just a romantic stroll up to Sacre Coeur. For another picnic idea, check out their fresh Italian salads. I’ve got a thing going on with the tri-salad sampler.
3. Le Saint Jean
16 rue des Abbesses
Like the 25 little black dresses that hang in my closet, there really isn’t an occasion that le Saint Jean is perfectly suited for, night and day.
Decor: Classic Paris diner with cozy wooden booths, bar, and photography
Vibe: Where’s Edith Piaf? I’m sure she’s here somewhere.
Perks: Terrace seating and occasional live music and dancing
Try: Omelets, hand-cut fries, salads, crème brulée, and French onion soup
Tips: Order house wine by the pitcher. Traditional French dishes are always available. Lost in translation? Just ask. The staff is friendly and helpful. The best people-watching tables are located on the far left, next to the rue André Antoine steps.
4. Le Mono
40 rue Véron
I love this place because the owner always manages to find a table for me, even on his busiest Saturday nights.
Decor: West African—bamboo, masks and popular art
Vibe: Very festive and so bruyant!
Perks: Large portions, engaging staff and a masterpiece playlist that includes King Mensah and Salif Keita!
Try: Djenkoumé (chicken in tomato sauce), grilled plantains and a cold Flag beer!
Tips: This is a great place to celebrate a birthday. Let them know ahead of time, leave your cake behind the counter, and they’ll happily stage a dramatic presentation—with music! (They won’t mention it, but it’s good form to tip for extra service like this.)
5. Le Relais Gascon
6 rue des Abbesses
Cheapos, this is where I go after a seeing movie at the historic movie house Studio 28, located just down the street. Here you’ll find big, inexpensive salads piled high with a variety of meats, cheeses and vegetables, and scrupulously topped with mountains of homemade, hand-cut garlic potatoes!
Decor: Traditional-rustic with wooden bar, mirrors, murals, and paintings
Vibe: Oh, so boisterous and bustling
Perks: Family-style seating on the second floor, terrace seating, and large portions
Try: One of the ten Salades Géantes with pommes de terre sautées à l’ail (think Mont Ventoux!)
Tips: The locals are also in awe of its old-school appeal, so arrive early to score seating. Also, order your house wine by the pitcher. It’s cheaper.
6. Café des Deux Moulins
15 rue Lepic
So why is the “café of two windmills” so unique et magnifique? Because it was featured in “Amélie“, that’s why! Stop by for an apéritif or post-dinner indulgence and rub elbows with other pilgrims.
Decor: Old-fashioned seating, hand-painted murals and classic bar
Perks: Photo-op with the house gnome or exterior neon sign. Make the kids back home ga-ga with envy.
Try it: Picon-bière, a bittersweet blend of oranges and deep blue gentian flowers, typically served with a small draft beer. Mix and tipple!
Tip: Arrive around 5 PM for happy hour, starring discounted drinks. The voluptuous sweets are also heavenly.
Cheapos, make every meal an experience, after all, it was Julia Child’s very first lunch in France that changed her life, and set her cookbook project in motion. Years later she wrote, “I can still almost taste it. And thinking back on it now reminds me that the pleasures of the table and of life, are infinite. Toujours Bon Appétit!”
Oui-oui, Bon Appétit!