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Le brunch is about as French as apple pie, yet it’s quickly becoming a trend for Parisians who dream of living life like Carrie Bradshaw. But before you head out Sunday morning, be warned: Brunch in Paris is not the bottomless mimosa fest that you may know from New York or the scone-studded pancake-packed buffet that you recall from your college dorms. Nor is it as cheap.
Instead of traditional breakfast foods, desserts, and alcoholic drinks, a French brunch usually consists of lighter fare, and rarely in buffet form. Juice, tea, coffee, a croissant or two, some yogurt, and an egg dish are the usual suspects on most menus. Bloody Mary’s, cheesecakes, and pancakes are rarities – but I’ll go with it. Chalk it up to cultural differences. Plus, the pastries and coffee are always a pleasure.
Not so cheapo…
While I can handle a cocktail-less menu and a stark lack of bagels and locks, I can’t tolerate the price, which is unanimously deemed expensive by Americans who would liken it to a late-morning breakfast.
This Cheapo does it himself, whipping up pancakes and streaky bacon on the weekend while cracking open some sparkling white wine for a mimosa or two (though never real Champagne – I agree with the French that this smacks of disrespect).
When you really must brunch
While I do have several places that I do recommend when one simply must brunch, I decided to look to other expats to see where they were getting their brunch fix without taking out a second mortgage.
2nd: Rachel Bajada, an Aussie food blogger and social media freelancer, makes it her mission to eat out, though she knows cheap brunch is nonexistent. Still, if brunch calls, she’ll head to the Marcovaldo Café in the Marais, but she also heads to the Montorgueil neighborhood for one of her favorites. “Le Café is next door to Cafe Etienne Marcel. Cool service, good people watching in a sunny spot and cool part of Paris. Quiches, huge yummy salads, eggs, milkshakes, sandwiches are all between 9€ and 13€. You get the real Paris bobo vibe here,” she said. (62 rue Tiquetonne 75002)
11th: NYU student Winston Alford-Hamburg tries to find vegetarian and vegan brunch options when possible. “Meat creeps onto almost every plate, as do cheese, milk, and eggs. However, Soya—meaning ‘soy’ in French—offers tired vegetarians some relief with scrumptious meatless cuisine in the Canal Saint Martin district. What’s more, the menu is entirely organic. I like Soya best for brunch—25€ for the fixed-price menu, 6€ to 10€ for appetizers, and around 15€ for main courses,” he said. (20 Rue de la Pierre Levée 75011)
17th: Cat Beurnier runs Sugar Daze, a cupcake bakery just south of Pigalle. When this New Yorker is not taking her kids to the Indiana Café for a traditional American brunch, she heads to Batignolles, the up and coming neighborhood in the 17th arrondissement. “We sometimes go to this place called L’Endroit for burgers. It has an East Village vibe, bright and sunny and great service. The food is really good too,” she said. (67 Place du Dr Félix Lobligeois 75017)
18th: Lindsey Tramuta is a Paris blogger and food writer who recently talked about brunch spots by the Canal St-Martin for New York Times T-Mag. A regular at Coutume Café, who recently changed cooks, she’s also no stranger to the Clichy neighborhood for brunch.
“Another favorite is Le Bal Café in the 18th which has a charming terrace and an original menu. They’re known for their gourmet coffee and English-inspired choices from Welsh rarebit, kippers with toast, and hearty scones served with butter and jam. Standard brunch staples like pancakes and eggs are also available for the less adventurous but a cappuccino or espresso are essentials for all,” she said. (6 Impasse de la Défense 75018)
20th: Linda Houliston, a Philadelphia native, knows breakfast foods (ever hear of scrapple or chipped beef?). In Paris, Linda is a tour guide for Oui Paris and often recommends dining options to her tourists. She heads to the gritty but delightful Belleville neighborhood for brunch and cheap coffee on the terrace. “Le O’Paris, it’s the one at the top of Parc de Belleville. You can look at the view of Paris like a tourist yet eat and feel like a local at the same time,” she said. (1 rue des Envierges 75020)
Less “cheapo” options for brunch
Here are some runner’s up for brunch spots if you want to spend a bit of money on a hearty brunch experience — and prepare to spend at least 20€:
Café Menilmontant: Off the beaten-track, hearty portions of ham, cheese, and salmon will get you ready for pastries, fruit salad, and fresh pressed orange juice. It’s the perfect cure on Sunday morning if you spent Saturday night throwing back the café’s happy hour 2€ glasses of wine. (143 Boulevard de Ménilmontant 75011)
Barbershop: Down the street from the bustling Place de la République, a young wait staff serves up a copious brunch, either American style or British style. Burgers, pancakes, and smoothies also available. (68 avenue de la République 75011)
Carette: Old-world décor in either of the two locations (Trocadéro or Place des Vosges) is the French touch that makes the weekend brunch worthwhile. Healthy portions and homemade pastries – check! (25 Place des Vosges 75003 )
Schwartz’s Deli: 13€ eggs Benedict, and similar egg dishes, are only available on the weekends, and they come with hash browns and a salad. Add a piece of cheesecake and some coffee to the bill and you’ve just scored major brunch points at this French take on a New York deli. (16 rue des Ecouffes 75004)
More info: For more mouth-watering suggestions, see our article on cheap and yummy food in Paris. Also, if you’re headed to Paris and looking for affordable places to sleep, be sure to read our guide to the best budget hotels in Paris.