I am new to this site, and perhaps it is too late to make this comment, but Steve, I have to agree with every single word that Parigi has written. There really are NOT "a dozen places in every neighborhood in Paris" to eat under 20E. Believe me, as a former New Yorker, it took me years to get this through my head, and almost every Sunday I would like to teleport myself to NYC instead of heading to our neighborhood cafe to order either a salad (spring & summer) or poulet frites (winter). We pay about 30E for 2, with a glass of wine for me and a coffee for my beau. Would I recommend this? Never. Had I ever imagined when I lived in New York that food could be as bad and as expensive as it is in Paris? No, because I was spoiled by innovative, immigrant NYC where everything is cheap & quick, and it took some time to realize that, very simply, it is not like that here. The menu at a cafe or a bistro is the same everywhere; it is only the price that differs, and you pay for your ambience at a bistro. The steak frites may or may not be better in quality.
When he took over our NYC ap't, my brother-in-law did a price/effort comparison and concluded that it was cheaper for him to order take-out. When we came to Paris, we learned to cook. When we are lazy, we pay at least 30E for either Japanese, pizza, or the above mentioned cafe fare. We order our pizza from Dominos (the horror!), because you can get thin crust with your choice of veggies, and without ham or a fried egg on top (eww). Below that, you get a quiche, pizza or a hot dog from the boulangerie. Or you go to the supermarket. When we go out, we pay. And now that my local cheap and very French bistro (really, it was- 19E for two courses dinner! I shed tears for Chez Juliette...) has changed hands, I am extraordinarily happy to have found this discussion board, with all it's suggestions and links to blogs and sites. Thank you, everyone, from a previously dissatisfied Paris chowhound who has been looking for that hard-to-find in-between: cheers to you!
See above re: Friday eve. market at Square Anvers. Barbes/Rochechouart market on Wednesday and Saturdays is the cheapest in the city and you'll have an experience of immigrant Paris that many Parisien/nes don't even have: clausterphobic but fun. Shopping on Sat. mornings on rue des Martyrs is another slice of Paris- everyone is out with the kids.
I agree entirely with souphie about how easy it is to have a bad & expensive meal in Paris. But first, I have to thank all you parisien/ne chowhounds for having discovered you! Now I know where to get advice for our next b-day dinner...
- I strongly second Parigi about the Ferme St. Hubert- skip the supermarket for all but cheap chevre; their prices work out to about the same for all the standard, cut in-store cheeses. And it is THE most beautiful shop in Paris- I have not seen the like in the 7eme, 8eme, or 16eme.
- The market on Square Anvers is Friday evening, from about 4-8pm. It is not cheap, for that you should go to the Barbes-Rochechouart market under the tracks of the metro stop, line 2, weds. & sats. But try to find the N.African (Algerian?) guys selling olives & pastes/dips at Anvers: their white fish paste is out of this world, and a turn through the market with a stop for a 'tradition' at the boulangerie at Place Turgot, the corner of rue Condorcet & rue Rochechouart (the best in the 'hood), will do you just fine for munchy dinner.
- full disclosure: I live b/w the boulangerie and the fromagerie. If stuck on a desert island, I would bring both shops and their employees with me.
- I may get slack from experienced parisian chowhounds for the following, but your best bet for a fab art nouveau experience is Chez Julien on rue faubourg St. Denis in the 10eme. Yes, it is now part of the big Flo restaurant group, but if you are going mostly for the atmosphere, it is incontestably the best place in Paris. Make a reservation in advance and be SURE to ask for a table in the back, not near the windows. Do not buckle under the attitude of the waiters; it is part of the experience. Cheap trick: they have a deal after 10.30 (maybe only on Sundays?). Maybe a chowhound has more info, or check a guide.
- The Franprix supermarket near the intersection of rue Cadet and rue Lafayette is your cheapest bet, especially for wine, but avoid unfresh veggies there. Carrefour at the intersection of Maubeuge and Rochechourt, is more upscale. And Shopi on rue des Martyrs is cheap also- cheese, yoghurt & refrig. items are upstairs.
- There is not a lot of spicy in the 'hood, but very good tagine and cous cous is served in huge portions at Titi Touareg, 47 rue de Rochechouart.
- For adventure, try Chez Michel: go up rue de Rochechouart to rue Maubeuge, and take a right on rue de Belzunce to cut behind the church of St. Vincent de Paul (which is not in the right place on google maps). They serve cuisine from Normandie with an emphasis on game, and their canard is fantastic. Try eating downstairs, communal style, which is where you'll be if you don't make a reservation. Their menu/carte is not translated, and one of the best meals I've ever had was foie d'oie on top of a filet migon, covered with a sauce that was out of this world (I was a parisienne newbie and had no idea what I was ordering, nor did my arteries). A low-cost option is their cafe, Chez Casimir, 2 doors down; go for prix fixe lunch and be sure to order their soupe de poisson, served in a pitcher and amazing, especially if it's drizzly outside. At least, go just for the soup.
- see John Talbot on Spring in Paris: I wasn't able to get a reservation at their old place, and I'm not quite sure what the deal is with the "new" old one, since I always manage to walk by in the morning.
September is the best time to visit Paris- welcome to the 'hood!