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Two recent meals at places that will go unnamed, not because I’m bashful but because they merely represent the issues I want to address and shouldn’t be singled out for caution or avoidance, brought to mind two issues that are mis- or under-understood about prices of meals in Paris.
The first place, let’s call it Resto R, costs about 40 € at lunch with a glass of wine included, so even with coffee one exits at midday for under my magic price of 50 €. At night, though, it’s a whole different ballgame, running the average citizen 90 € before wine, water and/or coffee. Thus there’s no way to get out for less than 100 €, double the lunch.
Now, eating at lunch seems a no-brainer, but try to convince American visitors to eat their major meal at noon—no way. Some of their (your) resistance is logical: “we only have X days here, we want to maximize our time seeing museums, churches and monuments, etc.”; “we don’t want to spend 2-3 hours of precious daylight hours ‘just’ eating”; “we’re not used to eating big meals in the middle of the day.” But some reasons are not so well-reasoned: “we’re just not going to”; “my metabolism doesn’t work that way”; “that’s so typically French.”
The second place we ate at I’ll call Bistro B, which has a luncheon “menu,” that is, prix fixe meal for 25 € but when the check arrived one of us was shocked at the total, which turned out to be over double that amount. A quick recall of what we ordered clarified the situation.
Yes the “menu” was 25 € and it did have 3 choices for entrees, plats and desserts, and we could certainly have managed and enjoyed them. But we wound up ordering 2/3rds of our dishes off the carte (whose three courses ran one 41 rather than 25 €). Plus we had glasses not bottles of wine – also driving up the charges.
Now, the practice of ordering the “menu” also seems to be a no-brainer. But again there are both logical (“nothing on it speaks to me,” “the choices are too few,” and “I don’t like being forced to choose from forced choices”) and not-so-logical (“I’ll order what I damn well please,” “the ‘menu’ has cheap products,” and “oh, this is the stuff they’re unloading.”) reasons.
So the moral of the story is clear: if you’re budget-conscious, order the “menu” and do it at lunch.
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