Eating well in France doesn't have to be expensive, especially since traditionally all strata of society - even truck drivers and manual workers - dine in style by British standards and foreign travellers will generally be welcomed into any working man's café-restaurant where the air is now tobacco-free and the traditional cuisine tasty and healthy.
In addition the French are suffering their own crunch so prices are particularly low, with a three course menu du jour (or even an anti-crise menu!) and a glass of wine costing as little as €8.
The key to finding a reasonable eaterie at random is not to look for a smart place. Au contraire, real French restaurant owners focus on food quality rather than looks (as opposed to the few who wish to fleece the tourists; they will be the ones with smart exteriors and English menus), so stroll around and find a little place, possibly outwardly uncared-for, full of working men and chances are that the service will be fast and friendly and the food excellent.
If you're on the road then the long-standing Relais Routiers restaurants offer terrific value, just don't be intimidated by the truckers, they're usually big but soft.
Croque Monsieur (toasted cheese and ham sandwich, photo above) or steak
haché with frites (Real beefburger with chips/ fries)
is typical fast but tasty food in France, along with crêpes (pancakes
with sweet or savoury fillings), pizzas and baguettes or panini (toasted sandwiches)
with various fillings.
Vegetarian travellers can often have problems with fixed menus (menu fixe) as the French do love to consume dead animals but restaurants usually have some alternative or, if not, supermarkets are loaded with all sorts of wonderful seasonal produce to suit veggies as well as carnivores.
The quality and variety of France's regional ingredients is outstanding and simple seafood dishes are particularly exquisite, not only on the coast, but inland too.
Ethnic cuisines are also excellent, interesting and widely available, but the real pleasure of French food for hard-up tourists is the simple mid-trip picnic bought from a local market or shop - freshly baked baguettes with cheese, salami or paté, olives, salad and wine.
are also known as Auberges or Relais, but differ from Brasseries in
that the former are more formal, work shorter hours, may need reservations,
will take longer to serve food and cost more.
Children are welcomed in most French establishments. A service charge of 15% is usually included in the menu prices.
Fresh fig tart for a perfect summer dessert along with...
...a drop of French posterior to wash the food down.
And don't forget
to greet the salesperson/waiter properly, even if you don't speak any other
French...'Bonjour Madame/monsieur!' (no more "Garcon!")