French cuisine is one of the most famous ones in the world. Another really popular one is the Italian. Have a look at the map below and remind yourself that the Riviera is on the border of France and Italy having the Mediterranean on its south. Sounds great? It is!
I’m sure you’d love to eat great food and possibly for cheap. Don’t forget, we are speaking about one of the most expensive regions in France that is already considered to be a quite expensive country. It means you cannot expect wonders - in terms of price - and you have better chances to eat cheap on the other side of French-Italian border, but still!
You can try to eat at the local markets. Some markets are a bit more touristic than others, but it doesn’t mean they are not worth to try
List of local markets which are not tourist traps:
- Nice https://www.petitfute.com/v33027-nice-06000/c650-produits-gourmands-vins/c1106-marches-halles/277641-marche-de-la-liberation.html vagy saleya???
I’d encourage you to try some local traditional foods such as:
Socca - It looks like a pancake but it’s made of chickpea flour and olive oil. It’s supposed to be seasoned with a lot - I mean a LOT - of ground black pepper. Eating one will not cost you more than 2 or 3 Euros and can keep your stomach calm for a few hours.
Pan Bagnat - It’s basically a sandwich with tuna and anchovies, hard-boiled eggs, olives, tomatoes and some other vegetables. It usually costs about 5 Euros, it’s way better than the conventional sandwiches and can actually replace a lunch or dinner eaten at a restaurant.
Pizza - Eating a pizza can be always a suggestion anywhere you are in the world and it’ll be such a cliché. In our case, let’s not forget on the East side of the French Riviera there is Italy. So you’ll actually find some good and authentic pizze around.
Maybe you’re not only looking for stuffing your stomach, but for some small delicious bites. Go and try to have fried oysters!
Special advice: Buy a takeaway pizza in the historic centre of Nice and walk to the beach. You can have a nice dinner on the beach for less than 10 Euros per person - drinks included! If two of you can share a pizza, it’s even cheaper. We did this on our 3rd anniversary with my wife. It was very romantic I guess. And the beginning of a wonderful chapter of our life.
You might want to spend a little bit more or just to try a French restaurant at least once while enjoying a wonderful holiday on the Riviera.
I will try to avoid mentioning specific restaurants because if I list bad ones, they can sue me. If I tell you good ones, you might think I get a commission. And that’s not the case luckily - I can give you my honest opinion.
Avoid tourist traps. So if you are in Nice, probably it’s not the best option to eat at Cours Saleya. I ate there a few times, it can be good, it can be bad, but due to the hoards of tourists it’s not so authentic and a bit more expensive than necessary.
French pancakes or Breton galettes are good. Indeed the savoury galettes taste good, but given the fulfilment they provide, they are expensive. And it’s not even authentic in the South of France - eat it in Brittany -, so in my opinion, it’s better to try something else.
If you speak French a bit, you can try to buy a coupon and make a reservation through Groupon or La Fourchette. We have good experience with both sites. Beware that some deals don’t even provide any discounts, but you can always find how much you get off. 50% is already fine.
If you want to take it easier and prefer going to restaurants more frequently, I still have two pieces of advice that are very easy to follow:
- Go for lunch, not for dinner! Unless you have plans to dance through the whole night, you don’t need so many calories for the evening and on the other hand, lunches are cheaper. Especially the menus.
- Eat menus, don’t choose à la carte. A main course à la carte is sometimes as expensive as a whole 3-course menu. Go with the latter.
As a university student, I spent the summer of 2004 in France as an intern. I didn’t have a lot of money and I wanted to save up for a Ford Capri - really. So I was on a tight budget. But I also liked to travel. As a young person, train tickets were cheap and to keep my tummy full usually I took sandwiches with me.
Or if I was too lazy or just had a bad hangover I went into a supermarket whenever I got hungry and I bought a baguette, a circle of camembert (coulommier is even cheaper!) and a bottle of orange juice. So much carbs and sugar for about 2.50 Euros. I wouldn’t recommend this for every day, but sometimes it was fine to me and I felt really like a French.
Even though the French Riviera is quite expensive, there are some wallet-friendly solutions to enjoy the local gastronomy. My favourite is to get a good takeaway pizza and a pan bagnat and some drinks, go to a park with a great view or directly to the beach and enjoy. Then get a good ice-cream or some fresh pastries.
My favourite place for socca, pan bagnat and for thick crust pizza is Chez Thérésa in Nice. They have been there for almost a hundred years, they are very friendly and three generation work there at the same time - during the school holidays. Recently we went there with some friends and my new-born son. There were places only near the huge oven where they make the socca and it was incredibly hot. I went to the farthest possible place with my son, but it was still very hot and he started to cry. They quickly got another table for us outside. I really appreciated. While calming down my son, we discussed a bit and I asked about them. That’s when I learnt about their history.
For traditional pizza, we prefer Pizza Pili in the centre of Nice Old Town. Nothing fancy, nothing to add. Just a great takeaway pizza for good price.