ABOVE: Flunch Paris Caulaincourt is one of
three Flunch cafeterias in Paris. (This one is in the 18th; the others are in
the 1st and 3rd arrondissements.)
Fed up with fast food, such as McDo
and Quick? Or maybe
you're too poor, or just too tired, to enjoy a leisurely dinner at a nice
restaurant? Flunch, the French cafeteria chain, has a table waiting for you--at
least, if a Spanish tour group or a busload of lycée
students from Lyon hasn't beaten you to it.
Flunch has three cafeterias in Paris: one near the
Place de Clichy below Montmartre, another in the rue Beaubourg near the Pompidou
Center art museum, and a third on the rue Pierre Lescot side of the Châtelet-Les
Halles shopping and transportation complex.
We've eaten twice at the rue
Caulaincourt branch, which shares a building with
Castorama, the French equivalent of B&Q
Depot. Here's what to expect:
Flunch is a self-service cafeteria. As you enter,
you'll see illuminated lunch/dinner menus above the cash registers. Meal prices
during our most recent visit were in the €6,50 to €8 range.
Facts about Flunch:
Some meals include a dessert and drink; others
don't. If you're planning on having a meal, rather than snacking on the à la
carte items in the entrance section, ignore the display cases: Instead, grab a
tray and utensils, pick up a roll near the cash registers (you'll be charged
extra for the roll), decide which meal you want, and get in line.
Tell the cashier what you want, pay, and keep your receipt. (Don't worry if you don't
speak French--if you can say "saumon, s'il vous plait" or "je voudrais
poulet, s'il vous plait" and point, the cashier will figure out what you
Once you're inside the dining room, you can head
for the appropriate food station (e.g., chicken, fish, or grill). Give your
sales receipt to the person behind the counter, and you'll receive a plate with
a slab of protein.
Next, go to the self-serve vegetable station, where you can top up your plate with French fries, mashed potatoes, carrots, green beans, spinach, and whatever else strikes your fancy. (We were impressed by the Mont
Blanc-sized mountains of food that some of the locals managed to build.)
Don't forget to get a soft drink or beer at the
drinks dispenser; you'll also find pitchers, glasses, and ice water at another
Dessert is extra with most meals; you can pick up a
tart, mousse, etc. on your way in (before you pay the cashier) or buy
sundaes, crêpes, and other desserts at the ice-cream station inside the dining
room. If you want an espresso, look for a pushbutton machine that accepts euro
coins or jetons (tokens) sold by the cashier.
The tastiest and freshest item
on the menu is a grilled hamburger steak (available in two sizes), which can
be ordered saignant (rare) as most Parisians prefer. Hamburger steaks
are cooked to order, and you may have to wait a while if there's a queue.
If you're an American who's
used to Big Gulp drink portions, upgrade to an XL size when paying the
A children's menu is available;
it includes a drink or yogurt from a pirate-decorated cooler inside the
If you need to use the toilet,
take your receipt with you: It shows the lavatory entrance code, which
you'll need to unlock the door to the toilettes.
Try to arrive at least an hour
before closing time. (In the last half-hour or so, the staff is likely to be
busier with cleanup than with food preparation.)
Don't expect haute cuisine:
Flunch is a healthy step up from fast food, but it it's still a cafeteria.
On the bright side, you can use your savings to splurge on a real restaurant
meal when you aren't exhausted from sightseeing. And by dining at Flunch,
you'll get up close and personal with Parisians of all ages, races, and
social classes--especially when bumping elbows at the veggie steam table or edging your way into line at the grill.
more information, including menus, see the French-language
Flunch Web site.