Here are some fun little restaurants in Nice that are not only delicious but very easy on the budget…

Chez PalmyreChez Palmyre was run by a mother/daughter team since 1926, but it changed hands 10 years ago when the 93-year-old mother died and the 77-year-old daughter decided to finally retire. Now it’s chef Vincent, who’s been coming here since he was a child, who elevates grandma’s cuisine to something wonderful. Three courses, lunch or dinner, 20€.  The restaurant is tiny, so they do 2 seatings at dinner, 7pm and 9pm, and  they’re always  packed, so call well in advance +33 4 93 85 72 32.  5 rue Droite, tram stop Cathédrale, closed Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday.

Petit CocotteLa P’tite Cocotte  Tucked up a tiny side street, they are well worth the effort to find: three delicious courses for just 20€ from their weekly changing menu that depends entirely on what’s in season and on Chef Cedric’s whim.  Dinner only during the week but lunch on weekends as well. 10 rue Saint-Augustin, tram stop Cathédrale or Garibaldi,  +33 4 97 08 48 61.  Closed Monday.

Bistrot du Port  with a view on the yachts, has a great chef and a killer weekday lunch deal that includes 2 courses (plat du jour with either starter or dessert), plus wine and coffee for just 15€. Reservations a must, especially to be seated on the terrace.  28 Quai Lunel, tram stop Port Lympia, closed Tuesday and Wednesday, +33 4 93 55 21 70.

Just in front of the the church du Gesu (Jesus in Nissart), is the Restaurant du Gesu.  This loud and fun Nice classic is known for very simple but homemade local fare at bargain prices.  No website, no reservations, starters around 7€ and mains around 12-13€. 1 Place du Gesu, tram stop Cathédrale, and of course closed on Sunday, as that is the day that Gesu must rest.

Hidden away in a tiny square, Le P’tit Resto is worth searching out for their selection of Niçoise tapas with a modern twist, perfect for sharing.  2 Rue Place Vieille, tram stop Cathédrale, +33 9 72 83 41 58, closed Wednesday.

Crepes are generally always an affordable option, and Creperie Trimaran is one of the best, not only for their Breton-style crepes, but also for their superbe people-watching location.  Enjoy lunch under the ancient archways, overlooking the picturesque square with its fish fountain, and watch the fishmongers try to keep the gulls at bay.   They even have a lunch deal: for 12€ choose a savory crepe followed by your choice of a dessert crepe and a coffee. 13 Place Saint-François, tram stop Cathédrale or Garibaldi, lunch only, open 7/7.

lou pilha leva 2When in Nice, you must have moules frites… a steaming bowl of mussels served with French fries, and eaten using a shell as tongs to pull each successive mussel from its shell. Not everyone agrees with me, but my favorite moules frites is from Lou Pilha Leva at Place Centrale, where they serve their moules in a fabulous saffron cream sauce for just 9€. No pretense here: you line up, order at the counter, then elbow in to the outdoor picnic benches and enjoy your moules under the sun with a glass of rosé. Open 7 days a week, 10 rue du Collet, tram stop Cathédrale.

Right across from Lou Pilha Leva is a the wonderful Pita Falafel, with lots of creative vegetarian (…and not…) offerings.  You can stuff the pita of your dreams, but my favorite is their baked artichoke-crown platter at 7.50€, served with 5 different sauces.  Super bargain, super delish.  Limited outdoor seating available, 13 rue de Collet, tram stop Cathédrale.

A carnivore favorite is La Rossettisserie, just off Place Rossetti near the Cathedral at 8 rue Mascoinat, for a hearty portion of spit-roasted meats with excellent side dishes for 17.50€ (plus a bonus starter salad thrown in for lunch). Reservations recommended, and specify if you want a private table or the long communal table where you can make new friends. +33 4 93 76 18 80.   8 rue Mascoinat, tram stop Cathédrale, +33 4 93 76 18 80.  Closed Sunday, and closed for lunch July/Aug.

Socca is the fast-food of Nice, and whereas you’ll find it served up all over the Old Town, all locals agree that for the best socca, it’s Chez Pipo in the Port, hands down.   Come graze on socca, pissaladiére, tapenades… you will leave full and satisfied for around 10€ a head. They’re super popular and they don’t take reservations so get there early, especially for dinner. 13 rue Bavastro.  Tram stop Port Lympia, closed Monday/Tuesday in winter, but just Monday in summer.

Speaking of Socca, Chez Theresa Socca is a little lunch-time socca stand in the middle of the Cours Saleya market and is practically an institution. This chick pea ‘pancake’ is the quintessential Niçoise street-food; a portion is 3€, eat it off the hot pan (be sure to pepper it), and even though it looks small, it actually is really filling.  The socca is baked in a century-old wood-burning oven, then quickly transported the two blocks to the market stall via a specially modified socca-bike, that must do that loop 100 times a morning. Click here to see the socca being delivered. Locals will admonish me that the best socca is Chez Pipo (see above), but Theresa’s improvised café in the middle of the marche makes it an experience and a show.  The stand closes with the market at 1pm, closed Monday.

Best Pizza

The best pizza in Nice is a hotly disputed subject.  Many would say it’s Pizza Cresci, which has been serving its legendary pies for over 60 years; pizzas so massive that they can only give you half, and even then it covers half your table.  Located at 34 rue Massena on the pedestrian street, and if they’re full they can send you to their sister restaurant La Taverne Massena which takes their overflow and serves the same pies.  Both tram stop Jean Médecin.

…But others would say that the best pizza in Nice is from Les Amoureux, a little family-run hole-in-the-wall tucked behind the Port that will transport you straight to Napoli.   Their signature heart-shaped pizzas are… Bellissimo!   Reserve well in advance (+33 4 93 07 59 73) as the place is always packed…and they only bother to answer the phone from 6-6:30pm!  Find them at 46 rue Stalingrad, tram stop Port Lympia, one street in on the east side of the Nice port, Closed Sunday and Monday.

If super-thin crust is more your pizza style, head to the Bar du Coin, where the pizza can be served with a side of attitude, but no matter because the they’ve been packing in the locals for over 30 years.  2 Rue Droite, tram stop Cathédrale, closed Sunday.

Pizza from Al TagliaAn amazing little find in Old Nice is Al Taglio (‘by the slice‘ in Italien), a few streets in from Cours Saleya.  Specializing in Italian-style thin crust pizza-by-the-slice (so super affordable), their pizza choices range from classic to fabulously (and deliciously) creative, so mix it up and try something new!  The ingredients are high-quality and fresh, and their pride in their product is palpable.  I love this place.  42 rue Droite, tram stop Cathédrale.

pizza boxThe most popular to-go pizza is Pizza Pili on the corner of rue de Gesu and rue Benoit Bunico.  From their classic pizzas to their most creative (recommended), it’s the best take-out pizza deal in Nice for just 8€ and always has a crowd.   They have a couple of street-side tables, but the best idea is to take it to the beach for a sunset pizza with a bottle of rosé.  Tram stop Cathédrale.

Tired of Mediterranean?  Try these…

If you have a hankerin’ for a burger plus love a killer deal, head to Blast on Cours Saleya for an early lunch.  I personally think they have the best burgers in Nice, and if you get your order in before 12:30pm the entire menu is 20% off, so my fav Texas Burger is 9.20€ instead of 11.50€.  Open 7/7, tram stop Cathédrale.

On rue de Collet, you’ll find a great deal-for-two. 100% Sushi has a 3-course menu-for-two for 29€ including miso or salad, then a 24-piece sushi platter to share, and finishing with 4 brochettes of chicken or salmon. If the tiny 100% Sushi is full, you can get the same menu served at their sister restaurant Le Hall, just across the street. Open 7 days a week; 8 and 11 rue du Collet, tram stop Cathédrale.

You might have noticed a lot of Asian bargain buffet-type restaurants with specialties from every country in big tubs, as if the cuisines were interchangeable.  The food is cooked in the morning and sits all day just waiting to be scooped up and microwaved for your dining pleasure (not).  For just a little more you can have an excellent cooked-to-order meal  where that particular cuisine is the specialty; here are my suggestions in and around Old Nice:

Head seaward on rue Droite and you will find Le Banthai, which serves excellent homemade Thai cuisine with super-moderate prices: all main courses are only 12€. Their tiny street-side café location on one of Old Nice’s most colorful rues makes for a very sympa dining experience. One caveat: French are not used to spicy food, so as Thai food goes it might be milder than you expect, but just ask for the condiments and spice it up yourself. 29 rue Droite, +33 9 73 57 19 06.  Tram stop Cathédrale, closed Wednesday.  If they are full (and they usually are), a close second is the family run Sawasdee on 1 rue Francois Gallo, Tram stop Opera.  Closed Monday.

Panda Chine has a huge local Chinese following, which is all you need to know. Most mains are between 13-15€, and if they offer a Canard Laqué (Peking Duck) on the daily special, take it!  4 Rue de l’Abbaye, Tram stop Opera, closed Tuesday.

Best Indien in Old Nice is a toss-up between Tandori Flame just below tram stop Cathédrale (great food and best prices and lunch deals, but the decor is a neon nightmare… take it to-go)… vs the venerable Delhi Belhi (with super ambience, delicious food but higher prices and dinner only) at 22 Rue Barillerie, one street in from Cours Saleya, tram stop Opera or Cathédrale; open every night.

Walk up near the top of rue Rossetti and you will see Banh Mei, a tiny Vietnam-street-food inspired café with a limited but carefully chosen menu of salads, soups and sandwiches, all between 6-10€.  Each comes with your choice of slices of rare-cooked sesame beef, Peking pork, sliced caramel chicken, or sesame prawns.  …and then try their signature ‘bubble tea’ if you dare!  Their outdoor tables offer a perfect view of the Cathedral and Place Rossetti. 6 rue Rossetti, open 11:30-4pm; closed Sunday and Monday.  Tram stop Cathédrale

A new trend in Nice is Hawaiian Poke Bowls: a layer of rice covered with raw or marinated fish and lots of veggies.  It’s a super healthy and filling meal, not to mention a great deal at around 13-15€.  Poke restaurants are popping up all over, but I have two favorites with super fresh high quality ingredients.  At Poke Lov they offer mini-bowls (which are plenty big) for 10-11€, which is a killer deal, and you can eat in while you run your toes through the sand, or take it to-go and run your toes through the grass for a picnic in the nearby Promenade du Paillon gardens. 10 rue Alberti, tram stop Opera or Jean Médecin.  My other fav is SuperBol, the Poke pioneer in Nice, at 11 Ter Rue du Congrès, right in the center of town.  Both are lunch only and closed weekends.

Another new trend in fast-food in France is “tacos”, but don’t be fooled, the “tacos” at these fast food outlets are nothing like an actual taco, but more like random ingredients in mystery sauce wrapped in a grilled filo square!  Beurk!

The only true taco stand is 100% Tacos, serving authentic Mexican street food from a tiny storefront on an almost hidden side street.  One taco is 3.50€, but for 10€ you get 3 tacos of your choice (I recommend the caramelized pork) with choice of authentic, spicy condiments.  They have a couple of tables that you can score if you’re lucky, but otherwise it’s mostly take-out.  1 rue du Pontin, near Palais du Justice, tram stop Opera.  …Or try their sister restaurant just off the Port, Xitlali with a bigger menu and more seating, 24 rue Cassini, tram stop Port Lympia; both closed Monday.

A few more ideas…

If you want to pull together a quick picnic in the park (I’m thinking Promenade du Paillon gardens…) you can find a large choice of inexpensive fresh-made salads, cold pasta salads, and sandwiches right across the street at Boulangerie Multari, a popular French bakery chain. They also have around thirty tables set up inside and outside if you prefer a chair over park grass or wooden benches.  Find them on the edge of the Old Town at 8 Boulevard Jean Jaures near Place Garibaldi. Tram stop Cathédrale or Garibaldi.

Or better yet, try Nice’s own signature sandwich: the Pan Bagnat, which means ‘bathed bread’ because the bread is ‘bathed’ in olive oil.  It has tuna, hard boiled egg, tomato, radish, red peppers, mesclun greens, a couple of Niçoise olives, and an anchovy.  Don’t by a pre-made one, get one that is made to order.  La Clocher restaurant/snack counter at Place Rosetti makes a great one, as does the L’Olivier bakery at 12 boulevard Jean Jaures.  Both Tram stop Cathédrale

Best bagel?  After spending a few years in the US, two local girls came back to bring the delights of New York to Nice and opened Emilie and the Cool Kids, which they have now spun into a france-wide franchise.  They make awesome cookies and cupcakes, and especially bagels, and for just 5.50€ you can treat yourself to a ‘Salmon and Garfunkle’: a salmon-avocado-cream cheese bagel dream in a ‘Central Perk’ coffee-house atmosphere. There’s one on 9 rue Albertini, and in Vieux Nice at Palais de Justice, tram stop Opera.  …Oh, and don’t forget dessert!

Rene Socca NiceIf you are on a tight budget and are tempted to go fast food: for the same price you can try fast food Niçois-style at Rene Socca, whose popularity is attested to by the ever-present line.  It’s not gourmet, it’s fast food, but for between 3-4€ you can try and share all sorts of local specialties including zucchini flower fritters (beignet de fleur), local-style meat-stuffed vegetables (petit farcis), a hearty beef stew (daube) over polenta… and then enjoy them on the family-style communal tables.   2 Rue Miralheti near Place Garibaldi.  Tram stop Garibaldi

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Photo credits: Place du Gesu by Nataraja, and Boulanger by Thomas Berg both licensed under Creative Commons.  

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