Cheap Eats in Nice

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

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 hang up her apron. 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, just 22€.  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.

Another big favorite in Old Nice is the Bar des Oiseaux (the Bird Bar) which offers sublime cuisine in an eccentric locale (used to be a funky bar with live birds in the 70’s).  They have a killer 3-course weekday lunch deal for just 22€.  5 Rue Saint-Vincent, tram stop Opera or Cathedrale. Closed Sunday and Monday.

The Fine Gueule has a Michelin bib award and an unbeatable weekday lunch deal: 2-courses plus wine for 19€. It’s got a loyal local following and is right across from the City Hall at 2 Rue de l’Hôtel de ville, tram stop Opera or Massena, closed Sunday and Monday.

Bistrot du Port with a view on the yachts, has a great chef and a killer weekday lunch deal that includes 2 courses (but limited to the daily special starter and main), plus wine and coffee for just 20€. They post the daily specials every morning at 11am on their Facebook page.  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.

Bocca Nissa is hidden on a roof top in Old Nice, and even the entrance is hard to find, sandwiched between touristy souvenir shops.  But their secret palm-filled rooftop garden is worth searching out, and they offer a weekday lunch deal from their daily specials for 2 courses for 20€ or 3 for 25€.  3 Rue Saint-François de Paule, tram stop Opera.

For a light meal try the Fish Bar.  It’s like fish tapas, choose a few and share… or don’t!  The food is fresh and creative, comes out of their miniscule kitchen, and is served on street-side table.  Everything is between 3.50-9€, or go for it with their tasting menu for two for 45€.   Closed Wednesday, 42 rue Droite on the corner of rue de la Prefecture, tram stop Cathedrale.

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 8€ and mains around 13-15€. 1 Place du Gesu, tram stop Cathédrale, and of course closed on Sunday, as that is the day that Gesu must rest.  No reservations, so come early or line up.

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 11€. 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.

Socca is a filling chick pea ‘pancake’ that is the traditional peasant food of Nice, and 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.  Chez Pipo is 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.

In the Old Town there are lots of little to-go socca stands selling this Nicoise street food for usually 3€ a portion.  But come to Le Rossetti if you would like to sit and relax in the sun with a view on the Cathedrale, and enjoy your socca straight from a wood-burning oven with a cold glass of rosé, plus another Nice specialty the Pissaladiere (a hearty caramelized onion tart), and dessert for just 18€.   12 rue Mascoinat, just across from the Cathedrale at Place Rossetti.

Tired of Mediterranean?  Try these…

A new trend in fast-food in France is “tacos”, but don’t be fooled, the “tacos” at 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.  For 10€ you get 3 tacos (I recommend the caramelized pork) with choice of authentic, spicy condiments, and a drink.  I also recommend the Gringas, a kind of filled (and filling) stuffed quesadilla.  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/Tuesday.

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 a bargain to boot!.  Open 7/7, tram stop Cathédrale.  They also have the best coffee deal in town for just 90 centimes.

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:

Insider tip: French are not used to spicy food, so as Asian food goes it will be milder than you expect, so just ask for the condiments and spice it up yourself.

Le Banthai serves homemade Thai cuisine with moderate prices, most mains are just 14€. Their  street-side café location on one of Old Nice’s most colorful rues makes for a very sympa experience, and they have live music on Sunday nights starting at around 7:30pm.  29 rue Droite, +33 9 73 57 19 06.  Tram stop Cathédrale, closed Tues/Wed.

Family run Sawasdee is less Instagramable, but also less crowded and less touristy (and with great food and prices), so this is my go-to Thai restaurant in Old Nice.  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 16-19€, 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.

Especially on one of Nice’s rare chilly days, head to Ikko Ramen for a big bowl of steaming noodles garnished with all kinds of goodies.  Tucked in a little alley behind the Cathedrale, this hidden noodle-bar boasts a big local following. 5 rue du Moulin, tram stop Opera.

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, all between 14-17€  …and then try their signature ‘bubble tea’!  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

Best Indian in Old Nice is a toss-up between Tandori Flame just below tram stop Cathédrale (great food and best for their 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.   The most Instagrammed, however, is Indian Lounge at 34 Rue Droite, which sits under a canopy of colorful parasols, and has tuk-tuk style street-side seating.

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 14-16€.  Poke restaurants are popping up all over, but I have two favorites with  the freshest high-quality ingredients.  At Poke Lov they offer mini-bowls (which are plenty big) for 10-12€, and you can eat in while you run your toes through the sand (I love this!), 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.

A few more ideas…

Enjoy a bountiful Italian-style Aperitivo happy hour in Old Nice: for 10€ you get a drink and can help yourself to the Italian appetizer buffet from 6pm-7:30pm.  Paneolio 6 blvd Jean Jaures, tram stops Cathedrale or Garibaldi, or Senso just down the street at 50 blvd Jean Jaures, tram stop Opera.

Pull together a quick picnic in the park (I’m thinking Promenade du Paillon gardens…) and 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, a couple of Niçoise olives, and an anchovy…. basically a Salade Nicoise in a bun.  Chez Felix is king of the Pan Bagnat, from father to son since 1966.  They have just opened a tiny azur-blue stand at 16 boulevard Jean Jaures, and besides the Pan Bagnat they also have the other Nice staples like Petits Farcis, Pissaladiere… perfect for a picnic in the gardens right across the street. Another favorite is the homemade snack bar Tutti Quanti (“when you want”) at 9 rue Mascoinat just off Place Rossetti.

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 12.50€ you can treat yourself to a bagel, drink and dessert, all 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.

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 4-5€ 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.  Cash only, 2 Rue Miralheti near Place Garibaldi.  Tram stop Garibaldi

Best Pizza

Some (including me) would say that the best pizza in Nice is from Les Amoureux in the Port: a pizza so good it will transport you straight to Napoli.  Their ingredients are the top, and their signature heart-shaped pizzas are… Bellissimo!   They don’t take reservations (don’t even have a phone!) so just get there early (opens at 7pm until 10:30pm Tues-Sat) or just prepare to line up.  They just moved to a new, larger, and more convenient location at 1 rue Bavastro (just off rue Barla), tram stop Port Lympia or Republique.  Closed Sunday and Monday.

…But others would say the best pizza in Nice is at Pizza Cresci, which has been serving its legendary oversized pizzas for over 60 years; pizzas so massive that they can only give you only 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 just down the street, which takes their overflow and serves the same pies.  Both tram stop Jean Médecin.   Open 7/7 from 11:30am until 1am (!) and you can reserve at +33 4 93 87 70 29

If super-thin crust and sassy service is more your pizza style, head to the Bar du Coin, where the pizza is often served with a big side of attitude, but no matter because they’ve been packing in the locals for over 30 years, so really don’t care.  2 Rue Droite, tram stop Cathédrale, closed Sunday.

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 10-12€ and always has a crowd in the street waiting for their order to be called.   I like to take it to the beach for a sunset pizza with a bottle of rosé.  Tram stop Cathédrale.


Map courtesy of Wanderlog, a trip planner on iOS and Android

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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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