Come prepared – supermarkets in Paris
We here at Paris in person not only strive to be of use to our clients; we try to act accordingly with the people coming to Paris in general. Meaning this – while tourists are mostly interested in where to eat, and which restaurant does what best, we here think about the people who plan on staying for a longer period of time and who will eventually need to use a regular, plain old supermarket. We’re here for you people! We got you! And we’re not below (or above, depending on how you look at it) writing about the quotidien, seemingly banal topics. There is poetry in that, but let’s stick to the subject. Also, if you really want to feel the vibe of a city, you have to go grocery shopping and (off course) observe the people around you in an average run off the mill store like the ones we are going to talk about here. Even if you are a tourist, don’t be a tourist, you know? Go get yourself some cheese and wine and bread (and also broccoli and zucchini) from a regular store like an average Parisian would. Sure, Parisian people go to fancy cheese stores, but in most cases they just hit whatever supermarket is nearest to them. We do plan to write articles on where to get good wine specifically (outside of a supermarket, but also in some), good cheese, chocolate, etc. etc.; more of that in the not so distant future. For the moment, let’s take a general look at the most common supermarkets you’ll come across here.
So without further ado, here is a list from bottom to the top – per aspera ad astra, quite literary.
Ah, Lidl. The woe of many a man, the standing symbol of despair. If you are shopping here, you are either not born under a lucky star or life has taken a turn for the worst and you can only go up from where you are. Our verbal theatrics aside, Lidl is a supermarket chain aimed at the very bottom of the market, with the cheapest goods of the lowest quality. To our knowledge, it is the only one where you can buy the same products as you would in the other stores that have different designs and consequently are of different quality. It is the same producer, the same brand, only it looks somehow off and different. In our opinion a place to avoid as you can’t really buy much goods of acceptable quality. A couple of years ago they have started their bio (organic) line of products, and I guess if you buy bottles of water there it should be the same quality as the water you’re buying in other stores. ED (DIA) stores are a step above Lidl, but somehow really similar, to the point where there’s not really a point writing about them separately.
Similar goes for G20. They are quite average in terms of price range and quality of their products seem sub par – also, they somehow look like a store where you’d only go when you absolutely need to get cheap liquor and every other decent store is closed. This might be prejudiced and completely based in fancy but such is our subjective view of this store and what is there to be done about it (we ask of you?). On the up side, they do have some decent soy desserts.
A giant from Germany (like Lidl), Leader Price is where things start to get interesting. A very basic design (that is to say, no design) of their stores tells you that their aim is set very close to that of Lidl’s price-wise, yet surprisingly you can find some really good produce here at a very affordable price. In our experience their organic butter is excellent and their label rouge (free range) chicken is really good; that goes for many other things, like the organic eggs, organic salmon and trout, and many other produce. Some if those are quite average, but on the up side, so is their price. The good ones are surprisingly good and can stand up to the top of the line, so if this place is nearby to where you’re staying, don’t be above of paying a visit. Cheese and wine here tend to be of quite average quality and for those you can do better – but for many other things, this is a good address and probably a best quality-price ratio you’ll find in Paris.
Bonus tip : there is a Parisian urban legend (that can possibly be true) that when a comprehensive study of coffee quality was done, where all of the stores and store chains participated, in a blind tasting the Leader Price coffee came on top as the absolute best and the Fouchon (the so called “millionaire store”, actually just a snobby, overpriced place that sells barely above-average goods – we’ll give it a special post) came at the very bottom. So, who knows?
These stores are everywhere – and we mean everywhere. You can’t escape them. That fact is perpetually, not to say eternally, puzzling to all of us. On every corner there is a Franprix. Why is this so strange? Well, for the very plain fact that we don’t get who goes there to buy and why. Basically, you can describe Franprix in one sentence – Leader Price goods for Monoprix prices. This is not an overstatement as they boast to sell more than 1000 (one thousand) Leader Price products, off course for amped up prices. What’s the point? Why not go to Leader Price directly? Oh, I know why – because Franprix is everywhere. Against your better judgement you will often find yourself in one. As a store, it is a much nicer place interior wise than Leader Price is and you can get some things that you couldn’t get in a Leader Price (like the Bjorg line of health food products). So we guess that it’s what makes their products more expensive, they did invest in interior design. But again, we fail to see a larger point.
There is (typical French humor) facebook group with the title “that moment in your life when you realise that there is a “C” in the middle of the Carrefour logo. There is actually (upon additional fact checking) at least seven of those facebook groups. But more about the store. This is already a place where you can get decent stuff at a reasonable price. Carrefour is, much like its name suggests, at the crossroads (carrefour means a junxion in French) between price and quality – exactly in the middle. It doesn’t offer a lot of great deals like the Leader Price, but you somehow feel this to be honest. Their organic milk is better tasting than that of Leader price, while their organic butter is much worse (go figure). Here you can get decent cheese and very good wine at decent prices. Their line of products “Reflets de France” (that is slowly taking over the entire store and all its lanes) is off good quality, sometimes even excellent, specially for the reasonable price it demands.
Their organic line of soy, almond and rice milks is pretty good as well. These are also on every corner, almost as much as Franprix, so you’re likely to find yourself in one. Chances are, though, that they will be called Carrefour cité a smaller and a somewhat more expensive version of the regular Carrefour. They have giant malls outside Paris where everything is considerably cheaper and they sell anything, but it only makes sense to go to one if you have a car, and for many reasons we won’t address here (we might do it in a separate post), it is quite pointless to have a car in Paris. Unless you want to go to Carrefour. We could spin in this logical loop for days. But we won’t.
Even from their freshly remade logo, you can see that Monoprix aims at a certain class. As a landlord once told to one of our staff members when he came to Paris “you can buy anything there and you won’t make a mistake, it’s all good”. This is in most cases true. Monoprix is at the top of the line of the regular supermarkets, excluding places like Lafayette Gourmet and Bonmarché’s food section. But those are not really chains, they are singular stores. Monoprix is a touch of class to your daily life. They have a good selection of cheese, quality wines that often come at a surprisingly good price (especially if it’s a Foire aux vins – be on the lookout for that if you’re in Paris come september) and you can safely assume that their meat and fish section is fresh and in good bacteriological condition. They have a line of Monoprix gourmet products that offers a line of modest luxury, like an affordable caviar or a foie gras, a very good fruit section, their own fishmonger, their butcher, etc. It goes without saying that this is the most expensive store of the mentioned here, so if you’re looking for quality and don’t really care for prices, this is a place to go to. Somehow, even if the prices are elevated compared to the other stores, you feel that in most cases they are justly followed by the equal or greater elevation of quality. So all is good. There is an internal debate in Paris in person headquarters that have been going on for years already (and is not showing any fatigue) on which St Felicien is actually better, the Monoprix gourmet line or the Reflets de France from Carrefour line. So, if you’re looking for good fish, charcuterie, meat and alike, this is the place for you.
Hope this has been helpful! In a different post, we’ll try to cover the more luxurious stores that are not a part of a chain and to see if they deserve that status or are just a fluffy tourist traps (it is as if you can already guess the answer).