Went out to lunch today with a couple of friends and was once again reminded of how inexpensive it is to eat out here in rural France. We had a choice of 6 or seven places within easy driving distance where we could get a 4-5 course meal for less than $20 per person including 25cl of wine. Amazing when you think of it. How do they put on these nice meals at these prices AND make a profit?
Some of it is that they own their premises, some is that they're family run so little or no outside wages to pay and a lot of it is that they cook what's local, available & inexpensive. Still it seems quite a feat to me.
Some of these places are pretty basic in their decor and don't expect to get new cutlery with each course. I know one where the same glass serves for water, wine & coffee. Most cater for truck drivers, local workmen and locals like us. The odd tourist may be lucky enough to wander in & will be welcomed. Many make a larger effort at 'ambiance' and are nicely done. They all share good food. If the food isn't good they don't survive. And the price has to be right. One local place was doing great business lots of lunch time & Sunday lunch (you pay a bit extra on Sunday, but get even more food) customers; then he put up his price by 1 euro & quit including wine. His business halved in less than a week!
Here's what we got for our 11 euros. Vegetable soup with tagliatelle & Parmesan served family style; A large piece of pork rillette; braised pintade (guinea fowl) with seasoned rice; and a choice of desserts (I had apple pie). Nice sour dough French bread, wine, water & coffee came with the meal. Pas mal as we say. The time before we had a different soup; a salad with cheese & dry ham bits; cassoulete & dessert. All was well cooked & presented and the portions were reasonable.
I still don't quite know how they do it, but I'm not complaining. If you are contemplating a trip to France let me know & I'll give you some tips on how to find these places. Meanwhile, eat your heart out Parisians.
I do love France!