Looking for a different kind of place to have lunch? Try the Restaurant de la Foyer Madeleine

Since visitors often have high expectations for their meals in France, the first thing that I told Nancy when she asked about going to the Restaurant Foyer de la Madeleine is that I don't go there for the food. While the three-course lunch is freshly prepared, it's not the gastronomic experience that many people associate with Paris. The main reason that the Foyer is one of my favorite places to dine when I'm near the Place de la Madeleine is the communal atmosphere. I never know if I'll end up discussing "Paris syndrome" with a lawyer, learning about French wine from a plumber or answering a Japanese tourist's questions about what it's like to live in Paris. While I can't guarantee that you'll always have a stimulating conversation with the person across the table from you, the chances are fairly high because the Foyer attracts convivial people who like interacting with others.

In case you haven't already heard of it, the Foyer is operated by volunteers who are members of La Madeleine Church. The funds raised by the restaurant are used to provide four-course lunches for 1 euro to the homeless, which are served in a separate part of the Foyer, and to help pay for the ongoing upkeep of the church.

If dining at the Foyer sounds like something that you would like to try, here's how it works:


When you're facing La Madeleine Church, stay on the street level (don't climb the steps) and walk along the right side of it until you see a green door. 


Upon entering the Foyer, you'll be greeted by a volunteer sitting at a desk who will ask if you have an annual membership card. If you do, your lunch is 8 euros. If you don't have a card, it can be a bit confusing because they'll ask if you want to buy lunch for 15 euros or to get a membership card for 5 euros and lunch for 8 euros for a total of 13 euros. No doubt about it, even if you're leaving the next day and will never use the card again, the second option is the best because you save 2 euros. If you don't want to keep your card as a souvenir, offer it to your companion. I'm really grateful that Nancy gave me hers because now I have an extra card for visitors. Thanks, Nancy!

If you already have a membership card, proceed to the cash register to pay for your lunch, wine, soft drinks, etc. Carafes of water and bread are on all of the tables.


As I usually go to the Foyer on my own, I walk down the long 18th century vaulted basement until I locate an empty seat at a table for two. After a friendly "Bonjour, Monsieur or Madame", I ask if I can join the person already seated at the table for lunch. Thus far, I've always received positive responses and have had some of the most interesting conversations. If you're looking for a place to practice speaking French, the Foyer is one of the best spots in Paris!

Shortly after you're seated, a volunteer will show you the starters (I think that there are normally 2-3) on a tray and ask you to select one. After you're finished, she'll remove your plate and tell you about the options for the main course. If you would like to have cheese, you can pay the volunteer an extra euro, otherwise she'll bring a tray with dessert (yogurt, pudding, ice cream, fruit, or fromage blanc). If you would like to finish your meal with coffee or tea, there is a cafe to the far left side of the restaurant.

While you're in the neighborhood, you may want to visit the Maille mustard boutique. It's right across the street from the main entrance to La Madeleine Church. If you're interested in architecture, take a look at this post about the ancient Maison Carrée (Square House) in Nîmes. It was Joseph who first alerted me to the fact that it influenced the design of La Madeleine.

Restaurant Foyer de la Madeleine
Place de la Madeleine
75008 Paris

The Foyer is open for lunch Monday to Friday from 11:45 am to 2:00 pm. Children's meals are 6 euros.
Toilets are located near the entrance.






Comments

  1. Wonderful insight! I can't wait to go on my next trip to Paris.

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    1. Hopefully it won't be too much longer before your next trip to Paris!

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  2. Sounds like the perfect place to accomplish my goals. One, to be by myself in order to meet some new people and, two, to practice my French!

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    1. Jane, I would ask if I could join you but I guess that would defeat the purpose of meeting "new" people. ;)

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  3. This is a wonderful suggestion for a place to eat, meet others and practise my French. I have added it to my must do list. I may even get there on Friday.

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    1. It was great to meet you face-to-face at Angelina's this morning! I look forward to hearing about your experiences at the Madeleine if you go on Friday.

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  4. It really was great fun once I understood what was happening.(as you know, my comprehension of French is minimal and euros were flying out of my hand). So happy that you will be able to use the membership pass with other visitors, Mary Kay, but hang on to it as I will be in Paris again before it expires!!
    And btw my parents loved the selection of mustards I brought them from across the street. Great gift suggestion!

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    1. Nancy, Your membership card is ready and waiting for you - come and get it!

      I'm happy to hear that your parents liked the selection of mustards - I just got home from the Maille boutique. Guess what I'm taking to the States tomorrow?

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  5. I love this idea...another "meal with a purpose" to go along with the Salvation Army meal you wrote about earlier. By the time I get to Paris again, my meal tickets will all be punched :)
    Thanks for another wonderful blog,
    dekage

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    1. Don't forget about your hot chocolate - you still have to come claim your prize!

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  6. After you have lunch and shop for mustard at the Maille store, don't forget to wander down Place de la Madeleine to the largest wine store in Paris called Lavinia. For a few Euros you can taste some wonderful wines before you buy them.
    http://www.lavinia.fr/

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    1. Thanks for the information about Lavinia. I haven't been yet but it sounds very good!

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  7. Thanks for posting. My hotel for December is withing eyesight of La Madeleine so I was planning on trying out lunch. I like the step by step pictures and instructions! This episode of Out and About has gone into the Paris December 2012 folder! Merci!
    Amy

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    1. You're welcome, Amy! Nancy's questions about the procedure at La Madeleine served at the inspiration for this post because I've gotten used to flashing my card, paying and finding a table. It was good to be reminded of how confusing the first visit to the Foyer can be.

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  8. What a quirky idea this is! I love it! For me, it would be excellent practice in overcoming any residual junior high lunch room anxiety of searching for a place to sit.

    I once made the mistake of sitting at the cool girl's table and was asked to leave mid-bite of my sandwich. Something tells me that won't happen here... although the woman in the flower top looks like a force not to mess with : ).

    Thanks for sharing MK!

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    1. Oh no! The woman in the flowered top was really nice - as are all of the volunteers. I just caught her off guard when I asked if I could take her photo.

      Reading your comment about the mean girls makes me wonder how any of us survived junior/senior high! I can't imagine anyone at the Foyer telling you to move - much less in the middle of your meal.

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  9. This place definitely sounds like a hidden gem in Paris. I don't care for the area surrounding la Madeline, because I feel like I have to walk blocks for a decent meal at a decent price and now I finally have another option - thanks for sharing!

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    1. The high prices at the surrounding restaurants is one of the reasons why the Foyer attracts so many office workers, tradespeople, etc for lunch.

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  10. I love the vaulted ceilings and I love how they put the flowers on the steps. This would certainly be a different place to have lunch, but I think I'd hop of to RL (I think it's nearby) and have iced champagne (evidently it's all the rage) and a burger.

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    1. I'm not sure where RL was before, but it's on Boulevard St Germain near Cafe de Flore now. The iced champagne sounds refreshing but you might be disappointed by the burgers. I haven't heard many good reviews about the food, although the American Women's Group recently organized an after hours dinner there. I would have liked to go but it was the same evening as my cooking class. There's just way too much to do in Paris!

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    2. Oh, that's not nearby. I keep thinking it's near the Ralph Lauren store, but it's not. I've not been to Paris since it opened, and who knows, maybe in my mind I've misplaced the store too. I really do have to get to Paris again this year.

      I'm surprised about the quality of the food. Here in Chicago, where the first restaurant opened, the food is really good. It's one of my easy, go-to restaurants. I know I'll always get a good burger, a good chicken hash, great lobster bisque and a decent drink. Even a bottle of champagne isn't crazily priced.

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    3. In spite of the less than stellar reviews, I still plan to try RL at some point when I'm craving a burger. I'll let you know how it goes.

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  11. If I go solo, can I sit at one of the larger tables, or are solo diners expected to take a seat at a small table for 2? I actually feel like if I sat a small table it would be awkward NOT to make conversation with the other person sitting there--- and some days my French simply is not good enough :( (I was of course fine doing this on a visit to Ireland!) At a larger table I wouldn't feel so pressured to make conversation... but is a solo diner not supposed to sit at the larger tables? In one of the photos I see an empty seat at a larger table -- would I just say excuse me and sit down?? (These are things one never thinks about at home!) ... Maddie (from TA)

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    1. Hi Maddie! My understanding is that solo diners can sit wherever they find a seat and that the large tables are communal. Sometimes they're occupied by a group of friends but other times I've had the impression that the people didn't know each other. If that's the case, you could certainly join them without feeling uneasy. I've also had some really good discussions with the volunteers and with some of the people who work in the church. One time, they even made a point of introducing me to the American priest who works there.

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  12. What a great place to eat - it sounds a bit like the Vaults and Garden cafe under St Mary's church in Oxford, I'll have to check it out on my next trip to Paris (and I'm SO excited to find out about the Maille Mustard boutique). Thanks you!

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